10 Outdoor Adventures to Try at Big Cypress National Preserve

Enjoy scenic wonders, wildlife, camping and other activities in this South Florida ecosystem.

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Photo By: Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve

The United States has 18 national preserves and Big Cypress National Preserve is one of the most diverse is in Florida. First established in 1974, Big Cypress is the second U.S. national preserve after Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas. The difference between a national preserve and a national park is that national preserves have fewer limitations on the available activities and Big Cypress National Preserve offers a range of experiences that are ideal for family vacations such as canoe trips, backcountry fishing and buggy rides.

Observe Native Wildlife Up Close

Stretching across 729,000 acres in South Florida, Big Cypress is a fascinating swampland ecosystem brimming with exotic flora and fauna and local wildlife like alligators, southern leopard frogs, wild turkeys, snapping turtles and the elusive Florida panther.

Explore the Wetlands in a Kayak

If you have intermediate kayaking or canoe paddling skills, you might consider exploring the many waterways of Big Cypress which includes creeks, rivers and the bay. Paddling routes can range in time from three to seven hours and November through March is an ideal time to visit because the insects and weather conditions are more tolerable.

Camp Out Under the Stars

There are eight campgrounds at Big Cypress ranging from the largest (Bear Island) to the smaller and more intimate (Burns Lake, pictured). Overnight camping in the preserve is particularly memorable for the sunsets, night skies and the stereophonic sounds of the swamp inhabitants.

Hiking in Big Cypress National Preserve

Hiking through the subtropical landscapes of Big Cypress is probably the number one activity in the preserve and you can do it solo or with ranger-led tours, your dog or fellow hikers who want to explore the numerous areas of the rain-fed ecosystem which can change dramatically with the seasons.

An Ideal Photo Op for Camera Buffs

Whether you are an amateur or professional photographer, you won’t find a better opportunity for capturing amazing images of wildlife than Big Cypress which includes everything from manatees to tortoises to deer and egrets living in peaceful co-existence.

Bicycle Paths Through the Wilderness

A great way to get acquainted with the many sections of Big Cypress National Preserve is on a bicycle and there are established roads and various off-road paths for exploring like the Fire Prairie Trail, Levee 28 at the eastern boundary or Bear Island (pictured).

Pole Boating and Other Water Activities

There is no shortage of water activities at Big Cypress and one of the more adventurous ways to spend your time is pole boating which allows you to explore places even kayaks and canoes can’t access. Other options include fishing or a guided airboat tour.

Birdwatching Is a Year-Round Activity

No matter what time of year you visit Big Cypress, birding is one of the main attractions with over 206 species of birds residing in the preserve. Some of the recommended birdwatching areas include the Preserve Loop Road, Kirby Shorter trail and Birdon Road where you might see everything from pileated woodpeckers (pictured) to blue herons and kingfishers.

Forge Your Own Trail

You can access areas of South Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve that are more difficult for hiking via off-road vehicles (you must obtain a permit first) or guided UTV tours that reveal hidden secrets of the wetlands.

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