The swampy backwaters of Florida combine to create one of that nation’s most unique landscapes. Aside from being a haven for alligators, the swamplands provide a stunning ecosystem that gives life to incredible wildlife and plants. That’s why every outdoorsman should spend some time exploring them.
Big Cypress Swamp
The watery forest trails of the Big Cypress Swamp provide beautiful views as well as a bit of challenge for experienced hikers. The most accessible hike is the Collier-Seminole Trail. You’ll spend much of the six-mile loop sloughing through knee-deep water and battling thick cypress strands. The trail passes several muddy streams, so wear thick clothing to keep your skin dry. During the summer months, the Big Cypress Swamp is overrun by mosquitos, meaning camping for the night is a no-go.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a massive conservation area that takes you into the heart of the Florida Everglades. The sanctuary’s most famous trail is the Boardwalk, a 2.5-mile trek that passes through all of the region’s most stunning ecosystems. It’s a great way to keep dry, but not quite that adventurous. If you want to get a little dirty, try the Hammock Trail. This hike passes right through a palm hammock canopy that houses numerous tropical plants before ending at a campsite where you can spend the night. The Pine Flatwoods Trail Loop is also a great option, and winds through the grassy uplands of the swamp. Along the way, you’ll find hundreds of wildflowers and even carnivorous plants native to the bogs.
Yellow River Marsh Preserve
The Yellow River Marsh Preserve was created to protect one of Florida’s last remaining tracts of wet prairies. The preserve lies between the Escambia and Blackwater Bays and houses the largest collection of pitcher plants in the state, along with a wealth of carnivorous species. The wet flatwoods are swarming with red buckeye, wild azalea, and several species of endangered animals. The area offers easy access and parking, and occasional educational adventures open to the public. If you’re lucky, you’ll run across some of the numerous turtles, snakes, and alligators that live in the region.
Apalachicola National Forest
The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest national forest in the state of Florida and the only one found on the Panhandle. It covers a span of over 630,000 acres of lakes, forests, hiking trails, and swampland. The 14.3-mile Jewel to Vilas hiking trail is your best option for spotting everything the forest has to offer. In the swampy regions, you’ll have access to seemingly endless options for canoeing and kayaking, or go get in a little SUP adventure. While you won’t want to set up camp in the middle of the swamps, there are plenty of gorgeous lakes nearby, like Camel and Porter. Be aware, though, that Apalachicola has an incredibly diverse display of wildlife. It’s not uncommon to spot alligators and black bears lurking around the swamplands, alongside the less threatening bald eagles, ospreys, and turtles.
Green Swamp is just 20 miles west of Disney World, offering a terrific day-trip for the family. It’s the southernmost true hardwood swamp in Florida, and is fabled to be the home of Sasquatch. We can’t vouch for the existence of the giant ape, but you’ll definitely find plenty of alligators, armadillos, feral hogs, and quail in the area. The swamp serves as a water source for five surrounding rivers and provides plenty of adventurous activities. Twenty miles of the Florida Trail runs through the swamp, and the nearby Withlacoochee River offers great fishing and paddling. Trying to SUP or paddle directly through the swamp is difficult thanks to numerous logjams, but not impossible.