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Everglades National Park

Established in 1947 to protect the snaking sawgrass marshes, mangroves, hardwood hammocks, and many animals that call this wilderness home, the Everglades hold boundless opportunities to learn about Florida ecology, hike, kayak, and spot many a gator and heron.

If you're heading across the southern portion of Florida on U.S. 41, from Miami to Naples, you'll breeze right through the Everglades. This mostly two-lane road, also known as Tamiami Trail, skirts the edge of Everglades National Park and cuts across the Big Cypress National Preserve. You'll also be near the park if you're en route from Miami to the Florida Keys on U.S. 1, which cuts through Homestead and Florida City—communities east of the main park entrance. Basically, if you're in South Florida, you can't escape at least fringes of the Everglades. With tourist strongholds like Miami, Naples, and the Florida Keys so close, travelers from all over the world typically make day trips to the park.

Everglades National Park has three main entry points: the park headquarters at Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, southwest of Homestead and Florida City; the Shark Valley area, accessed by Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41); and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, south of Everglades City to the west and closest to Naples.

Explore on your own or participate in ranger-led hikes, bicycle or bird-watching tours, and canoe trips. The variety of these excursions is greatest from mid-December through April, and some adventures (canoe trips, for instance) typically aren't offered in the sweltering summer months. Among the more popular activities are ranger-led walks departing from the Royal Palm Visitor Center and Flamingo Visitor Center. Check with the respective visitor centers for details. Other than campgrounds, there are no lodging options within the national park.

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Fodor's The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the USA: All 63 parks from Maine to American Samoa

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