Head outdoors to make the most of winter in South Florida

Head outdoors to make the most of winter in South Florida

Design Credit: Lorena Lopez/University Communications
Photo Credits: National Park Services, Florida State Parks, GMCVB, Florida Trail Association

By Lorena Lopez

Design Credit: Lorena Lopez/University Communications
Photo Credits: National Park Services, Florida State Parks, GMCVB, Florida Trail Association

Head outdoors to make the most of winter in South Florida

By Lorena Lopez
With cooler temperatures, you can plan a weekend or afternoon open-air adventure and discover a new spot—solo or with a friend. Peruse our list of parks and trails for biking, hiking, and much more.

“We as people have a lot to gain—both physically and mentally—from being in nature, and here in South Florida we are blessed to have two national parks so close to us,” said Larry Brand, professor of marine biology and ecology at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “There is just a wonderful, peaceful feeling from being out in the quiet wilderness surrounded by birds that we should all experience whenever possible.”

South Florida winters are the best times of the year to spend copious amounts of time outdoors. With cooler temperatures and little rain, you can plan a weekend or afternoon outdoor adventure and discover a new favorite nature spot—solo or with a friend. To launch our series on South Florida activities, Life@TheU rounded up a list of hike- and bike-friendly parks and trails worth checking out.

National Parks    State Parks  City Parks    Trails

Click the geolocation icon on the bottom left of the map to see the park closest to you. 

National Parks

Big Cypress National Preserve
Larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, Big Cypress National Preserve is the nation’s first national preserve, protecting more than 700,000 acres of the Big Cypress Swamp in South Florida. Its deep swamplands deliver a range of outdoor experiences. Bike the trail of the Fire Prairie, paddle the secluded wetlands in a canoe, hike the beautiful deep lake trail through the preserve, and have a blast going off-road.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, bird-watching, camping

Biscayne National Park
Though 95 percent of Biscayne National Park is under water, some of South Florida's best hiking trails are still offered by this national marine sanctuary. Explore the Biscayne Birding Trail to see a number of native bird species. A round trip around the jetty at Black Point, with regular birdwatching breaks, takes about an hour. Elliot Key’s seven-mile Spite Highway trail, named after a fight between developers and conservationists, is a perfect destination for a remote hike if you have access to a boat. Walking the trail is like hiking in a tunnel through a tropical forest.
Activities: Hiking, Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping, Fishing, Boating, Bird Watching, Snorkeling

Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, preserves an unparalleled ecosystem that provides substantial habitat for various rare and endangered species such as the manatee, American crocodile, and the rare Florida panther. The park provides a wide array of experiences within its 1.5 million acres of wetland. On the Anhinga Trail, you can take a short stroll to spot rich wildlife or ascend the 65-foot observation tower atop Shark Valley for a bird's-eye view of the glades along a 15-mile bike loop. 
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, camping, fishing, boating, bird-watching

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State Parks

Bill Baggs Cape State Park
Bill Baggs Cape State Park is situated on the tip of Key Biscayne and is a calming and scenic alternative to some of the most popular beaches in Miami. It is also home to an iconic lighthouse, Miami-Dade County's oldest standing structure, which provides views of the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. There are also several activities in the park, including hiking and bike paths weaving through natural vegetation. Fishing enthusiasts or families who want to cast a line should take any bait and tackle to fish along Biscayne Bay from the seawall. Be sure to catch the stunning sunsets over the bay.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, camping, fishing, swimming

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The first U.S. underwater park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, occupies about 70 nautical square miles. While mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks in the upland areas of the park give tourists a special experience, it is the coral reefs and their abundant aquatic life that attract most visitors to the park. Many enjoy the view of the reef from a glass-bottom boat tour, but visitors can get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling. They also can explore short trails, picnic areas, or beaches. The Visitor Center has a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and nature videos are shown in its theater.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, camping, fishing, swimming, snorkeling

Oleta River State Park
Thirty minutes north of downtown Miami, this luscious park is lined with a river system that winds across a natural oasis. Just more than a thousand acres, this natural refuge—Florida's biggest urban park—is a sanctuary for mountain bikers, paddlers, anglers, and swimmers. Enjoy a picnic on Biscayne Bay or unwind at the end of the fishing rod.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, paddling, camping

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City Parks

A.D. “Doug” Barnes Park
Conveniently located in a bustling area of southwest Miami, A.D. "Doug" Barnes Park is a 65-acre oasis of family-friendly green space, including native forest habitats, a fishing lake, heated pool, jogging trails, picnic shelters, a playground, and the Sense of Wonder Nature Center. 
Activities: Hiking, bird-watching, swimming

Amelia Earhart Park
In the heart of Hialeah, you'll find a fun space for the whole family in the 515-acre Amelia Earhart Park. As spectacular as the lady it is named for, this park has five lakes, vast water parks, a farm village with a petting zoo and pony rides, a skate park, mountain bike paths, and a five-acre "bark park" for dogs. The Miami Watersports Complex is located on the 90-acre freshwater lake where visitors can participate in cable and boat wakeboarding, wakesurfing, waterskiing, kneeboarding, and paddle boarding.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, camping, fishing, swimming, snorkeling

Arch Creek Park
The tropical hammock at Arch Creek Park was the site of a Tequesta Indian village between 500 B.C. and 1300 A.D. Natural footpaths lead into a forest, where plant identification helps visitors appreciate the native vegetation of South Florida. While the original arch—"Gateway to Miami" and an 1800s military trail bridge—collapsed decades ago, the canyon of limestone is still worth a look.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, camping

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
At the edge of Boynton Beach, this refuge is a 145,000-acre buffer protecting a legacy of the once-expansive northern Everglades. It provides habitat for native fish and wildlife populations, including endangered species such as the Everglade Snail Kite and Wood Stork. Visitors can explore a jungle-like wonderland along the Cypress Trail into a habitat lush with ferns and bromeliads.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling

Black Point Park and Marina
Nestled in a mangrove preserve in Homestead directly on Biscayne Bay, the marina is a gateway into the Biscayne National Park. With Sands Key and Elliott Key across the bay, marking the uppermost islands and sandbars of the Florida Keys, there is plenty to do on and off the water. Visitors can traverse the nature trail that transforms into a jetty jutting into the sea and enjoy outdoor dining, fishing charters, canoeing, and sandbar hopping. 
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, bird-watching, snorkeling, boating

Crandon Park
Situated on the barrier island of Key Biscayne and surrounded by the island's diverse native habitats, Crandon Park is a getaway from the hustle and bustle of Miami. Visitors are drawn to the park’s two-mile stretch of wide sandy beach and calm waters. Stroll the promenade, hike the self-guided nature trails, and go on a naturalist-guided hammock hike of Bear Cut Preserve (by reservation).
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, bird-watching, snorkeling, swimming

Greynolds Park
This 249-acre urban oasis was designated in 1983 as a historic site for its historic and archaeological significance. Visitors can enjoy picnics, two playgrounds, walking paths and trails, and opportunities for bird-watching with scenic views of the Oleta River. A fishing dock, canoe/kayak launch, and bark park are also available at East Greynolds Park nearby. 
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, bird-watching, camping, paddleboarding

Kendall Indian Hammocks Park
Located in the Miami suburbs, Kendall Indian Hammocks Park is equal parts fun-filled family destination and revered natural habitat that opened in 2011. While nature aficionados can go bird-watching, wander down nature trails, or explore the hardwood hammock and surrounding 32-acre nature preserve, a major feature of the park is the 14,000-square-foot skate park.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, bird-watching, snorkeling, skating

Matheson Hammock Park
Sitting on a peninsula that extends into Biscayne Bay, the park spans 630 acres of coastal Miami just south of Coral Gables. Surrounding parts of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the park includes vast stretches of Florida mangroves and hardwood forests, as well as planned green spaces. Explore the park on one of its nature or bike trails, or spot rare birds, such as sulphur-bellied flycatchers, black-throated gray warblers, and Townsend’s warblers.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, camping, fishing, swimming, snorkeling

Virginia Key Historic Beach Park
Located in beautiful Biscayne Bay less than a mile from the shores of downtown Miami, visit a hidden nature retreat with views of the bay and the Atlantic. Today, the park is known as an ecological treasure containing one of the largest mangrove wetlands in the state, alongside  adrenaline-pumping bike trails. Rent a kayak or take a moonlight paddleboard tour of the area by water. Discover unique plant and endangered animal species among some of the oldest surviving varieties of flora and fauna in the region. 
Activities: Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, bird-watching, snorkeling, camping

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Trails

The Florida Trail
One of 11 congressionally-designated National Scenic Trails, the Florida Trail, is approximately 1,500-miles long, and is intended to offer a continuous, permanent non-motorized recreation opportunity for hiking and other compatible activities. Access the  trail’s Southern Terminus at the Oasis Visitor’s Center in Big Cypress National Preserve, to pass through the great swamp of dwarf pond cypress and cross pine islands, hammocks, giant ferns, and prairies with cabbage palm and saw palmetto.
Activities: Hiking, camping

Old Cutler Trail
The 13.5-mile Old Cutler Trail goes through some of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the greater Miami area under the cover of magnificent ficus and banyan trees. Popular stops along the way include Matheson Hammock Park, Fairchild Tropical Garden, and Pinecrest Gardens.
Activities: Hiking, bicycling

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Know a spot that’s missing from the list? Let us know by sending a message to lifeattheu@miami.edu or @LifeAtTheU on Instagram. 

Protect yourself and others from COVID-19 by following CDC and state-issued guidelines. Before you visit, plan ahead and check online for updated hours of operation and policies, as well as guidelines for experience level requirements. Learn more at coronavirus.miami.edu.