South Florida’s ecology is something so unique compared to other parts of the country. For that reason alone, we should all make time to check it out! An added bonus, however, is being able to get in a great work out and tan at the same time! That’s why I wrote this article, featuring tips, tricks and pics from our latest visit to Shark Valley.
Be sure to decide how you want to command this trail – are you going to walk it or bike it? A 15 mile long trail, people certainly do walk it, but we decided to bike the trail. That way, we have a better chance of escaping angry alligators. Even while biking, it can take you between 2-3 hours in total, so plan your trip in advance. Bring snacks and plenty of water. I would also strongly consider the time of day you go. In order to optimize your enjoyment, consider the sun and it’s effect. During the morning, there will be less people on the trail, historically, and the sun will be less bright, therefore, less hot. The closer you get to noon, the hotter everything becomes.
For those who do not know better or are just looking to park closer to the fun, there is a $30 entrance fee per vehicle. A bit steep, but hey, it helps cover the maintenance of the grounds. TRICK #1: Most people coming are already in the mindset of getting in a decent exercise – you might as well make it a little longer – instead of driving down the road and passing the guard gate in your car, park at the entrance to the road on the shoulder. This will make your parking free, and you can have a little more exercise. Biking the trail? Even better!
Once you get past the guard gate, you’ll drive forward to the parking lot and the entrance to the actual trail. Here, you can also have the ability to rent a bike! (Just in case you realize that you don’t walk that much in your everyday life and maybe, this might be a whole lot of walking for you). TRICK #2: Bike rentals are $9 per hour, so plan your financials! If on the economic struggle bus, then be sure to bring your own bike! It’s free! Planning a family outing? then be sure to get a bike rack so there’s room for everyone and everything!
Now, each person is different in terms of their desired experiences. If your goal is to say you accomplished the 15 mile trail, then by all means, choose whichever path you want! If your goal is to interact with the wildlife, then, when facing the bifurcation, choose the path to the right. Every time I have gone here, the left side never seems to have much going on – both in the landscape and the wildlife. Trust me, it takes 7 miles to get to the tower, and then you will have another 7 miles to go back, SO, 14 mile hike is not so shabby! Plus, the right side has a few spinoffs as well, like “Otter Holes” for you to explore, too.
Perhaps the most unique aspect to Shark Valley is not just the wildlife, but your ability to get upfront and personal with them. It’s the kind of situation where I really question – what actually happened that Disney boy who got eaten… Thousands of visitors travel here every year and I have yet to hear about someone getting eaten or even bitten. This is truly remarkable because there are NO FENCES or barriers separating the trail from the animals. This includes the alligators. Now, the center does warn you to stay 10 to 15 fifteen away from them, BUT, that’s not really possible when they decide to sunbathe in the middle of the road!
Although I still have not worked up the courage to reach out and touch them, I still had a ton of fun riding with my wife, sharing stories, and taking pictures. We stopped at the tower and had our PB and J sandwiches and headed on back. Be sure to comment on your experiences, tips tricks and share some pics below!