Big Cypress National Preserve
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Big Cypress National Preserve is the northern neighbor of Everglades National Park, but with fewer crowds and more wildlife. Among the first national preserves to be established in the US, Big Cypress still permits many of the activities that are forbidden in national parks, inviting visitors to go off-roading, hunt, take an airboat ride through the swamp, and more.
Big Cypress is known for its swamps, scenic drives, up-close alligator sightings, and Florida panther population. Discover the area on scenic drives such as Loop Road and on stops to observe wildlife from boardwalks. Alternatively, explore the preserve on tours ranging from off-roading in swamp buggies to kayaking through mangrove tunnels.
Take advantage of ample overnight opportunities in the park. Choose one of the drive-up campsites or secure a backcountry permit and camp along the way on a kayaking or canoeing adventure. The park is also a popular hunting destination, offering the opportunity to hunt whitetail deer, feral hogs, and turkeys.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Big Cypress National Preserve is ideal for visitors who want to get off the beaten path and avoid the crowds of Everglades National Park.
- Unlike the neighboring national park, Big Cypress is free to enter.
- Paved and wooden boardwalks make many of the trails wheelchair and stroller accessible.
- Bring bug spray and long-sleeve clothing to protect against mosquitos.
How to Get There
Big Cypress National Preserve is bisected by the Tamiami Trail (US Route 41). The road stretches from Miami to Florida’s west coast. Along the way, you pass two visitor centers, Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center and Oasis Visitor Center. Both centers can be used as jumping-off points for exploring the preserve.
When to Get There
The dry, cool season (November through April) is the best time for exploring southern Florida’s swamplands. In summer the area is hot, wet, and full of mosquitos. Additionally, many of the roads and trails become impassable due to mud or water. Contact the ranger station to learn more about local hunting seasons.
The Best Places to Spot Alligators in Big Cypress
Big Cypress National Preserve is home to several of the best wildlife viewing spots in the region. If your goal is to spot alligators, take a scenic drive on Loop Road. The unpaved road encourages drivers to slow down, and it is common to see alligators crossing. Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center and Oasis Visitor Center are also good locations for viewing alligators and sometimes even manatees.
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