Everglades National Park | NOBLE HAMMOCK CANOE TRAIL

Noble Hammock Canoe Trail

Noble Hammock Canoe Trail

See the Paddling web page for an interactive location map.


Length: 2.3-mile loop
Time: 2 hours

If you want to paddle through the mangroves, the Noble Hammock Canoe Trail at Everglades National Park is the trip to take. Wide creeks, narrow creeks, mangrove tunnels—you’ll see it all on one of the most winding trails I have ever been on. The twists and turns are so sharp in some places that I have my doubts about a long canoe or kayak even making it through. It is also the slowest paddling I have yet experienced; I barely made one mile per hour. There are so many turns on this trail that there are more PVC pipe trail markers here (126) than on the five-mile Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail (124). This is laborsome paddling to say the least.

It is advised that you inquire about water levels at one of the visitor centers in the park before paddling any of the trails in the Everglades from February through May, the height of the dry season in Florida. I paddled the trail in late February, and as was the case with the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail, I was told there was not enough water at Noble Hammock to make it navigable. I ignored the advice about Nine Mile Pond and barely managed to squeeze through the driest sections, but at Noble Hammock I found there to be plenty of water in late February. Also, I do believe the creek is slightly affected by tides because I found myself drifting in a very slow current at one point, so ask a park Ranger about the best times to paddle the trail based on tides, if they do indeed affect paddling.

Mangrove-lined creek of the Noble Hammock Canoe Trail

Mangrove-lined creek of the Noble Hammock Canoe Trail

There are two entrances onto the trail, each with a boat dock. While the trail is a loop, and you can technically go around it in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, it is highly advisable that you paddle the trail as intended because it is often too narrow for oncoming boats to pass each other. Whoever is going in the wrong direction must start paddling backwards to a point where the creek widens. The dock you want to depart from is the one with the NOBLE HAMMOCK CANOE TRAIL information sign. This will set you paddling in the clockwise direction. The other dock is about 200 yards down the road (this is where you will finish the trail).

While there was plenty of water for paddling, it sure was low at the departure boat dock. Perhaps this was because of low tide, but I can’t say for sure since I had no idea when low tide was. My inflatable sit-on-top kayak was so far below the dock that I didn’t even know if I could get in it. For a moment I thought I’d have to jump off the dock and land in the boat like a movie cowboy jumps off a barn and lands on his horse. You can’t wade into the water to get in because you’d sink up to your calves in mud. I eventually had to lower myself down so that I was standing up in the kayak, and then carefully crouched into a sitting position.

Entrance ramp onto the Noble Hammock Canoe Trail

Entrance ramp onto the Noble Hammock Canoe Trail

Navigation on the trail is done by following numbered PVC posts. Not all of the turns are well marked, but the few times I made a wrong turn the passage just dead ended, so there really isn’t much chance of getting lost. Just turn around and continue in the direction you were heading before you made the wrong turn. Also, there are enough markers placed along the trail that if you paddle for more than five minutes without seeing one, you may have gotten off course.

Numbered PVC posts mark the route

Numbered PVC posts mark the route

Mangroves have overtaken a few of the posts, so you must scour the vegetation at times to spot them.

PVC marker engulfed (on right) by the ever growing mangroves

PVC marker engulfed (on right) by the ever growing mangroves

Much of the trail is so narrow that if you are in a kayak and have a traditional kayak paddle, you must pull it apart and start paddling like in a canoe. Do not attempt this trail if your paddle cannot be broken into two pieces. I estimate that you must paddle 60% of the trail with half a paddle. The frustrating thing is that every time you come to a wide passage and put your paddle back together, you turn the corner and there is another narrow passage, so you must take it apart again.

Some places are barely wide enough for a boat to fit, and you must pull yourself through by grabbing onto the mangrove branches. I suspect the park Rangers venture back into the brush and hack out some of the mangroves from time to time, because unfettered growth can completely choke off some of the passageways. Cattails, another problem that plagues the Everglades, came close to closing off a few sections of the trail as well.

Emerging from a mangrove tunnel

Emerging from a mangrove tunnel

If you plan to canoe the Nobel Hammock Trail, be sure you have at least four hours of daylight. All it takes is for a tree to be down in one of the many narrow passageways and you’d have to turn around. In most cases, there simply is no margin for error. There are also places so narrow that a very long boat may not make it through, and most of these areas come at the end of the trail, which could mean close to a two mile paddle back the way you came.

The trail does not loop back around to the original boat dock, so you must exit and walk down the road about 200 yards to your car and then drive back to pick up your equipment. While I did not notice any mosquitoes on the creek, they are thick at both docks throughout the year.

Exit dock

Exit dock

For those who haven’t paddled through the mangroves, I highly recommend the trail. However, the fun does wear thin by the end. Paddling in a kayak with half a paddle is slow going, but at only two miles long you are only spending two hours of your time on the effort. This is one of the shortest established canoe trails in the Everglades National Park. If you want to see a more diverse environment, try the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail. It has mangroves plus the wide open grasslands that the Everglades is famous for.

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Last updated on February 24, 2021
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