When you're ready to escape the city scenes of Miami, a quick drive outside the city brings you into the heart of natural Florida. Miami offers a combination of historic lands and protected ecosystems where hikers can experience the beauty of Florida's flora and fauna. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated in the South Florida sunshine and wear your best hiking shoes as you prepare to trek through these top destinations.
Located in the Everglades, this under-one-mile trail is an easier option for beginning hikers or anyone who prefers a shorter walk through nature. It winds through a sawgrass marsh perfect for viewing wildlife like the namesake anhinga, plus turtles, alligators, and herons. Take this boardwalk path for a self-guided excursion starting at the Royal Palm Visitor Center. As it's one of the most popular trails in the park, plan to arrive early for an uncrowded tour and ample viewing space.
Biscayne National Park
A haven for scuba divers, Biscayne National Park also offers plenty of above-ground walking trails. Join a birdwatching trail to gaze at the park's many winged inhabitants as you jog to the Black Point Jetty. For a more challenging trek, take a boat over to Elliott Key, the park's island for the "Spite Highway" trail. This 7-mile excursion takes you through tunnels of jungle-like foliage. Experienced scuba divers can even put on their gear to follow the Maritime Heritage Trail, an underwater path that guides you through the remains of six shipwrecks.
Shark Valley Trail
For a long but easy hike with paved walkways, head to Shark Valley Trail in the Everglades National Park. Just 30 miles West of Miami, you can leave the bustling city behind and wind your way through the middle of the Everglades freshwater marsh. The Shark Valley path includes a 70-foot observation tower offering visitors panoramic views of the Everglades' stunning scenery in the middle of the trail loop. Used by bikers too, this 15-mile loop gives you an up-close, pristine view of Florida's wildlife.
Matheson Hammock Park
Hike through a tropical jungle just across Biscayne Bay in Matheson Hammock Park. You can choose from two hiking options: the Old Cutler Trailer and the Matheson Hammock Bike Path and Lagoon Loop. The former cuts through a residential neighborhood and follows a historical wagon path from the mid-18th century. The second trail allows you to meander through the area's natural hammock, a close growth of trees low in elevation. These trails offer relief from the sun as you wander past leafy boughs, limestone rock formations, and shallow pools. The park also offers beach and bay-front water recreation areas.
Florida National Scenic Trail
Florida's National Scenic Trail covers 1,400 miles across the state. The trail ends and begins at Big Cypress National Preserve and at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Explore designated trails or go backpacking through some unmarked territory for an adventurous trek through swampland. When planning a long-term hike here, consider how the seasons affect the area. Rainy months cause sections of the trail to get waterlogged, and hikers may have to wade through waist-deep water to traverse parts of the path. To avoid swampy trails, visit this trail during the dryer months of the year.
Bill Baggs Light House
Walk the easy 3-mile loop on the Key Biscayne trail through mangrove wetlands on the "Cape of Florida." The trail leads to the historic Bill Baggs Lighthouse. Located at the northernmost point of the trail, you can enter the over 200-year-old structure for a guided tour of the lighthouse and keeper's cottage. Enjoy scenic water views as you wander past the Atlantic Ocean or hop in a kayak to get an up-close experience. You can also stay late to watch the gorgeous sunset over Biscayne Bay.
Bear Cut Preserve Nature
Walk across sandy dunes as the water laps at the edge of the trail in Crandon Park. Bear Cut Preserve provides hikers with a 1.3-mile paved trail through tropical growth on Key Biscayne. Other trail options include the 0.3-mile Bear Cut Nature and Tequesta Hammock Trails to explore the area's natural hardwood hammocks. You can also take a guided tour with a naturalist from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Nature Center and listen as they identify local vegetation and wildlife.
Oleta River State Park
Located 30 minutes from Miami, Oleta River State Park offers a 3-mile trail for walking and jogging. Traditionally used by mountain bikers, you can also hike some of the challenging trails through Florida's largest urban park. For a different type of trail, consider paddling among the mangroves. Part of the park's water trail joins the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. Enjoy a rustic two-night stay in the park's air-conditioned cabins to rest from your excursions.
Virginia Key Historic Beach Park
Virginia Key Historic Beach Park has a long past as an important beach for the Black community in Miami. Now operated by a trust and open to the public, you can hike the scenic 2.5-mile trail along the beach to discover Florida ecosystems on this barrier island. Book a historic eco-tour to learn more about the park's cultural significance and the natural wonders surrounding it.
Arch Creek Park
Once the site of Native American village, Arch Creek Park offers hikers a walk through the tropical hammock of Miami. Named after a now-collapsed limestone arch, the park still offers a half-mile self-guided trail through natural growth near ancient settlements of the Tequesta tribe. Visit the museum at the Arch Creek Park & Nature Center to learn more about this history and cool off from your hike.
One of the oldest parks operated by the Miami-Dade County's Parks and Recreation department, Greynolds Park features an 0.7-mile, easy-going hammock trail that winds between close foliage growth in the hardwood forest and plenty of paths for bird-watching or other wildlife viewing opportunities. Once a quarry, the site also features music festivals, so check the events calendar if you want to hike in solitude or stay for the tunes.
We just listed 11 of our favorite hikes in the Miami area. Did we miss one of your favorite places? Let us know so we can update our list. Stay healthy with exercise in the great outdoors and discover some of the most beautiful natural spots in Miami.
Image via Flickr by B A Bowen Photography