Big Cypress National Preserve Camping: Everything You Could Possibly Want To Know

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I love Big Cypress, it’s no secret. I’ve probably been here five or six times now for maybe a total of a month? And I keep dreaming of going back!

Camping in Big Cypress isn’t always my favorite because of the mosquitos but it is the one place I’ve camped and not been freaked out!

So today I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about camping in Big Cypress National Preserve, one of my favorite places to visit in Florida and a must on a south Florida road trip.

Whether you’re staying for one night or ten, camping is a great way to get to know Big Cypress.

Big Cypress national preserve Florida

It’s perfect if you want to be close to the loop drive, want to get up for foggy sunrise pictures without having to drive as far, or just to enjoy some swampy nature.

If looking up camping in Big Cypress is part of your process in deciding between Everglades and Big Cypress, I hope this helps you decide (whispers ‘you should pick Big Cypress‘).

Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
America the Beautiful – The national park pass is essential. – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
Enterprise – This is my rental car recommendation.
See all my resources here.

big cypress florida

Do you need reservations for camping in Big Cypress?

It’s recommended but not always necessary. If you’re planning to camp in Big Cypress in winter or want a specific campground, I would reserve.

Over holidays I would also try to make reservations because those tend to be busy in parks.

If you don’t make a reservation, don’t fret! Remaining spaces are available first come, first serve so there’s still a chance you can get one.

Pink Jeep, Mitchell Landing, Gator Head, and Bear Island Campgrounds do not take reservations at all.

Can you camp all year in Big Cypress?

Yes but you won’t have as many options in the summer. But summer here won’t be the most pleasant anyway thanks to humidity and mosquitos.

There are only two developed campgrounds in Big Cypress open all year (Bear Island and Midway).

Map of campgrounds in Big Cypress

alligators in big cypress florida

Campgrounds in Big Cypress

There are a variety of campgrounds in Big cypress to choose from whether you want developed, backcountry, or primitive.

You can drive to most, but a few require hiking to get to. Those are in the backcountry campground section though. These are all of the developed campgrounds in Big Cypress in this section.

Bear Island Campground

Bear Island in Big Cypress has 40 RV/tent sites and vault toilets, but no water, hookups, or dump station. Availability varies throughout the year.

It is currently open year-round in Sites 1-12 and sites 13-40 are open August 15-April 15. It’s at the end of a 20-mile dirt road and $10 per night.

Burns Lake Campground

Burns Lake in Big Cypress has five ten sites and 10 RV sites. It’s open from August 15 to April 15.

It’s $24 per night and has vault toilets but no water, hookups, or dump station.

It provides a day use picnic area and backcountry access year-round.

Gator Head Campground

Gator Head is near Bear Island and has just nine tent sites and vault toilets. No water, dump station, or hookups since RVs aren’t allowed.

It’s $10 per night, open August 15 to April 15 and an ORV permit is required.

Midway Campground

Midway Campground in Big Cypress has 28 RV sites and 10 tent sites. It’s $30 for an RV site and $24 for tents.

It’s open year-round, has drinking water, a dump station, regular bathrooms, and electric hookups. This campground is on the Tamiami Trail.

Mitchell Landing Campground

There are 11 tent/RV sites here that are $24 per night and open from August 15 to April 15.

It has vault toilets but no water, dump station, or hookups. This campground is also down a dirt road.

Monument Lake Campground

This is where we stayed twice and I like it. It has 26 RV sites and 10 tent at $30 and $24, respectively. It’s open August 15 to April 15.

There is water and flush toilets but no dump station or hookups. There is also good phone service here.

Pine Crest Campground (group only)

There are four group sites here for up to eight tens and 15 people each. It’s open year-round and $30 per night.

It has vault toilets but no water, dump station, or hookups since there aren’t RV sites here.

Pink Jeep Campground

Finally, the Pink Jeep Campground. It has just nine tent sites for $10 per night. An ORV permit is required.

There are vault toilets but no water, dump station, or hookups since it’s tent only here.

algae in big cypress florida

RV camping in Big Cypress

There is RV camping available at quite a few of the Big Cypress campgrounds but Midway is the only one with hookups.

Here are the ones that do allow RVs: Bear Island, Burns Lake, Midway, Mitchell Landing, and Monument Lake.

Are there dump stations in Big Cypress?

Yes! They’re free if you’re camping in Big Cypress and have a $10 fee if not. They can be found at Midway Campground and at Dona Drive, about 2.5 miles east of SR 29 on US 41.

There is also one at Trail Lakes Campground and Collier-Seminole State Park if you’re staying there.

Big cypress national preserve florida loop road

Backcountry camping in Big Cypress

There are three primitive camp sites that I’ve come across and all require a few miles of hiking (or sometimes biking) to get to.

You’ll want to hang your food so bears can’t get to it at all of the sites I think, to be on the safe side. There is no charge for these sites.

Carpenter Primitive Camp

This is just off of the main branch of the Florida trail and has a picnic table and fire ring. It sounds like it can be a bit wet and muddy.

Here is my favorite Google review of it from Roy Dye:

“This place is the pit of hell on earth in the Summer. You have little chance of surviving out here more then 48 hours and you will be miserable the whole time. Mosquitoes will swarm you and carry off your kids.

There are huge gators and crocodiles, yes Florida Crocks, so big that you will learn dinosaurs are not extinct, , raccoons will rob you of your food, there are snakes and every plant species will either sting you or cut you.

The water is poisonous. Enjoy the wilderness, I’ve never been so happy to get back to civilization.”

Panther Camp

I can’t find out much about this one but I’m working on it and will update with any extra information I find.

You can hike or bike here and it seems to be twice as far as Carpenter Camp. There is no water here so be sure to bring enough.

It also seems to have more shade than carpenter in addition to the fire pit and picnic table.

Nobles Primitive Camp

I can’t find out much about this one either, but it’s a primitive campsite along the Florida Trail in Big cypress. It has a fire pit and picnic table.

The trail here is along a canal and good for wildlife spotting. This isn’t as shady as Panther Camp.

Gator Hook trail big cypress Florida

Can you camp anywhere in Big Cypress?

Almost! There are the developed campgrounds, of course, but if you’re in the backcountry you can camp anywhere as long as your tent is at least a half mile from any developed area.

This includes roads, private residences, or officially designated campgrounds.

Free camping in Big Cypress

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to do some free camping in Big Cypress, pack your bags!

Like I said above, you can camp anywhere in Big Cypress National Preserve for free as long as you’re at least half a mile from roads, private residences, or developed campgrounds.

Obviously you’ll have to carry everything in with you so prepare accordingly!

If you plan to drive into the backcountry in a swamp buggy, ATV, or 4WD, you can camp near the trails as long as you pull leave the trail clear for others to pass.

You will need an ORV permit if you plan to do that, though.

And finally, there are two places you are not allowed to camp like this: the Bear Island Backcountry Unit and airboaters in Zone 4 of the Stairsteps Backcountry Unit.

To camp in Bear Island, you must stay at the developed campground, and to airboat and camp in Zone 4 you must stay at one of the 17 free designated primitive campsites.

Camping in any of these places (any non-developed campground) requires a free permit.

You can print it off and fill it out or fill it out at a trailhead, visitor centers, boat ramps, backcountry access roads, and hunter check-in stations.

big cypress florida

Other camping near Big Cypress

This is camping near Everglades City. I’m not counting Everglades National Park in this part because you can’t really stay there and visit Big Cypress easily.

Collier Seminole State Park

There are 104 campsites in Collier Seminole State Park for both RVs or tents and all sites have electricity, water, a grill, and a picnic table.

Sites 1-19 are for tens or pop-up campers only and hammock camping is allowed in sites 2, 5, 34, 53, and 79.

Pets are allowed here, and bathrooms have hot showers. There are also two laundry facilities and a dump station.

There is also a primitive campsite three miles from the parking area within the Strand Swamp Trail for hikers. You’ll have to call the ranger station to register for this: 239-394-3397.

Trail Lakes Campground

This is the campground at the Skunkape HQ and has quite a but to offer including cabins, chickees, RV sites (specific for class A, B, and C), and tent sites.

There is a bathhouse here accessible for all camp sites, and a dump station for RVs.

alligator in big cypress florida

Is is dangerous camping in Big Cypress?

I wouldn’t say it’s any more dangerous to camp in Big Cypress than most other places. And I know it’s just my opinion and experience, but this is the one place I’ve camped and not been afraid.

Is there dangerous wildlife in Big Cypress?

Yes but I wouldn’t be more concerned about it here than camping elsewhere. There are black bears, pythons, Florida panthers, alligators, and water moccasins.

And just because the wildlife is there doesn’t mean you’ll see it at the campgrounds. I did see gators at Monument Lake but wasn’t worried about them.

I would be more concerned in the backcountry but I’m also usually really freaked out when I’m camping. If you’re a regular camper, you know how you are.

fire prairie trail big cypress florida

What to bring camping in Big Cypress

Kammok hammock – I have a Roo single that I love. It’s the color of mac and cheese and pretty light weight. I don’t think as light as Eno if that matters though. But it’s perfect for just regular camping.

RTIC cooler – We have one of those giant coffin sized Yetis, which is great, but this 20 can soft RTIC cooler is a lot more convenient for small trips with easy access to a fridge and ice.

REI Passage 2 Tent – Our tent isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  We’ve used it quite a few times and it’s been great.  It’s good for two people, but can be a little cramped if you move around too much.

NEMO Viola sleeping bag – Mine isn’t available anymore but this one is similar.  It’s very good in cold weather, not freezing, but in the 40s with leggings on, I was totally fine.  It has zipper vent things on the top that are supposed to help it cool down when it’s hot.  I don’t know if it really did that.  When we camped in south Florida, I was still pretty warm with them open and it was probably in the 60s. 

LuminAID lantern – I love this lantern.  It’s great for getting around your campsite in the dark, lighting up campground bathrooms at night, and even during power outages at home.  You can plug it in to charge it or just let the sun do the work. 

REI Ruckpack 18 – This is the daypack I have and it’s awesome.  It’s lightweight, has water bottle pockets that my 40-ounce Hydro Flask fits in, and it comes in nice colors. 

REI Camp Wrap – This is totally unnecessary, but I love it.  It’s basically a blanket poncho and it doubles as a good blanket for sleeping in warmer weather.  I used it two nights in south Florida and it was perfect for when my sleeping bag was too hot.

Puffy quilt – If you’re a really warm sleeper and visiting in the summer, a puffy quilt might be a better option.  I prefer this for hotter nights.  Check out the Rumpl camp quilts here.

Pillow – If you’re just driving, I’d just bring a regular pillow, but if you’re flying then renting a car, you might want a smaller pillow.  This is a good non-inflatible option.  Here is a good inflatable option.

Camp chairs – If you plan on doing a lot of camping outside of this trip, and backpacking especially, the REI Flexlite chairs are great choices.  Check out the camp chairs here.

Dramamine – this is a must if you get carsick.

Have you been camping in Big Cypress? Which campground did you stay at? How was it? Do you want to camp in Big Cypress?

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