If you want to see alligators upclose then a day biking through Shark Valley in the Everglades of Florida should be on your bucket list. Located off the Tamiami Trail, the entrance to Everglades National Park is directly west of Miami. This national park is both errie and impressive with plenty of opportunities to see a variety of wildlife in their natural environment. Places that feel truly wild are few and far between in the US, especially Florida – but I guarantee this trail will not disappoint if you are seeking an authentic view of nature.
Biking through Shark Valley
Create your own Everglades EcoTour by taking a self-guided bike ride through this unique area of Florida. Shark Valley is a 15-mile paved trail that is ideal for any bicycle, and since the road is flat and free of rough terrain anyone can make the ride. A typical ride takes between 2 and 3 hours. Plan to take many stops because there’s just so much to see, especially all the alligators! I had every intention to count how many alligators I saw but after 30 minutes I gave up as the gators were literally everywhere- sunning on the side of the trail, lurking in the water and even crossing the the road in front of you!
Consider South Florida Heat! Before you head out on a bike tour, be sure that you’re prepared for the heat, which can become intense out on the Everglades bike trail. Hydrate before you leave, and take plenty of fluids with you, because there is no drinking water on the road through the park. Wear a helmet or a hat to keep the sun off your head.
No Sharks but tons of alligators
The word “alligator” comes from the Spanish word “el lagarto,” which means “the lizard.” Alligators are the largest creatures living in the Everglades. Males can reach 14 feet in length and they can weigh a thousand pounds. Alligators are social creatures and often stay in groups called congregations. You will see this while on your bike ride through Shark Valley. These groups are typically seen basking in the sun or taking a swim. This is because alligators can’t control their temperature internally. So, when they are cold, they sunbathe, and when they are hot, they go for a swim. Their appearance says, “Stay away,” and that’s certainly the best advice though your curiosity may be like mine and you push your limits just a little. Though many people are afraid of alligators, these animals typically keep to themselves and usually don’t attack humans unless they feel threatened.
No bike, take the tram
Though I think that biking the trail is the best way to experience Shark Valley within Everglades National Park, you can see it by walking or taking the Shark Valley Tram Tour. You will learn quite a bit from the tram operator on the way out to the tower but you will not get a chance to stop and explore the areas you are driving by.
Why is it called Shark Valley?
If you’re like me, you may be wondering about the name: Shark Valley, since it is full of aligators. Here is what I found out in my research…Although sharks are one form of wildlife that you will not see in the shallow waters of the Everglades within Shark Valley, they’re not too far away. Two of the estuaries supplied by The Everglades River are the Shark River and Little Shark River whose brackish waters provide wonderful feeding and nursing habitats for several species of sharks, including bull sharks, which are the top of the food chain, as well as blacktip sharks and lemon sharks.
You won’t see any mountains framing the Shark Valley, but this area of Florida is in a valley because the coastal ridges of South Florida are higher than the interior part of the state. The western coastal ridge is about 14-17 feet above sea level. The Atlantic ridge is 15-20 feet above sea level, and the Shark Valley Visitor Center area is about 7 feet above sea level, which puts this park in a valley between those two ridges. And that’s why it is called Shark Valley.
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Things to know before you go to Shark Valley – Everglades
- Under Florida law, any bicyclist under age 16 must wear a helmet.
- South Florida summers deliver some impressive weather that you will not want to be caught on a bike in. Most of the thunderstorms occur during the mid to late afternoon hours, so the best riding times are in the morning, when storm chances are smaller and it’s still a little cooler.
- For their safety as well as yours, animals should eat only their natural foods. It is dangerous and illegal to feed or harass wildlife.
- Admission to Everglades National Park is $25 per car and $8 per person on foot or bike. Admission is good for seven consecutive days.
- If you bring a bike and there’s a wait to enter the park, you can park on the Tamiami Trail and pedal in. *this is what we did*
- If you plan to arrive by UBER – Due to the remoteness of this area the park has noted that many visitors arriving by UBER transportation are unable to acquire a return UBER, it is suggested for you to check with your driver for return arrangements or have an alternative taxi option.
For more information, visit the Shark Valley Visitor Center Website