Everglades National Park | OLD INGRAHAM HIGHWAY TRAIL

Start of the Old Ingraham Highway Trail

Start of the Old Ingraham Highway Trail

See the Hiking web page for an interactive location map.


Length: 10 miles, one-way
Time: 5 hours, one-way
Difficulty: Easy

The Old Ingraham Highway at Everglades National Park is an old road that has been closed to cars for years, but it is still open to those who want to hike or bike along it. To get to it you must first drive down a severely potholed road that branches off of the road to the Royal Palm Visitor Center. Take that all the way to the end and you will find the start of the trail. Park along the side of the road. This is a very secluded location, so if you find another parked car, it’s a busy day.

Parking at the Old Ingraham Highway Trail

Parking at the Old Ingraham Highway Trail

Though once an actual road, any pavement has either completely disintegrated into gravel or is full of potholes. I’m guessing that it hasn’t been used since the park was created in 1947. The roadbed was raised high enough to keep it dry during the winter, but from what I hear, it’s muddy or underwater during the wet season (summer to fall). I’ve read some reports that it was underwater during the winter of 2021, but that winter was one of the wettest on record. I did the hike in February 2015, and the road was bone dry.

Gravel terrain of the Old Ingraham Highway

Gravel terrain of the Old Ingraham Highway

Paved portions of the Old Ingraham Highway

Paved portions of the Old Ingraham Highway

The entire trail is out in the open, so wear a hat and sunscreen if avoiding the sun is of concern to you. Large areas of the trail are surrounded by open land as well, and while you will see some birds, most are pretty far away. If you want to get photos, you’ll need at least a 400mm lens.

Open terrain along the Old Ingraham Highway

Open terrain along the Old Ingraham Highway

Small water hole along the Old Ingraham Highway

Small water hole along the Old Ingraham Highway

The road also passes through the forest, and at times it can get a little overgrown, especially from the 3.5- to 5.5-mile mark on the trail. I found it impossible to avoid whacking into the bushes, and having just read about “poisonwood,” a bush version of poison ivy, I was dreading the outcome. As it turns out, the bushes are not poisonwood, so you don’t have to worry about completely avoiding them. However, there is vegetation growing on the trail—no telling what’s in there—so I suggest wearing long pants.

Overgrown section of the Old Ingraham Highway

Overgrown section of the Old Ingraham Highway

Vegetation also grows on the trail

Vegetation also grows on the trail

Elevated roads were built by digging ditches on one or both sides of the roadbed and piling the dirt into the middle. This is why you so often see canals next to the roads in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Such a canal runs along Old Ingraham Highway, and birds and alligators love to call this home during the dry season (winter and early spring). On more than one occasion I spooked a sunning alligator when I approached, and I’d hear a giant splash as it took off into the water. There was one alligator that I took totally by surprise and managed to ride right past him. However, as soon as I slammed on my brakes so that I could get a good look, he turned and dove into the water. All in all, I saw four alligators and heard at least another four splash into the canal before I got to them.

Canal along the Old Ingraham Highway

Canal along the Old Ingraham Highway

One thing you must realize about alligators, unless you are swimming with them, they are more eager to avoid you than you are to avoid them, especially the more “wild” ones that you find at places like this, not at Shark Valley or on the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm. Those alligators are so used to people that you’d have to jump on one to get a reaction. It is much more of a thrill to see an alligator in the wilderness when it’s just you and him than to see one with dozens of other people around. That’s just like being at the zoo.

Alligators on the side of the tram road at Shark Valley

Alligators on the side of the tram road at Shark Valley

The road comes to a distinct end, so there is no question as to when to stop. There is a trail that leads into the woods, I am assuming to one of the Old Ingraham Highway backcountry campsites. If you wish to camp along the trail, get a permit at the Everglades National Park entrance station near Homestead, Florida. I am not sure if any fees are involved, so bring cash or check with you just in case. You cannot make reservations for Old Ingraham Highway campsites.

End of the Old Ingraham Highway Trail

End of the Old Ingraham Highway Trail

While the Old Ingraham Highway is one of the very few trails, if not the only one, in the park where you can see alligators in a wilderness setting, I can’t imagine anyone walking to the end and back, a 20-mile trip, unless they are camping. If you want to give it a try, just decide how much time you want to spend and walk half that time down the road. The canal runs the entire length, so you’re as likely to see an alligator in the first few miles as in the last few. Also, you are much more likely to see animals on foot. No telling how many alligators I passed while biking by at 10 MPH that I could have seen if I was scouring the canal while walking.

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Last updated on February 26, 2021
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