Biking the scenic Shark Valley trail is a terrific way to experience the Florida Everglades.
If you’re eager to escape the sleek, urban feel of Miami for a little peace, tranquility, and wildlife, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Just 35 miles away, you’ll find the Florida Everglades, one of the country’s priceless treasures and one of my favorite ways to explore this unique ecosystem.
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What are the Florida Everglades?
Spanning more than 1.5 million acres across three Florida counties, the Everglades encompass the largest slice of subtropical wilderness in the United States. Here you can airboat through the marshlands, or hike or bike through the quiet forested areas, where you’re likely to catch a glimpse of some of the endangered and exotic creatures that live here, including manatees, alligators, over 300 species of birds and the elusive Florida Panther.
Find your perfect Everglades outdoor excursion:
What is Shark Valley – What’s in a Name?
Shark Valley lies in the heart of the Everglades and despite its name; you’re unlikely to find any sharks in the shallow waters here. The name comes from Shark River, the area in the Gulf of Mexico where the Everglades water flows.
What to Know Before Going to Shark Valley
- Stay hydrated and bring plenty of drinking water, insect repellent, apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brim hat similar to this one.
- There are no restaurants on the premises, bring snacks. Picnic tables are available in the parking lot area with vending machines near the tram tour office.
- The Everglades has two main seasons. The dry season, the busiest and runs from late November to May, while the wet season – which is less busy but sees more rain and more mosquitos – runs from June until early November. Some facilities, ranger-led tours, and programs may be closed or limited during the wet season.
- Inclement weather can make a trip to the Everglades a rather uncomfortable experience. So be sure to check the park calendar and local forecast before heading out.
Recommended essentials for your Everglades Shark Valley day trip:
What to do in Shark Valley?
Biking the Shark Valley Trail
Biking the scenic Shark Valley trail is a unique way to experience Florida’s natural beauty and one of my favorite ways to explore the Everglades. The trail is a family-friendly activity that not only gets you out into the fresh air but also an up-close view of the natural habitat.
It’s a treat getting out on the – two sometimes three hour – loop taking in the scenery at a leisurely pace appreciating one of Miami’s best outdoor activities. The trail is an invigorating nature lover’s paradise!
We usually bring our own bikes, but bike rentals can easily be arranged with the park service concessioner, Shark Valley Tram Tours, where you can also sign up for ranger-led guided tours.
Shark Valley Bike Rentals:
- On-site bike rentals are available on a first-come, first, serve basis. Children’s bikes and bikes with child seats are also available.
- A valid ID or driver’s license and a signed risk acknowledgment form are required for all bike rentals.
- Bike helmets and baskets are provided with all bike rentals, and helmets are required for ages 16 and under.
How Long is the Shark Valley Trail?
The 15-mile (25 km) roundtrip paved Shark Valley trail, flanked by leafy marshlands on both sides, makes for a scenic and exciting ride, where you’ll find sprawling wetlands and plenty of alligators.
Whether you’re biking, hiking or taking the tram, you’re sure to descend right into alligator territory, where these slow-moving creatures pass and wade alongside as you stroll through the trail.
I find it both exhilarating and nerve-wracking having such an intimidating animal within feet of me. But I’ve learned they’re more concerned with basking in the Florida sun.
Alligators are cold-blooded animals, which means they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. You’ll see them lying out in the sun to warm up, or in a shady spot near the banks of water cooling down.
You’ll see passersbys stop to take pictures, some will attempt to get close to the animals, but it’s wise to let them be – they are wild animals after all. Keep a safe distance; they won’t bother you unless they feel threatened.
Under the sweltering Florida sun, you’re just as likely to see rare birds, turtles, and other wildlife crossing your path. The twitter of birds and the sound of crickets can sometimes be the only sounds here, creating a tranquil, environmental experience (my favorite part!).
If time permits, be sure to check out the two small walking trails right off the loop:
- The Bobcat Boardwalk – a half-mile long boardwalk
- The Otter Cave Hammock Trail – a quarter-mile trail
Getting to the Shark Valley Observation Tower
Along the paved path, you’ll come across mile markers, disclosing how far until you reach the 65-foot high observation tower. The tower offers panoramic views of the Everglades and creatures lurking in the marsh below.
As you pedal under the blistering hot Florida sun, seeing the tower insight is an encouragement to keep pushing, a shaded break is within sight.
The observation deck provides a bird’s eye view of the entire ecological surroundings. It’s a true wildlife haven, where you’ll also see beautiful birds, river otters, turtles, manatees, and exotic greenery.
Once you’ve reached and climbed the observation deck and see the Everglades sprawling beneath, don’t be surprise if you temporarily forget the grueling bike journey to get there or the chaos of the city entirely.
For a nice relaxing cool down from the Florida sun, be sure to check out the small hardwood hammock trail located below the observation tower.
Shark Valley Tram Tours
For a different approach to the trail, try the Shark Valley Tram Tours, which offers two-hour guided tours along the paved trail. It’s a great alternative to biking, particularly for those with mobility issues.
The tram tours fees are separate from the park’s entrance fees. If you’re thinking of booking a tour or renting a bike, especially during the park’s busy season (December through April), be sure to call ahead for a reservation.
Where is the Shark Valley Visitor Center?
The Shark Valley Visitor Center is located at 36000 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33194. With three non-connecting access points to the Everglades, you’ll find the Shark Valley Visitor Center, on the north side of the Everglades, via the Tamiami Trail (SW 8th Street/Highway 41).
The Shark Valley is in a rather remote area with no real public transportation option. Your best option for heading to the park is by private car. Securing a ride from the park can be challenging, so if utilizing a rideshare service be sure to pre-arrange your return trip.
If a private car is not an option, you can always join one of the Everglades guided tours, some of which include an airboat ride and wildlife show, sadly not the Shark Valley Visitor Center.
Recommended Everglades outdoor essentials:
Everglades National Park Shark Valley Admission Costs and Hours:
- Admission to the park is $30 a car, $25 per motorcycle and $15 a person if arriving on foot or bicycle. The park entrance fee is valid for 7 consecutive from the day of purchase.
- Shark Valley Visitor Center is open daily until 5 p.m.