The remote Shark Valley in Everglades National Park is a fantastic place to explore while visiting south Florida. Like many other National Parks and Everglades itself, there are several opportunities for walking and hiking in Shark Valley. However, what makes this part of the park unique, are the additional activities offered: a tram tour or a bike ride around a 15-mile loop that includes a 45-foot observation tower overlooking the surrounding landscape.
During our first visit to Everglades National Park we ended up skipping Shark Valley, opting instead to visit the Gulf Coast Visitor Center and head out on an airboat ride. When we headed back a second time, we made sure to prioritize our time so that we could spend 5 hours in Shark Valley, and boy are we glad we did!
If you have some time, we highly recommend heading into Shark Valley and experiencing the area in a way that is unlike the other parts of Everglades National Park!
Shark Valley map, courtesy of the National Park Service
We cover Shark Valley and other parts of Everglades National Park (including the Flamingo area) in our downloadable Everglades National Park Itinerary. We also cover what to pack, the best hikes and what else to see in do while you are in the area. Let us help shortcut your planning!
WHY IS IT CALLED SHARK VALLEY?
Though some may be disappointed to hear this, if you come looking for sharks in Shark Valley, you will surely be disappointed. Shark Valley gets its name from feeding water into the Shark River, which drains into Ponce de Leon Bay (about 9 miles south of Shark Valley).
While you won’t come across any sharks, you will see more than your fair share of alligators!
HOW TO GET TO SHARK VALLEY
Shark Valley Parking area, courtesy of the National Park Service
Shark Valley is located on the Tamiami Trail, or Highway 41. Highway 41 is long, stretching into Georgia. However, this part of the highway connects Miami to Naples, traveling through Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.
- Directions from Miami to Shark Valley (this will take a bit less than an hour, pending traffic).
- Directions from Naples to Shark Valley (this will take about 80 minutes-traffic (after leaving Naples) is almost always light).
- Directions from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to Shark Valley (this will take about 80 minutes and traffic is usually non-existent on this route, aside from occasional construction traffic).
Since most of the roads in this part of Florida have little to no mountains to avoid, the roads are amazingly straight and don’t offer much opportunity for grand vistas. However, if you are not used to driving down here it is a pretty drive through the grasslands.
There isn’t a special Shark Valley entrance fee, but you will need to have the same pass that you purchase to use in other parts of Everglades National Park. The pass is good for 7 days and enables you to come and go as you please to all parts of the park.
The parking lot for Shark Valley is quite large, so finding a parking spot usually isn’t too much of a challenge.
SHARK VALLEY TRAM TOURS
Undoubtedly, the most popular way to see Shark Valley is by taking a tram tour. The tram tour is great if you have the time and don’t have the energy or desire to head out on a bicycle. A few facts:
- The tours depart about every two hours from the visitor center, depending on the time of day and the season.
- The tours last about 2 hours. This includes driving the 15-mile loop, which is narrated by the driver. There is also a stop at the observation tower at the very southern tip of the loop.
- Reservations can be made well in advance and are recommended. Still, if you want to go on a tour and don’t have reservations, make sure you head to the Shark Valley Visitor Center when you first arrive and see if they have any spots available.
- Reservations for the Shark Valley Tram Tour can be made online: Shark Valley Tram Tour Reservations.
Before heading out on the tour, make sure you bring water with you. There are restrooms at the observation tower area as well as water if needed, but you’ll still likely get hot while on the tram.
The one disadvantage to the tram is the crowds-since you are heading out here with 30 (or more) of your new best friends, it can be a bit busy at the observation tower.
SHARK VALLEY BIKE TRAIL AND BIKE RENTALS
The tram, bike and walking trail is all one in the same at Shark Valley. If you have a few hours, the bike trail is a great way to get some exercise, stay away from the crowds on the tram and pace your visit as you wish. A few notes:
- Bicycles can be rented at the Shark Valley Visitor Center by the hour, and they also have helmets available. You can of course bring your own bikes as well and there is no special fee if you use your own bikes (just the normal park entry fee).
- The bikes are what you would expect at a high-volume, group rental location. They are in the style of beach cruisers and aren’t the newest bikes you’ve ever seen. If you have your own bikes, we’d recommend bringing them. However, we rented them and they were fine.
- This is not necessarily the way to save money-you may find (like we did) that the cost of the rentals come close to the cost of the tram due to the amount of time it will take you to do the loop.
- The entire loop, even though it is only 15-miles, will take you about 2-3 hours. This is because of the wind and the amount of time that you’ll want to spend at the observation tower.
- Be sure to bring sunscreen and water! It gets hot down here and the path is exposed the entire way.
When we visited, we rented bicycles and drove the entire loop in the counter-clockwise direction. We did this since it was windy and this route was a bit less exposed as we struggled against the wind. We also found that meeting the tram head on made it easier rather than getting passed on or having to pass and re-pass the tram on the way back.
SHARK VALLEY OBSERVATION TOWER
The Shark Valley Observation Tower is located at the southern tip of the trail. From the top of this 45-foot structure, you can see the marsh for at least 20 miles in any direction. This is the one stop for the tram.
There are bike racks to allow you to park your bikes. In addition, there is a restroom with drinking fountains and a short hiking trail (more on this below). If you have an expensive bike, you may want to consider bringing a lock with you, as the bike rack is hidden and a short walk from the observation tower. While someone would have to be pretty daring to try to take a bike from here, you are without cell phone service and it’s a long way back!
SHARK VALLEY HIKING
There isn’t much in the way of “hiking” in Shark Valley, but there are a couple trails worth exploring while visiting the area:
- The Bobcat Boardwalk Trail starts from the Shark Valley Visitor Center. This 0.4-mile (round-trip) trail is easy without any elevation gain. This walk is a peaceful stroll through growth and wildlife spotting is fairly regular.
- The Otter Cave Hammock Trail starts about 0.5-miles south from the visitor center from the tram / bike trail. This 0.3-mile (round-trip) trail has no elevation gain and is also good for spotting wildlife. It also includes “Solution Holes”, which are cavities in the limestone that collect water. If you look in these holes you may be able to spot wildlife, particularly in the drier times of the year. This is a good spot to hike if you are waiting for your tram to leave or want to take a break while bike riding.
- The Borrow Pit Trail starts on the walkway leading up to the Observation Tower. This 0.3-mile (round-trip), out-and-back trail has no elevation gain. Along a large, man-made pit (from oil prospecting many years ago), this shaded trail is perfect for spotting wildlife and stretching your legs prior to heading back on the tram or your bike.
SHARK VALLEY VISITOR CENTER
The Shark Valley Visitor Center is right at the parking lot. From here you can talk with rangers, who are extremely helpful. There are also several exhibits and a place to pay for tram tickets and bike rentals.
There is also a small gift and snack shop-the cold drinks here are very reasonably priced, which isn’t always the case in similar shops at other National Parks.
SHARK VALLEY WEATHER
Most aren’t surprised to hear that it can be very hot and humid in Shark Valley. High temperatures average 90 degrees in the summertime (with lows only reaching the lower 70’s). The wintertime is much more reasonable, with temperatures only getting up to the upper 70’s.
As mentioned earlier, wind can be a factor here. There is nothing to block the wind, and this can end up making your bike ride a bit challenging in one direction!
FURTHER INFORMATION ON EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Ahead of your trip, be sure to download our guide to Everglades National Park. We cover all the most important things to do and see in the park, as well as what to pack ahead of your visit and what to see in the area. It is over 15 pages long and full of information!
- In addition to this blog, be sure to check out our blog that offers and extensive view on What to See and Do in Everglades National Park. We also have a blog that covers one of our favorite trails in the park: The Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park.
- We offer many WPA-Style National Park Posters, including a vintage poster for Everglades National Park.
- Send us a photo and we’ll create a custom vintage-style travel poster. You’ll love this one-of-a-kind memory!