Everglades National Park | BAYSHORE – COASTAL PRAIRIE TRAIL LOOP HIKE

Bayshore-Coastal Prairie Trails Loop Hike map (click to enlarge)

Bayshore-Coastal Prairie Trails Loop Hike map (click to enlarge)


See the Hiking web page for an interactive location map.

NOTE: The National Park Service no longer maintains the Bayshore Loop or Coastal Prairie trails due to the presence of Cape Sable Thoroughwort, an endangered plant species. The trails may still be passable, but obstacles may be in the way. Ask a Ranger about trail conditions before departing. Travel at your own risk.


Length: 1.6-mile loop
Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy

A loop hike can be formed using the Coastal Prairie Trail and the Bayshore Trail at Everglades National Park. The Coastal Prairie Trail starts at Loop C of the Flamingo Campground and runs all the way to the Clubhouse Beach backcountry campsite some 7.5 miles away. I can’t imagine walking the entire trail unless you are planning to camp; a permit is required if you want to do so (see the Backcountry Camping web page).

No matter what time of year, mosquitoes flourish in the Flamingo area. Here on the Bayshore and Coastal Prairie Trails they are a nuisance even in late February, though they aren’t as bad as in other places due to the breeze you get once near the bay. Furthermore, on the way back you must walk through the brush to avoid mud, and the wiry stems can scratch your legs. I advise wearing long pants, long sleeve jacket (jean jacket will do), hat with mosquito net, and gloves. You can apply all of the insect repellent you want, but it is not going to keep 100% of the mosquitoes off of you. Clothing is the only real protection. You may be sweating and look like a goof in a Hazmat suit, but you will pass many hikers who will tell you how they wished they had the same get-up.

The Coastal Prairie Trail starts off through a forest, but after about five minutes of hiking it emerges onto the coastal prairie and is exposed to the sun.

Start of the Coastal Prairie Trail

Start of the Coastal Prairie Trail

Yellow-green brush of the coastal prairie

Yellow-green brush of the coastal prairie

About a quarter mile down is the first of two intersections with the Bayshore Trail, which, as the name implies, runs along the bay before reconnecting farther down with the Coastal Prairie Trail. While you can take either intersection, I chose the first. Both are on the left side of the Coastal Prairie Trail.

First intersection with the Bayshore Trail

First intersection with the Bayshore Trail

The Bayshore Trail is a much narrower trail, and it leads down to the bay in less than a quarter mile.

Start of the Bayshore Trail

Start of the Bayshore Trail

Typical terrain of the Bayshore Trail as it leads to Florida Bay

Typical terrain of the Bayshore Trail as it leads to Florida Bay

Look for grey nickerbean along the way, a plant with seed pods that open like jaws. People string together the seeds to make necklaces.

Grey Nickerbean plant, a native to Florida

Grey Nickerbean plant, a native to Florida

When you reach the bay you cannot get to the water at this point because you are actually on the backside of the mangrove trees that line the shore. This is very interesting because most people only see the mangroves from the front side while boating.

Mangrove trees along Florida Bay

Mangrove trees along Florida Bay

There is only one point of confusion on the hike, and it comes just before you reach the bay. You will see a trail that branches off to the left, and this is the most obvious way to continue the hike along the shore. However, it quickly becomes very overgrown and then dead ends at a spot where it looks like a tornado came through. The trail is so well defined that I thought for sure it was the Bayshore Trail and that storm damage had made it impassible, so I was ready to head back home. As it turns out, taking a left as I did is incorrect. Walk a little past this trail towards the bay and you will find another trail that heads to the right. It certainly doesn’t look like much, which is why it is so easy to mistake the left turn as the proper way to go.

Trail that leads to the right along the Florida Bay shore

Trail that leads to the right along the Florida Bay shore

As you walk along the bay—much of which is blocked from view by the mangroves—you will pass a number of clearings where you can see the water. However, do not attempt to get to the water because you will quickly hit shoe-sucking mud: mud so deep that when you try to step forward your shoes will get sucked right off of your feet. Thus, admire the bay from dry ground.

View of Florida Bay

View of Florida Bay

The Bayshore Trail veers away from the water and heads back towards the Coastal Prairie Trail after .4 mile (1 mile from the start of the hike). The Coastal Prairie Trail is only a tenth of a mile up ahead. When I visited, there was an old boat motor on the side of the trail. Supposedly there was a fishing village here before the park was created, but this motor was modern, most likely dumped here by one of the many hurricanes. The rubber on the engine was still in excellent condition.

Old boat motor on the Bayshore Trail

Old boat motor on the Bayshore Trail

You will pass an unmarked intersection on the way to the Coastal Prairie Trail. The official trail is marked with a sign (you will see the backside of it coming from the bay). This is just an alternate trail blazed by hikers over the years that runs parallel to the Coastal Prairie Trail. “Why?” you might ask. For about a tenth of a mile from the official intersection back towards the campground, the Coastal Prairie Trail is often underwater and the alternate trail is a way around the mud.

Intersection with the Coastal Prairie Trail

Intersection with the Coastal Prairie Trail

Wet and muddy section of the Coastal Prairie Trail

Wet and muddy section of the Coastal Prairie Trail

The problem with the alternate trail is that it runs through the brush, and if you have on shorts your legs are going to get scratched by the very rigid branches of the shrubs. I fell and took one of the pointy stems to my thumb, and it felt like a bee sting. Wear long pants when hiking this trail, otherwise you must choose between wet and muddy shoes or scratched-up legs.

Alternate trail runs parallel to the Coastal Prairie Trail

Alternate trail runs parallel to the Coastal Prairie Trail

After a tenth of a mile the alternate trail and official trail merge and the terrain becomes much drier. If you come upon any further mud holes, walk into the brush if somebody hasn’t already created an alternate route around the mud. Overall, it is roughly a .6-mile walk back to the campground once you turn onto the Coastal Prairie Trail.

Dry stretch of the Coastal Prairie Trail

Dry stretch of the Coastal Prairie Trail

Given the unique opportunity to see the mangroves from behind, coupled with the always beautiful coastal prairie, I would rate this as the best hike in the Everglades. As with all trails in the park, the terrain is flat and the trail surface smooth. As long as you wear the proper clothing, I highly suggest this loop hike.

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Last updated on December 31, 2019
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