Birding Paradise In Florida: Hike The Marsh Trail In Ten Thousand Islands

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I can’t believe it took me three trips to Everglades City before I hiked the Marsh Trail. Even more shocking, it was three visits before I even knew this trail existed, how wild is that? And we usually stay for 7-10 days which makes it even more surprising!

Well, in 2021 I managed to hike the Marsh Trail twice and it was a totally different experience each time. The first time we hiked the Marsh Trail was towards the end of January.

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There were a decent number of cars in the parking lot but it wasn’t packed. We did the whole hike this first time. The first part of the trail is paved but the majority is crushed shells/gravel. It’s an easy trail though. It’s flat and pretty much a straight shot to the clearing.

We stopped at the observation tower for a bit to watch the birds. There were a ton of them here which was really awesome. There was a roseate spoonbill, pelicans, anhingas, herons, ducks, and probably more I don’t know the names of.

It felt like there were five different types of birds in every picture I took and I loved it! After watching them here for a bit, we headed down the rest of the trail. After a while we saw an alligator on the right side but that was pretty much it.

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There are a few benches along the trail but it’s just got foliage on both sides with the occasional opening to the water but we didn’t see much else after the observation tower. We sat in the clearing for a bit before heading back.

Then, in March, I wasn’t sure what to expect. There were SO many birds here in January, just in the general area, I was hoping they would still be here, but wow, they were not.

This time we just hiked to the observation tower and just past it a little bit. There was not a single bird in the marsh that we could see from the tower which was so crazy! I thought there would at least be something, but no.

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Another lady told us there were some pelicans just down the trail a bit so we kept walking and watched them for a while. There were probably ten of them and a lone cormorant.

I loved watching the cormorant with the pelicans, I thought it was hilarious, because it looks like the cormorant is telling the pelicans a story and it’s just perfect, I love it.

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We didn’t go to the end this time because I knew it wasn’t super exciting and with the way our luck with wildlife and shelling was going, I didn’t think we’d see much else.

Overall, it’s a good trail, but once you pass the observation tower (which I think is the highlight) it’s less exciting. If you just want a nice easy walk though, this is perfect.

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There is no shade on here other than the lower deck on the observation tower and it can get pretty hot o the trail and in the clearing at the end so keep that in mind, even when it’s only in the low 80s. So make sure to wear sunscreen and drink lots of water.

The bugs weren’t bad here but if you go between April and November, they’ll probably be a lot worse. This is a great short hike near Everglades City if you’re staying there or if you’re just passing through from Naples to Miami.

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Where is the Marsh Trail?

The trailhead for the Marsh Trail is on the Tamiami Trail about 20 minutes from Everglades City, 20 minutes from Marco Island, and 30 minutes from Naples.

It’s right by Collier-Seminole State Park and can easily be combined with that, a visit to Marco Island for shelling, or the Fakahatchee Boardwalk.

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How long is the Marsh Trail?

The Marsh Trail is 2.3 miles round-trip if you go all the way to the end but much shorter if you turn around at the observation tower, which is what I would probably recommend. It’s fine going to the end but the best part is the tower.

If you just want to walk and stretch your legs though, it’s a nice walk to the end at the clearing where you turn around and you may see some gators along the way. It’s an easy hike with only 9 feet of elevation gain.

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How long do you need for the Marsh Trail?

An hour should be plenty of time for this, especially if you only go to the observation tower. If you go to the end, maybe an hour and a half, but this is a nice quick and easy hike.

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What to bring on the Marsh Trail

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Neutrogena a lot, but if you’ll be visiting a beach soon, you’ll want a reef-safe sunscreen.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Bug spray – You’ll want to bring this no matter when you visit, but especially if you want to go in the summer.  I like the Ben’s bug spray as well as the Off! Deep Woods.

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.

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Is the Marsh Trail worth it?

Yes! At least to the observation tower. We did see the alligator after the tower but going all the way to the end was just OK. The second time I went we went a little bit past it to see some birds but once you pass the tower it’s pretty uneventful.

Have you hiked the Marsh Trail in Everglades City? What did you think of it? What wildlife did you see? Do you want to do it?

4 thoughts on “Birding Paradise In Florida: Hike The Marsh Trail In Ten Thousand Islands

    1. Thank you! Alligator. I’ve only seen one crocodile down here and it was by the Flamingo Visitor Center in Everglades but I didn’t have my camera, of course haha.

    1. This is such a great trail for seeing birds! This whole area is prime birding in like, January. I hope you make it there sooner than later 🙂

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