Everglades National Park | OTTER CAVE HAMMOCK TRAIL

Map of the Shark Valley trails

Map of the Shark Valley trails (click to enlarge)


See the Hiking web page for an interactive location map.


Length: .1 mile, one-way
Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

While the Otter Cave Hammock Trail is only .1 mile in length, it is a .6-mile walk from the Shark Valley Visitor Center to get to it, a 1.4-mile, round trip hike. However, I have a suggestion for a better route, one that combines the Otter Cave Hammock Trail with the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail, plus covers a section of the park road that runs along a canal where you can see animals galore. Even if you already took the Shark Valley Tram Tour around the entire 15-mile loop road, you owe it to yourself to spend some time on foot because that’s how you can get closer to the animals and observe and photograph them on your own schedule. By adding the two trails to your walk you can get a glimpse into the forested area of Shark Valley, something that most people don’t bother to see. The route is slightly over 1.5 miles long and takes about 1.5 hours, with much of that time spent taking photos and observing the many birds, alligators, and turtles in Shark Valley.

The hike starts at the back of the Visitor Center at the tram loading area, with the first destination being the eastern trailhead for the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail. To get there, follow the park road in a clockwise direction, the same way the trams are heading. The trailhead is located a tenth of a mile away; you can’t miss it.

Eastside trailhead for the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail

Eastside trailhead for the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail

The Bobcat Boardwalk Trail cuts across the forest bounded by the Shark Valley Tram Road (see the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail review for information on that hike). Once you reach the west side of the loop road, take a left (a right leads back to the visitor center). The Otter Cave Hammock Trail is a half mile farther ahead. On the way you will be walking along the canal and will see all sorts of animals, all of which are used to people, so they won’t fly or run away. It’s like being in a zoo with no cages. See the Shark Valley Wildlife Photos web page for a complete gallery of photos taken in this area.

Alligators on the side of the tram road at Shark Valley

Alligators on the side of the tram road at Shark Valley

Otter Cave Hammock Trail is C-shaped and has two entrances along the road. It makes no difference which one you take. I took the first entrance and came back out on the park road farther down.

Trailhead for the Otter Cave Hammock Trail

Trailhead for the Otter Cave Hammock Trail

Typical terrain of the Otter Cave Hammock Trail

Typical terrain of the Otter Cave Hammock Trail

It is doubtful you will see any otters on the Otter Cave Hammock Trail, though they supposedly can be seen every now and then during the wet season. You won’t see a cave either, for that matter. The “caves” that give the trail its name are actually small sinkholes called “solution holes.” The ground of south Florida is comprised of a flat, limestone shelf. Try to dig into the dirt and you’ll hit rock rather quickly. Over millions of years, water has eroded holes in the limestone to create the solution holes—the name comes from the fact that they are full of water. The holes have actually expanded underneath the limestone shelf and have formed a small cavity. Theoretically, if you weighed enough, you could break through when standing next to a hole because you are actually standing on hollow ground. Frogs, crayfish, and insects live in the holes.

Solution holes

Solution holes

Close up of a solution hole

Close up of a solution hole

When you come back to the park road, take a right to get back to the Visitor Center. While the Otter Cave Hammock Trail doesn’t offer a lot of excitement, you can’t do much harm by spending five to ten minutes on it.

Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on January 1, 2020
Share this article