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On this year’s Big Cypress trip we ended up extending it by like four or five days because we were loving it so much. It was also a year of new hikes here, which was exciting! I was also able to cross off biking Shark Valley off my national park bucket list!
One day I randomly decided to see how far it was to Shark Valley from Everglades City and was pleasantly surprised that it was under an hour. We didn’t go that day but saved it for that Monday, I think so it wouldn’t be as busy.
This turned out to be a great decision! There was no line to get into the park and there was plenty of parking available. I didn’t do any research about how to see Shark Valley before going (shocking, I know) so when we got there we realized there are just two hiking trails, tram tours, and bike rentals.
We’ve never rented bikes anywhere as our way of seeing a park but figured why not while were here. And I’m so glad we did! This was such a fun way to see this part of the park and while we may not have gotten all the info you’d get on a tram tour, it was still great being able to go at our own pace.
We got our bright yellow bikes and off we went! Just after we passed the second hiking trail, we saw two gators right on the side of the trail and met some nice folks from Minnesota.
There were a few people just walking at the this part since it wasn’t far from the visitor center but shortly after we only saw a few other bikers, which were still pretty few and far between.
There were a few more gators along the side but a couple miles in we saw the cutest little baby gator ever hiding in the grass! The tiny baby gators are my absolute favorite to see and I will watch them for like five minutes every time even though they’re probably not even doing anything. They’re just so cute!
When my parents came to visit in March, we went to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and saw like, five or six tiny baby gators together and ugh! I LOVE THEM!
But back to biking Shark Valley, it’s what you’re here for after all. The Shark Valley road is 15 miles round-trip and the first side to the observation tower is seven straight miles. Like seven miles of flat straight as a pin road.
The second half, or just over half, is eight miles but its wavy, if that makes sense. It’s still flat but it’s like a squiggly line. I liked that side a lot more and it went by faster.
The first half was just dragging. They have the miles marked on the road and they felt like the longest miles ever. It was still enjoyable but the other side was better.
Finally we made it to the observation tower right as a tram tour was leaving. Perfect timing! There were a couple of other people up there but it’s wasn’t super busy.
By this point, I was wishing we didn’t have eight miles left because these are not comfortable bikes but what could we do. Just keep going.
So, off we went again, down the wiggly side. This side was much more exciting as far as wildlife goes. Scenery was pretty similar though.
We managed to see more gators (not tiny babies), a purple gallinule (my second favorite Florida bird), a garter snake, a turtle, and an ibis having a snake for lunch! That was really cool to see, even if it was a bummer for the snake.
It was more just carrying the snake around, dropping it, picking it up, and trying to keep it from the other birds. It’s definitely not something you see everyday though.
By the last couple of miles on the wiggly side I was so ready to be done because I was getting fried. We forgot to bring sunscreen and didn’t think about it until we were already on the trail. Don’t do what I did, wear sunscreen here! You will get fried!
Also, make sure to drink lots of water. By the time we turned the bikes in, I was ready for a nap but we had our drive back to Everglades City ahead of us.
Overall I’m really glad we did this! It’s not something we would usually do but it was really fun and we got to see lots of wildlife, which I love to see in Florida. I would definitely recommend biking Shark Valley if you’re in the area and like biking and Florida scenery.
I will say, if you don’t like biking long distances and don’t care for Florida prairies, this probably isn’t the activity for you. The scenery doesn’t really change but it’s a good way to experience Everglades National Park with smaller crowds.
Where is Shark Valley?
The Shark Valley visitor center is on the Tamiami Trail and about 50 minutes from Miami, 1 hour 50 minutes from the Flamingo visitor center, and 50 minutes from Everglades City.
How much is it to visit Shark Valley in Everglades?
The park entrance fee is $30 per vehicle but your national park pass will get you in, too. There’s an additional fee for tram tours and bike rentals. If you’re not biking or doing a tram tour, it’s not worth the entrance fee.
Can you rent bikes at Shark Valley?
Yes! You can bring your own bike to Shark Valley or you can rent them there for $20 per bike for the day. They’re not super fancy bikes but they have a basket so you can bring stuff without having to wear a backpack which is nice.
You can reserve them online here or you can just get them at the visitor center. I don’t think it’s guaranteed that they’ll have them there since it is first-come, first-served.
How long is the Shark Valley Road?
The Shark Valley road is 15 miles but you can only see it by walking, biking, or taking a tram tour. You cannot drive the Shark Valley road in your own car!
If you’re biking to the observation tower, just do the whole loop. It’s only one extra mile and that side was my favorite and where we saw the most variety in wildlife!
How long does it take to bike Shark Valley?
I would plan for 2-4 hours to bike Shark Valley. That’s for biking the whole thing but it will also depend on how much time you spend at the observation tower, how fast you bike, and how often you stop for wildlife.
Is it hard to bike Shark Valley?
It’s a nice, flat road, so that isn’t difficult, but it is fifteen miles for the whole thing which can be tough if you’re not a regular biker. So, mostly no but the distance can be a little trying. If you’re on the fence and leaning towards yes, definitely do it.
Honestly, I think the hardest part about biking Shark Valley is the heat. There is no shade here and even the 80s will feel very hot with no shade. Definitely wear sunscreen and bring lots of water if you’re going to do this.
What to bring biking Shark Valley?
Good hiking shoes – If you’re sticking to boardwalks and other dry trails, Chacos will be good. If you want to go in the water or flooded areas, you’ll want closed toe shoes so you don’t get cut by sawgrass. Chaco Odysseys with socks are my favorite for hiking in Florida.
Is biking Shark Valley worth it?
Absolutely! I don’t bike very often and this was a spontaneous decision when we got there but I’m so glad we did it! It was a fun way to experience the park that was different than how we usually visit (which is hiking). I would definitely add it to your Florida bucket list.
If you’re not a huge biker or don’t like biking all that much, maybe skip it. Or, if you’re not used to biking longer distances or just like biking shorter distances, maybe skip it.
Once we got to the last couple miles I was ready to be done. It was hot and sunny (definitely wear sunscreen if you do this, I got sooo burned!) and bring lots of water. The first few miles also felt a little slow because that side is straight but the way back is wavier but still flat, so it had some variety.
I will say, the scenery doesn’t vary much, so if you’re not a fan of looking at Florida prairies, this may not be the activity for you. A tram tour might be better.
Wildlife in Shark Valley
There is tons of wildlife in Everglades National Park, but these are some of the things we saw while we were biking Shark Valley. You can find more about wildlife in the Everglades here.
- Garter snakes
Shark Valley hours
The Shark Valley entrance gate is open from 8:30 AM to 6 PM and the visitor center is open from 9 AM to 5 PM. Bikes can be rented. Bikes can be rented between 8:30 AM and 4 PM but are due back by 5 PM.
Have you gone biking in Shark Valley? Do you want to? What is your favorite thing to do in Everglades National Park?