Sunday, November 6, 2016

Our Bike Riding Adventure at Shark Valley in the Everglades National Park

Bike Riding at Shark Valley National Park
Bike Riding at Shark Valley
Shark Valley is located in the Everglade National Park right off the Tamiami Trail.  The fee is $10 per vehicle and is good for seven consecutive days at any entrance in the Everglades National Park.

At Shark Valley, you can take a narrated tram ride through the loop trail, rent Bicycles, bring your own bikes, or you can walk the loop.  No vehicles besides the tram are allowed on the loop.  Nadia and I decided to bring our own bikes and explore.   Actually, it was my idea and Nadia thought I was just plain crazy. 

alligators a long the bike trail at Shark Valley
Alligators a long the trail
The park advises all bikers to start out to your right.  That way you can see the tram coming.  When the tram comes, you need to pull over and stop until the tram passes by.

As soon as we started out, we ran into our first of many gator sightings for the day.

Birding and wildlife view at Shark Valley in the Everglades National Park

The alligators were all a long the road and in the water.

Alligators in the everglades

Along the loop were 3 small nature trails.

Nature Trails at Shark Valley in the Florida Everglades
One of the three Nature Trails
You just park your bike at the rack and take a walk.

Bike rack at the nature trails

There was a sign at the beginning of the nature trail that said, "watch for solution holes."  I did not know what this was, so a solution hole is when limestone erodes or is dissolved because of a mixture of rainfall and weak acid produced by decaying leaves.  These holes were big, some were bigger than my foot!  So you really need to pay attention when walking on this path.  You can read more about solution holes here.

When we came out of this trail, Nadia and I heard a really huge growl and splash of an alligator.  You need to keep your eyes open. We did not see him, he was in the water across the path.  I heard a lot of sounds that I had never heard before from these gators.  It was really neat.

Solution hole at Shark Valley in the Everglades
Solution hole
We got back on our bikes and traveled on.  By now, we were only at mile 4 and the observation tower was no where in sight.  I wanted to turn around and go back, but I had always wanted to do this loop.  We peddled on and on and on.

Bike Riding at Shark Valley at the Everglades National Park

Enjoying the sights as we peddled.

Blue Heron Walking at Shark Valley

Oh my!  What is that?  The Observation Tower!  We are half way done.

Observation Tower at Shark Valley
Observation Tower
We parked our bikes to climb the observation tower.  It is a ramp that leads up to the top.  There are restrooms at the bottom.

sights near the observation tower at shark valley

The views from the top of the tower:

views from the top of the observation tower at shark valley

views from the top of the observation tower at shark valley Florida

After we rested and had a little snack, we went on the nature trail near the entrance to the tower.

Hiking a trail at Shark Valley

Keep an eye out for wildlife:

an alligator near the hiking trail in Shark Valley

Time to get back on the bikes again.  We are half way done and we can do this!

bike riding through the everglades in shark valley florida

Can you spot the bird and alligator below:

Bird and Alligator in the Florida Everglades

The bike ride back was very refreshing, but very hard.  The wind was blowing very strong right at us.

When we reached mile 10, we were really struggling.  We were not in shape and needed a bigger bike seat, a fluffy one.  It helped to just get off the bike and walk beside it for a while.

We are almost done!

We did it!  We passed by one more nature trail, but we decided to go grab a snack and come back to it. 

After we had some more water and a snack, we went back to the Bobcat Boardwalk Nature Trail.  It was a nice.  Now to get back on the bikes and pedal to the car.

Shark Valley Everglades Guided Tram Tour - $24.00
 from Viator
Join this 2-hour Shark Valley tram tour for an in-depth look through the northern region of Everglades National Park. This naturalist led tour is conducted on board an open air tram introducing you to the "River of Grass" and the wildlife inhabiting it. At the midway point, you'll have the opportunity to stroll up the spiral ramp way and platform of the Shark Valley observation tower, allowing a panoramic view of the heart of the Everglades.

Here are some tips from my experience:
  • Plan to arrive early and I would advise that you go in the winter months.  
  • We did not have any problems with mosquitoes on the day we went, but I brought spray just in case.  
  • Wear lots of sunscreen.  Bring sunscreen to reapply with you during the day.  I only used my spray kind before we left and I looked like a blotchy purple monster for a week after. 
  • Bring lots of water.  We used our hydro packs.
  • Also, do not trust your GPS to get you here, mine took us an hour out of the way only to circle us back to where we were.  By the time we arrived at the park, the parking lot was full and we had to park on the Tamiami Trail, which was not a problem until you had to back out into traffic.  That was SCARY for me.
  • Keep a close eye on your kids and your surroundings
There are the "special park" restrooms available. (the kind with just a hole), but at the observation tower, the toilets are the regular flush kind.  Also, you can purchase some snacks where you would rent the tram and bikes.

It took us about 3.5 hours to bike the 15 mile loop.  I am very sure that others could do this faster.