Last weekend Myles and I decided to bike the Shark Valley loop in Everglades National Park. Considering I was raised in Florida, I don’t usually get too excited when I see an alligator. But at Shark Valley, we saw hundreds of alligators and tiny baby gators that looked like they were fresh out of the womb which was super exciting even to two Florida natives who aren’t all that impressed by gators.
Okay I just realized alligators don’t have wombs because they lay eggs but just go with me on this. They were TINY. Here is picture proof.
The Shark Valley Loop is 15 miles, but it’s very flat with hardly any curves in the road. It was fun to go fast since it was so flat and straight.
Not only did we see countless gators, but there were beautiful birds and lots of turtles and fish. The first 8 miles or so is full of wildlife and if you stop to look at all the animals, you will literally be there all day. After 8 miles you hit the observation tower and then the last 8 miles of the loop back to the visitor center is not as exciting. We only saw a few alligators compared to the hundred we must have seen on the first 8 miles. I would recommend going back the way you came from the visitor center if you still want to see more wildlife.
We brought my bike but it actually broke down right away (luckily not halfway through) and so we rented bikes at the visitor center. The bike rentals are $9 per hour. The bikes they have are in great condition and we were surprised how comfortable the seats were.
The whole loop took us about 2 and a half hours including the time we stopped at the observation tower to eat lunch and enjoy the 360 degree view of the surrounding marsh.
To be honest, growing up in Florida, I kind of took the Everglades for granted. I always wondered why tourists flocked to it and didn’t see the appeal. As I’ve spent more time there as an adult, I realize how impressive of a place it really is. Biking in between an endless prairie of sawgrass is an experience you can’t have many places.
I looked up more facts about the Everglades to gain a better appreciation for it and what I found surprised me. The Everglades is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and is the 3rd largest national park! The Everglades is home to the largest mangrove ecosystem in the entire Western Hemisphere.
If you decide to do the Shark Valley Loop, I also recommend an airboat tour through the marsh for a different perspective! You will pass a ton of them on your way to Shark Valley.
I did one last summer and it was fun. We also got to hold a baby alligator which was the highlight of the tour for me. You can also eat alligator if you want but after seeing all the alligators in the water, I didn’t feel like it.