Kayakers at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples
Kayaking trails in Everglades National Park are one of the best ways to experience the Everglades.

The secret to experiencing Everglades National Park is to get away from roads and to surround yourself with the sights and sounds of this special place.

One of the best ways to do that is to by boat, especially in a quiet, environmentally friendly kayak or canoe.

There are about a dozen kayak trails in Everglades National Park and the adjoining wildlife refuges of Big Cypress and Ten Thousand Islands. These kayak trails range from short and easy “starter” trails to the truly daunting 99-mile Wilderness Waterway, a trail between Flamingo and Everglades City that requires lots of planning and back-country permits.

Here’s a quick look at the most popular kayak trails, including links to comprehensive Florida Rambler stories, which include information on renting kayaks.

Everglades kayak trails between Homestead and Flamingo

flamingo-canoe-mapMy favorite kayak trail along this stretch is Nine Mile Pond because it offers a mangrove tunnel experience, open marsh scenery and wildlife.

The view along Everglades National Park Nine Mile Pond canoe trail
The view along Nine Mile Pond kayak and canoe trail

Nine Mile Pond: Serene and lovely, a wide shallow marsh spiked with mangrove islands, sawgrass and the occasional tree island. At 5.2 miles, this kayak trail is a good trip for beginners and you can rent canoes from the park or an outfitter. Notable crocodile has taken up residence here.

Coot Bay and Mud Lake Kayak Trail: Some pretty mangrove tunnels but the open lakes can be windy and be a little monotonous.

Hell’s Bay Canoe Trail: Famously: “Hell to get into and Hell to get out of.” Through mangrove creeks and ponds. An out-and-back trail that can be as long as 10 miles round-trip, or you can turn around earlier. The trail through twisting mangroves is marked by pols. There are camping options (on platforms) along this route; permits are required.

Noble Hammock Kayak Trail: a 1.9 mile loop through a maze of mangrove tunnels and small ponds. Here’s a review by Al Vazquez.

West Lake Kayak Trail: 7.7 miles one way to Alligator Creek through a series of large open lakes  connected by narrow creeks lined with mangroves. West Lake is one of the largest lakes in the area and it can be windy and choppy.

Park brochure covers trails
 listed above.

Everglades kayak trails off Tamiami Trail and Gulf Coast


Turner River Kayak Trail, Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge.
Turner River Kayak Trail, Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge.

There’s no question: Turner River is the best of these trails, but you have to start early to avoid crowds and check water levels.

Turner River: One of the most popular kayak trails in the Everglades because it’s everything the Everglades can offer in one trip. Outstanding scenery; can get crowded and, in spring, may be too shallow.

Halfway Creek: A  kayak trail quite close to the Turner River; not as scenic as Turner River, but less crowded and no problem with low water in spring.

Sandfly Loop gives you a taste of the Ten Thousand Island. It’s a saltwater kayak trail with some open water to cross. A good first trip into the Ten Thousand Islands.

Indian Key Pass: A more ambitious Ten Thousand Islands kayak trip, which can include wilderness camping.

Additional trails in the Gulf Coast region

Wilderness Waterway

Here’s the national park’s guide.

A National Geographic report on a trip on the waterway.

More about visiting Everglades National Park


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