Everglades National Park | LONG PINE KEY NATURE TRAIL

Pinelands area trail map (click to enlarge)

Pinelands area trail map (click to enlarge)


See the Hiking web page for an interactive location map.


Length: 6.1 miles, one-way
Time: 5-6 hours, round trip on foot, 2 hours on bike
Difficulty: Easy

The Long Pine Key Nature Trail is one of the few trails at Everglades National Park that allows off-road biking. It is a 12.2-mile round trip, out-and-back trail, though you do have an option to make it a loop by returning along Main Park Road (FL 9336). This only adds .7 mile to the out-and-back route, but I don’t really recommend it since traffic is passing by at 55+ miles an hour and there is no shoulder area along the road.

In truth, the trail is not interesting enough to warrant a 12-mile, round-trip trek on foot, as the terrain isn’t varied enough and the animals are few. Unless you have a ride waiting at one end or simply want a lot of exercise, riding a bike is the only reasonable option for exploring the trail in its entirety.

The eastern trailhead is located just north of the Long Pine Key Campground. Parking is done along the side of the road. This is where I began my bike trip.

Parking for the eastern trailhead of Long Pine Key Trail

Parking for the eastern trailhead of Long Pine Key Trail

Eastern trailhead for Long Pine Key Trail

Eastern trailhead for Long Pine Key Trail

The western trailhead is at the parking area for Pine Glades Lake. There is no sign on the highway indicating the turn to the lake, but it is the first left once you pass the Pinelands Trail when driving towards Flamingo. The road is dirt and full of potholes.

Parking and trailhead for the western entrance to Long Pine Key Trail

Parking and trailhead for the western entrance to Long Pine Key Trail

Fishing is allowed in the lake, but a sign warns against eating the fish because of mercury in the water. This is a common warning at all lakes in the Everglades.

Pine Glades Lake

Pine Glades Lake

The Long Pine Key Trail is nothing more than an old road that passes through a pine forest and a grassland. Nearly every inch is exposed to the sun, so wear a hat and sunscreen if avoiding the sun is of importance to you.

Pine forest terrain along the Long Pine Key Trail

Pine forest terrain along the Long Pine Key Trail

Open terrain of the Long Pine Key Trail

Open terrain of the Long Pine Key Trail

Tall grass grows up along the sides of the trail, and this is a prime hideout for ticks, so stay in the middle. If you do brush up against the grass, check you legs. Ticks live low to the ground where they can grab onto any animal, and as soon as they attach themselves they start climbing upwards. Most of the time you will find them crawling up the front of your leg since that’s the direction you run into them. I advise long pants for this hike.

PS. There are snakes in the grass and on the trail too. I came within a couple feet of running one over.

Tall grass along the Long Pine Key Trail

Tall grass along the Long Pine Key Trail

An information panel with a trail map is located at each trailhead, but it does not show the four spur trails that branch off of the main trail (the map at the top of this page does show the trails). There are additional hiking trails east of the campground, and these are not shown either. A printed map with all of the details can be obtained at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center.

None of these spur trails, in either direction, allow bikes, so if you want to hike one while bike riding, you must leave your bike at the trailhead and walk. However, none look that interesting. The ones along the Lone Pine Key Nature Trail just lead into the sawgrass prairie, which is the exact terrain you find yourself standing in at the trailhead, so there isn’t much point to it. My advice is that the Long Pine Key Trail is long enough without adding a bunch of detours, so just stick to the main trail. If you ever get confused as to which way to go, follow the TRAIL signs.

TRAIL sign points the way on the Long Pine Key Trail

TRAIL sign points the way on the Long Pine Key Trail

The trail is pretty straightforward when traveling from the campground to the lake. The TRAIL signs point out the correct way to turn at any dubious intersection. However, some of the signs are hard to see on the way back, so things can get a little tricky in spots. There is one point where the trail takes a sharp left back to the campground, but at this very moment a spur trail keeps going straight and it is very easy on a bike to miss the turn and head off in the wrong direction. Most of the side trails look like side trails, but this one isn’t much different from the Long Pine Key Trail. Those on foot are likely to see the sign and figure out the correct way to proceed, but on bike it’s easy to just keep cruising straight after missing the turn.

Tricky turn when heading east on the Long Pine Key Trail

Tricky turn when heading east on the Long Pine Key Trail

As for wildlife, there is not much water along the trail, so you won’t see any alligators or exotic waterfowl. You may see small birds, but that’s about it. The area is panther and black bear country, but chances of seeing either of these are slim. Unless you have a bike or only plan to hike a small portion of the trail for exercise, I recommend doing something else with your time.

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Last updated on January 1, 2020
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