Want to visit Everglades National Park – Shark Valley bike trail and visitor center? Perfect! Shark Valley is the perfect place to spend one day in Everglades National Park.
I want to start by saying I have an irrational fear of alligators. They terrify me! I wanted to conquer my fear and visit the Everglades on our last trip. We started with an airboat tour and then visited Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park.
I did not conquer my FEAR! However, Shark Valley was one of my favorite things we did on our last trip to Florida. I am so excited to share with you all the things to do in the Everglades National Park.
In this post, we will cover logistics, the Shark Valley bike trail, the Shark Valley tram, the Shark Valley Visitor Center, and all the things to do in the Everglades National Park Shark Valley area including airboat tours.
Let’s plan a trip to the Everglades National Park, Shark Valley area!
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Everglades National Park Shark Valley
Everglades National Park is huge! There are 4 visitor centers located throughout the Everglades. We will be focusing on the Shark Valley Visitor Center.
The Everglades span 1.5 million acres in south Florida. It is one of the largest national parks in South Florida. It is the third-largest park in the lower 48 states behind Death Valley and Yellowstone.
Let’s plan a trip and explore all the things to do in Everglades National Park.
Everglades Day Trip From Miami
Shark Valley is the perfect place to take a day trip from Miami to the Everglades.
How Far is Everglades Shark Valley from Miami?
Shark Valley is less than an hour away from Miami. Depending on your starting point you should be able to visit the Everglades easily from anywhere in South Florida.
Two major roads cut through the Everglades in South Florida. One is I-75 known as alligator alley. This road connects Naples to Ft. Lauderdale. The other highway is US Highway 41 known as the Tamiami Trail which connects Miami to Tampa Bay.
To get to Shark Valley Visitor Bike Trail and Visitor Center you will want to take US Highway 41.
Shark Valley Entrance Fee
Shark Valley entrance fee is $30 per vehicle. Unless you have one of the following passes.
America The Beautiful Pass
4th Grade National Park Pass
If you have a 4th grader you can get a free National Park Pass. This is such a great program that allows all kids in the 4th grade to get outside and visit the National Parks in the US.
Everglades National Park Hours
Everglades National Park Hours – Shark Valley area are:
8:30 am – 6:00 pm
The park is open 24 hours however vehicles are not allowed past the gate beyond 6:00 pm (alligators are more active from dusk to dawn as it is their key feeding time) I wouldn’t want to visit Shark Valley after 6:00 pm!
Shark Valley Bike Trail
If you are planning on renting a bike you will need to plan ahead. Bikes must be returned by 5:00 pm.
Everglades National Park Weather
There are two seasons in Everglades National Park. Wet and Dry. The wet season runs from April – to October and the dry season is from November – to March.
Everglades National Park Weather
The Everglades range from 76 degrees in January and hits the 90s during the summer months. November – April will have the best temperatures of the year. During the summer months, it rains a lot!
The Best Time to Visit Everglades National Park
The best time to visit Everglades National Park is the dry season. The animals are more active and there are more ranger-led programs. So November – March is the best time to visit the Everglades.
Parking at Everglades National Park
The parking lot at Shark Valley is small. There is only 1 lot and it does not have a lot of spots. We had to wait at the entrance for about 30 minutes before we actually were able to proceed to the parking lot.
The park rangers will wait until one car exits before another car can enter. Once we went through the gate we still had trouble finding a spot. There are areas for large RVs and tour buses to park along the street.
How Long Should I Spend at the Shark Valley Visitor Center and Shark Valley Bike Trail
If you are taking a day trip from Miami to the Everglades plan on spending at least 3 hours at the park. There are a few activities in the Everglades that may take you more time to complete.
Shark Valley Bike Trail
The trail will take 2 – 4 hours to complete. Give yourself enough time to bike and still be able to stop and check out all the wildlife along the trail.
Shark Valley Visitor Center
Once you have parked you can proceed to the Shark Valley Visitor Center. Inside there are some cool facts about alligators in the Everglades and the other animals that call the Everglades home.
Junior Ranger Program
The Shark Valley Visitor Center is also the location where you will pick up your junior ranger booklets. The junior ranger program is designed for kids. You can complete the book as you visit the national park and then the park ranger will give you a special badge at the end of your visit.
Choose Activities in the Everglades
Inside the visitor center, you can choose if you want to view the 15-mile loop by tram, bike, or foot. We will explore all three options below. You will pay for your activities at the Shark Valley Visitor Center (Yes, this is an additional cost to your Shark Valley entrance fee)
Things to Do in the Everglades National Park - Shark Valley
The top thing to do in the Everglades National Park is to check out the alligators. There are so many alligators in the Everglades! In fact, Everglades National Park estimates about 200,000.
Let’s explore the best way to see the alligators in the Everglades and the different activities you can enjoy while observing them.
Alligators in the Everglades
Viewing the alligators in the Everglades is the best! The alligators are everywhere. Before we even started our tour we saw two alligators. One was swimming in the water by the parking lot. The other was at the beginning of the Shark Valley bike trail.
How Many Alligators in the Everglades Will I See?
We saw between 20 and 30 alligators in the Everglades on our two-hour tour. We also saw a crocodile! There are only 2 crocs in the entire Shark Valley.
Wildlife in the Everglades
There are more than just alligators in the Everglades. There are many birds in Everglades National Park and also fish, turtles, and snakes.
Most Common Birds in Everglades National Park
- Turkey Vulture
My favorite bird in Everglades National Park is the Anhinga. I keep thinking it was a snake. It is a bird that swims! It has a long neck and every time it would come out of the water it looked like a snake ready to strike.
When we made it to the Shark Valley tower I was able to get a great look at one swimming underwater and popping up.
Snakes in the Everglades – Python vs. Alligator
There are lots of snakes in the everglades. 4 of which are poisonest. The snake you might know about is the Burmese Python. The python is an invasive species. They do not belong in the Everglades.
The park ranger said that there have been three known instances where a python and full-grown alligator have battled. Guess who won? The Alligator! He is still king of the Everglades.
Shark Valley Tram Tour
Before we jump to the Shark Valley bike trail I wanted to mention that there is a tram tour at the Shark Valley Visitor Center.
The Shark Valley Tram tour is worth it! It was so fun! It is a two-hour tour around the 15- mile loop. The tram tour is led by a park ranger. The tram will slow down and stop so you can see all the alligators in the Everglades!
Shark Valley Tram Tour Price and Hours
Children (ages 3-12): $15
From December – to April the tours start on the hour. You can purchase your tickets ahead of time or at the Shark Valley Visitor Center. During the other times of the year, tours are not offered as frequently.
These tours do fill up fast. It was not extremely busy when we went but we still had to wait an hour for the next tour time. This would make you think that purchasing online would be a better option, but that is not necessarily the case, be aware that you may be waiting 30 minutes just to go through the gate. If you do purchase your tickets ahead of time be early.
Shark Valley Tram Tour
The narrative from the park ranger is entertaining and informative. The tour stops about halfway through for a 20-minute break. You can get off the tram and walk up to the Shark Valley Tower and look out over the Everglades. It is amazing!
The entire tour is fantastic! I highly recommend going on it even if you plan to do the Shark Valley bike trail.
Shark Valley Bike Trail
The Shark Valley Bike Trail may be the highlight of your visit. It is amazing. The Shark Valley bike trail is the same 15-mile loop trail the Shark Valley tram uses. You can bring your own bikes or rent them.
You can rent online ahead of time but don’t worry if it looks like they are sold out….They are not. There are plenty of bikes available for those that want to rent at the park.
Important Things to Know Before Going on the Shark Valley Bike Trail
- Helmets must be worn by those under 16 according to Florida state law.
- Stay a safe distance from wildlife. 10-15 feet.
- Best time to go on the Shark Valley bike trail is in the morning.
Shark Valley Bike Trail
Renting bikes is a great way to explore the Shark Valley bike trail. Because I have an irrational fear of alligators in the Everglades I wasn’t sold on renting bikes. I wanted to but decided that a tram ride might be a better option if I needed a quick getaway from an attacking alligator.
However, the park ranger said that doing both tours offers great insight into the Everglades. The tour will give you plenty of information while the Shark Valley bike trail allows you to take your time and really see all those alligators in the Everglades!
To each his/her own!
Shark Valley Everglade Hiking Trails
The Shark Valley hiking trails are limited. (for good reason)
Bobcat Boardwalk Trail
There is a bridge path near the Shark Valley Visitor Center that you can explore called the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail. As we walked toward the bridge there was indeed an alligator hanging out right in the path.
The trail is very short and ends near an overlook area. We saw an alligator swimming around in this area. The park ranger said that the water in this certain area is deeper and the alligators in the Everglades like it.
Otter Cave Trail
There is another Shark Valley hiking trail near the end of the Bobcat trail. I took one look at it and said no way! You actually venture into the Everglades forest area. I would not take my chances! ( if you have been on this path let me know) Once again my fear of alligators was coming out strong when I saw this path!
15 – Mile Shark Valley Hiking Trail Loop
If you want to hike the entire U-shaped East Tram Loop, you could do this as well. It is 15- miles total. At mile 8 is the Shark Valley Tower which is an observation deck. Personally, I do not think hiking around is the best way to see the Shark Valley Everglades. I think the tram or biking is better.
Air Boat Tours Near Shark Valley
The most common Everglade activity is going on an Airboat tour. Airboat tours are not located inside the Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park.
There are several Airboat tour companies just outside the official Shark Valley National Park area that offer rides.
There are three authorized companies by the national park services. They include the following:
- Coopertown Airboats
- Everglades Safari Park
- Gator Park
We went on an airboat tour. It was fun but honestly, I loved the tram ride better. The deeper you go into the Everglades the more alligators you will find.
There may be a reason some airboat tours are less expensive. They may know that you won’t see a ton of alligators in the Everglades. Just saying! Our tour was cheaper and that is what we found. We saw so many more alligators in Shark Valley.
Accommodation Near Everglades National Park
If you are planning on visiting the Shark Valley Everglades National Park area you will want to stay in Miami.
There are so many nice resorts in Miami. We stayed at the JW Turnberry Resort and loved it. We also spent a night in a Spring Hills Suites near the airport. The airport is closer to Everglades National Park compared to where the nice resorts are located.
Are You Ready to Visit Shark Valley Everglades National Park?
Hopefully, you are excited to visit the Shark Valley bike trails at Everglades National Park! There are so many fun Everglades activities that we loved. There are so many things to do in Everglades National Park! I know you will have so much fun exploring the Shark Valley Everglades area.
Let us know how many alligators in the Everglades you see in the Facebook Group!
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