Everglades National Park serves an important purpose: It “provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species, such as the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther.”
The enormous park, which has one entrance about an hour away from Miami, includes 1.5 million acres of wetland in Florida’s Miami Dade, Monroe, and Collier counties.
Planning a trip to Everglades is challenging. First, a plan must account for the park’s sheer size. Then, if you plan to visit Everglades in the summer, you’ll need to account for oppressively high summer temperatures and frequent thunderstorms.
The good news is that the National Park Service (NPS) staff recognize those issues. With those challenges in mind, the NPS has released its “Top 10 Tips for Visiting Everglades National Park,” written by the park rangers who work there, to make your trip planning easier.
Let’s get right to it. Here’s how park rangers suggest planning a trip to Everglades National Park.
1. Prepare For Summer Conditions
It’s usually hot and humid in Everglades from May through November — with temperatures in the 90’s, humidity higher than 90 percent, and a heat index over 100 degrees. What’s more, although they subside quickly, there usually are daily thunderstorms that produce heavy rain.
“Summer is beautiful but challenging in the Everglades,” rangers explain. “Be prepared for sun, heat, thunderstorms, and mosquitoes. Stay hydrated, wear protective clothing, carry insect repellent, and know to seek shelter when a thunderstorm quickly moves in.”
2. Take A Guided Tour
Summer, due to the heat and thunderstorms, is the slower season at Everglades. Consequently, there are fewer ranger-led programs.
There are, however, a number of concession partners that offer informative tours year-round. You can learn more about guided tours and other services here.
3. Have A Great Day On The Water
Most of Everglades is only accessible by water, which means boating, fishing, and paddling are popular activities. There’s even a 99-mile-long Wilderness Waterway that takes 7 to 10 days to explore by canoe or kayak — although there are other shorter trails that are clearly marked.
Then again, other popular activities include hiking, biking, and camping. You can learn more about all activities at Everglades — both on, and off, the water — here.
4. Give Wildlife Their Space
Rangers realize that while it can be exciting to see wildlife, they urge visitors to keep a safe distance of at least 15 feet from any wild animals. Alligators and crocodiles, for example, “may look like a statue at times, but they are alive and alert and can react lightning fast.”
Pro Tip: Feeding or harassing an animal, including throwing objects at it, is a criminal offense that carries a fine.
You can learn more about being safe around crocodiles, alligators, and other wildlife here.
5. Download The App
Rangers suggest downloading the NPS App to make your trip planning easier. The free app, which may be downloaded through the App Store and Google Play, provides interactive maps, tours of park places, and on-the-ground accessibility information about more than 400 national parks.
6. Be Extra Prepared If Wilderness Camping
Wilderness camping is always challenging, but wilderness camping in Everglades in the summer requires even more diligence. “Be prepared for intense levels of biting insects, heat, and thunderstorms,” rangers explain.
It’s important to note that wilderness camping also requires a permit. Although campers can make advanced reservations for campsites through the Recreation.gov website, wilderness permits must be picked up in person at the Gulf Coast or Flamingo Visitor Centers no earlier than 24 hours before your trip.
Pro Tip: Most wilderness campsites are only accessible by water. Use the Wilderness Trip Planner to make sure you’re fully prepared. You can find it here.
7. Don’t Share Your Lunch
“We know, your sandwich is tasty, but please do not feed any wildlife — including birds,” rangers write. “Feeding wildlife of any kind is illegal and will eventually make the animal aggressive.”
8. Respect Park Closures
Weather conditions in Everglades during the summer can change rapidly. Hurricanes and tropical storms may even force the park to close on short notice.
Rangers remind visitors to be aware of closures, alerts, and other notices before heading to the park. You can check for alerts and monitor current conditions on the Everglades website here or by using the NPS App.
9. Get Your Park Pass Online
All park visitors are required to pay an entrance fee at Everglades. This money is used to “directly improve visitor experiences and assist with the cost of providing safe, meaningful experiences to park visitors.”
That said, rangers recommend learning about the different types of entrance passes and checking to see if you’re eligible for a free or discounted pass while you’re planning your trip. You can learn more about park passes here.
You can even purchase your park pass in advance to save time when entering the park. You can do that here.
10. Leave Pets At Home
Everyone loves traveling with their pets, but let’s face it: Everglades may not be the most comfortable place for pets — especially in the summer heat, rangers explain.
Another reason to leave pets at home is that they are only allowed in very limited areas of Everglades National Park, the rangers continue. Pets aren’t allowed in other areas because they are vulnerable to predators, which also creates a dangerous situation for pet owners as well as other visitors.
You can learn more about taking pets to Everglades here.
To learn more, be sure to read all of our Everglades National Park coverage. Since one of the park’s entrances is about an hour away from Miami, be sure to read our Miami coverage as well. Finally, you can find all of our Florida coverage here.