Loop Road is a scenic one-lane road that provides a two-hour detour from the Tamiami Trail, taking travelers through picturesque cypress marshes along a primitive road. This 25-mile stretch through Big Cypress National Preserve is rich with history and wildlife and folklore, a sort of Wild West of Florida for those who eschewed civilization well into the 1950s and 60s. Fact: Al Capone had a hunting lodge here during the Depression.
The eastern end of Loop Road is paved, with the pavement ending at the Loop Road Environmental Education, run by the National Park, where you can walk the Tree Snail Hammock Nature Trail or stop for a picnic. After this point, the road turns into gravel, but it has been recently upgraded, making it easier on cars than it has been in the past. There are several hikes on the Loop in addition to the Tree Snail Hammock Trail for folks wanting to stretch their legs, as well as a few campsites.
The reason most people cruise the Loop Road is for the wildlife and one of the prettiest spots is just west of the center point at Sweetwater Strand. Massive cypress trees stand sentinel around freshwater pools, creating a haven for wildlife. Visitors might see deer, otter, black bears or even a bobcat; alligators are plentiful. A rich array of bird life includes ibis, wood stork, egret, great blue heron, cormorant and anhinga.
Coming from Miami, the Loop Road branches off from Tamiami Trail (US 41)
at the Forty Mile Bend/Tamiami Ranger Station and joins Tamiami Trail
again at Monroe Station. Keep an eye out for the sign—it’s not
particularly well-marked. Make sure the road is navigable before
starting your adventure as the road can flood during hurricane season.
Be sure to use caution while driving (alligators and other wildlife can
be on the road) and be cautious when leaving your vehicle.