Everglades National Park | PARK AT A GLANCE

Alligators piled up along the Anhinga Trail

Alligators piled up along the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm

PARK OVERVIEW

Mention Everglades National Park and most people think of the “river of grass,” a flooded prairie popularized by airboat rides and TV shows like Gentle Ben. However, the park offers a stunning variety of environments including a maze of mangrove islands, bays along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and hardwood and pine forests. These environments host all sorts of animals: dolphins, sharks, manatees, crocodiles, alligators, panthers, bears, and dozens and dozens of bird species. Of all the National Parks, the Everglades has the most and widest variety of animals, and the easiest to find and see. Shark Valley and Royal Palm are basically outdoor zoos with no cages.

The tourist season at Everglades National Park runs from November through April, with January through April being the peak season. Visitation drops during the summer due to the prevalence of mosquitoes, hot and humid weather, and always threatening rainstorms.

While Everglades National Park encompasses the entire southern tip of Florida (some 1.5 million acres), vehicle access is limited to four small areas on the outskirts of the park boundary. Motor boats, canoes, and kayaks are required to explore the interior of the park.

GULF COAST AREA
Activities at Gulf Coast are mainly water-based. The area is on the west coast of Florida and is seamlessly integrated into the communities of Everglades City and Chokoloskee. Restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, food, and gas are readily available. The Gulf Coast section of the park offers fishing and boating opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico, plus plenty of paddling options in both the bays and the mangrove-lined waterways of the backcountry. Here you can begin a trip down the famed Wilderness Waterway, a 99-mile water trail that connects to the Flamingo Area at the southernmost tip of Florida.

SHARK VALLEY AREA
Shark Valley is essentially an outdoor zoo. It is very similar to Royal Palm, but it covers a much larger area and thus has more animals. A paved, fifteen-mile loop road is open to hikers and bikers, or you can take the Shark Valley Tram Tour and see the entire area in a couple of hours. Viewing wildlife is the only attraction at Shark Valley. It is right along Highway 41 (the Tamiami Trail), and because of its easy access, it is the most visited region of the park. On a busy day it is possible that you may have to park as far as a mile from the entrance.

ROYAL PALM AREA
The Royal Palm area is also an outdoor zoo, but it offers attractions other than wildlife. Here you will find the Long Pine Key Campground, a few short nature trails, a longer trail that can be hiked or biked, a fishing lake, and the park’s only historical attraction, a Cold War-era Nike Missile Site. Because it is not on the main road, the crowds are but a fraction of those found at Shark Valley.

FLAMINGO AREA
Flamingo is similar to the Gulf Coast Area in that it is on the water, the Florida Bay. However, it offers as many land-based activities as it does water-based. Here you will find nearly all of the park’s longer hiking trails and most of its designated canoe trails. It is also the only place where you can see the American crocodile. Flamingo also has a campground.

CHEKIKA AREA
The Chekika Area, a popular day-use area, has been closed since 2103 and there are no plans to reopen it.


OPERATING HOURS

The following is a list of current operating hours for park facilities. Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure and check the Everglades National Park Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the latest schedules.

ERNEST COE VISITOR CENTER
The Ernest Coe Visitor Center, the main visitor center for Everglades National Park, is open from 8 AM to 5 PM from mid-December through mid-April, and from 9 AM to 5 PM the rest of the year. It is located just outside of the Homestead Entrance on the road that leads to both Royal Palm and Flamingo.

GULF COAST AREA
Park grounds are open 24 hours a day, year-round.

The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is open from 8 AM to 5 PM from mid-November through mid-April, and from 9 AM to 5 PM the rest of the year.

SHARK VALLEY AREA
Gates to Shark Valley open at 8:30 AM and close at 6 PM, though the grounds are open 24 hours a day for those walking or biking into the area. Vehicles must be out by 6 PM.

The Shark Valley Visitor Center is open from 9 AM to 5 PM year-round.

ROYAL PALM and FLAMINGO AREAS
The Royal Palm and Flamingo areas of the park are accessed through the Homestead Entrance, though the road is not gated and vehicles can enter at any time (with entrance pass).

The Flamingo Visitor Center is open from 8 AM to 4:30 PM from mid-November through mid-April. There are no regular hours during the summer.

The Flamingo Marina Store is open year-round. Hours vary per day and season, but the store is generally open from 7 AM to 7 PM.


FEES

There is an entrance fee for all areas of the Everglades National Park. The exceptions are for those passing through the Gulf Coast area without stopping at National Park Service facilities and for those stopping at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center. Shark Valley is gated, so vehicles can only enter during operating hours. The road to Royal Palm and Flamingo is not gated, and fees are collected at a pay station at the Homestead Entrance. The station usually stays open to at least 6 PM, but even if it is closed, you must still have a pass to legally enter. If you plan to arrive after hours, be sure to purchase your pass in advance online at Recreation.gov. Get a pass at the Gulf Coast area at the visitor center.

Once you pay the fee, you will be issued a pass that is good for seven consecutive days and grants you access to all areas of the park. Fees vary depending on how you enter—vehicle, motorcycle, boat, or on foot or bike. Annual Everglades passes are sold, as are National Park Passes. These are available at the Gulf Coast and Flamingo visitor centers and the Shark Valley and Homestead pay stations, or online at Recreation.gov.

There are fees for camping at the Long Pine Key and Flamingo campgrounds. A fee for backcountry camping is charged from November through April; there is no fee for the rest of the year. There are also fees for various tours conducted by park concessionaires. Tours run by the National Park Service are usually free.

See the Everglades National Park Fees web page for the latest prices.

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Last updated on February 25, 2021
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