Big Cypress National Preserve, a 720,000-acre (2,900 sq. km) area, was one of the first national preserves in the United States when it was established in 1974. Not technically part of the Everglades, but bordering it to the south, Big Cypress preserve is the most biologically diverse region of the terrestrial Everglades. Composed primarily of a wet cypress forest, it is home to a wide array of flora and fauna including mangroves, orchids, alligators, venomous snakes, a variety of birds, the Florida panther and the Florida Black Bear. The preserve is also home to several endangered species such as the West Indian Manatee, the eastern indigo snake and the Florida Sandhill Crane.
With twelve campgrounds, some of the area’s best hikes and a long-established hunting scene (white-tailed deer, hogs and turkeys are abundant), Big Cypress provides plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors. The southern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail is located in Big Cypress, which is ideal for hiking in the winter months.
For the more intrepid hiker, trekking through Big Cypress is pleasant year-round; cypress country is a bit more welcoming to hikers than the dense sawgrass prairies that you’ll find in the Everglades. Rangers often lead hikes in the dry winter months, as well as canoe trips and bicycle tours. Other tours include swamp buggy tours, pole boat tours and backcountry fishing.