The Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park is one of the most popular trails in the park. At only four miles from the main entrance to the park (and the Earnest F. Coe Visitor Center) and fully accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, it is extremely easy to get to. The trail is very easy to travel on, and perfect for young families.
But what makes this trail amazing is the unique blend of wildlife and immersive landscape. While traveling on this short hike, you’ll come across a variety of birdlife, reptiles and plenty of bugs. While some of the bugs can be bothersome (mosquitoes, we’re talking to you!), there are others that are really quite interesting and colorful that will captivate the child in all of us.
As a family, we’ve hiked the Anhinga Trail twice. Both were in different times of the year, and both were equally as amazing.
If you plan on visiting Everglades National Park, it’s likely that we won’t have to convince you to head out on this great trail. However, if you are just thinking of driving down to Flamingo and bypassing this hike, make sure you stop and spend a few minutes exploring. We’re positive you will enjoy the experience!
The Anhinga Trail is one of many walks and activities to explore Everglades that we cover in our downloadable Everglades National Park Itinerary. This park is huge, and it can be challenging figuring out what to do in the park, and our itinerary will help take the guesswork out of your planning.
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE ANHINGA TRAIL
Anhinga Trailhead location, Courtesy of the National Park Service
The Anhinga Trail starts from the parking area for the Royal Palm Visitor Center. This is located about 4.0 miles from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. Passing by the visitor center is something that you can certainly do, but you should stop either on the way in or way out to learn about the park. The rangers here are great as well (which is no surprise!).
- Directions from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to the Anhinga Trail (this will take about 10 minutes and includes passing through the park entrance).
- Directions from Homestead to the Anhinga Trail (this will take about 30 minutes).
The parking lot for the Anhinga Trail is shared with the Royal Palm Visitor Center and parking for the Gumbo Limbo Trail. There are over 100 parking spots, including parking for busses and RVs. While that may seem like a lot, the parking lot can fill up. However, since the trail is short, you will likely see a spot opening up about once every minute, so if you are patient and you should be able to find a spot easily.
You likely won’t believe what you are about to read, but if you are coming here in the wintertime, make sure you take actions to protect yourself from the vultures above. They have taken a liking to rubber and love to pick away at wipers or seals around car windows. No kidding.
The park service provides tarps and bungee cords to help you out. We did see plenty of vultures when we were there, but our car didn’t get attacked at all. That being said, some people strongly suggest that if you have a rental car to make sure you get the insurance to avoid having to pay out of your own pocket or make a claim to your personal insurance.
There are restrooms at the trailhead and no restrooms while you are on the trail.
ANHINGA TRAIL: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The trail is paved or boardwalk the entire way, making it great for hikers of all ages and capabilities.
- Accessibility. The trail is wheelchair accessible and suitable for travelers with canes.
PREPARATION FOR HIKING THE ANHINGA TRAIL
The hike is short so you don’t need to do much to prepare. However, there are a few things that we recommend:
- Sunblock. If you are going here when the sun is out (which is most of the time), you need to bring protection from the sun.
- Bug Spray. The bugs in Everglades National Park can be absolutely relentless, so make sure you bring something with you. We use Squito Ban from Yaya (as it is all natural). If the bugs are especially bad, then we use Repel (which has Deet).
- Water. Make sure you carry plenty of water with you while you are in the park-even on short trails. We recommend the Platypus pack.
HIKING ON THE ANHINGA TRAILL
Anhinga Trail Map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Before starting off on the hike, there are a few basic preparations that you should make sure you do. First, the sun in the Everglades can be very hot. We highly advise wearing a hat and sunscreen. Second, the humidity down here can be oppressive, especially in the summer. Because of this, you’ll want to be sure to carry plenty of water with you, particularly for elderly or for children. Finally, the mosquitoes in the Everglades are legendary, so be sure to bring proper insect repellant with you.
After properly protecting your car (and yourselves!), pass under the awning at the Royal Palm Visitor Center. The trail starts immediately from the visitor center and comes to water right away. The paved trail continues along the water for the first 0.2 miles before reaching a junction.
By taking the trail to the left, you’ll start out on a boardwalk that continues all the way to several overlooks.
The trail then loops around on itself before returning back to the pavement. The entire trail is 0.8 miles without any elevation gain. If you stroll at a leisurely pace, you’ll likely be back at the visitor center in around 45 minutes.
ANHINGA TRAIL WILDLIFE
At each overlook, and along the entire trail, you’ll encounter plenty of wildlife. Even if you are not a birder, you’ll be really captivated by the wildlife. Some of the most common animals that you’ll see in this marsh area include the following:
- Alligators. Everyone loves to see the alligators! For the most part, they hang out in the water. Occasionally you will find them crossing paths. Be sure to give them plenty of space!
- Anhingas. The trails namesake, the Anhinga actually spears fish with their beak. The feathers also get wet, so each time they swim they have to dry out their wings before trying again. It really is neat to see them drying their wings in the sun.
- Egrets and herons. Egrets are the large white birds that are often found wading in shallow water and have darker legs than herons
ANHINGA TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Wildlife. There aren’t many trails in our National Park lands that have the proximity to wildlife offered on the Anhinga Trail.
- Changing colors. We’ve managed to hike this trail twice and the difference in color between the two times was truly amazing. If we had to pick one time that was incredible, it was definitely dusk. However, if you have time, we recommend going twice.
- Accessibility. This hike was great for our kids-it was flat, full of action right from the beginning and had multiple places to sit.
Exposure to sun. If you visit this trail during the peak of the day, it is hot (in the summertime it is sweltering) without any shade.
- Crowds. When we visited during the mid-morning, that was the time of the day that the trail was super busy. Just be aware of that! We visited another time after it stopped raining, and had the trail nearly to ourselves!
THINGS TO DO NEAR THE ANHINGA TRAIL
If you are visiting Everglades National Park, it would be a shame to just stop at the Anhinga Trail. A few other nearby recommendations include:
- Walk the 0.5-mile Gumbo Limbo Trail. This trail is through shaded hardwood, and gives you plenty of information about the local flora (with signs).
- Visit the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. This has a ton of information about the local wildlife, interesting exhibits and access to rangers.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND TIPS
- The Anhinga Trail can get crowded. Even though you’ll be able to find parking, you are likely to have 300 new friends with you when you hike if you come during peak hours. We recommend coming in the earlier part of the morning, or just after a rainstorm or in the evening for the best experience.
- The wildlife is typically most active before it gets too hot during the day, so if you like to see the critters moving around, definitely come before 10:00 in the morning.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK AND THE SURROUNDING AREA
- If you are visiting with your family, you should check out Allison’s blog on Visiting Everglades National Park with your Family. She has a great article not only on the Everglades, but also on a few areas outside of the park that are worth checking out.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- If you are looking for a more comprehensive view of the park, check out our blog, What to See and Do in Everglades National Park.
- Another great place to visit in the park (and spend at least a half-day) is Shark Valley. You can read about it in our blog on Shark Valley. You can also head a bit further west to check out Big Cypress National Preserve if you have some time.
- Our guide to Everglades National Park is a “must download” prior to taking your trip. We cover what you need to know to help you have the best experience in the park!
- Don’t forget to checkout our collection of Everglades National Park posters, including our poster of the Anhinga Trail.
- We’d love to work with you to create a custom vintage-style travel poster from your photo. We know you’ll love this one-of-a-kind memory!