Backpacking conjures up visions of short pants, thick socks and wearing heavy boots while carrying a big stick. But hiking trails nowadays can include biking and kayaking down a lazy river. One thing is for sure: however you choose to hike through Florida’s wilderness areas, there’s no shortage of plant life, animal life and water life to add variety and beauty to your adventure. So heft your backpack and plan a trip into the natural wonders of this vast state.

(www.nps.gov)

Anhinga Trail

Everglades National Park
www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/anhinga-trail

This famous trail for wildlife lovers begins at the Royal Palm Visitor Center. The short trail is less than a mile long and accessible to children and wheelchairs. It passes through tropical trees, mangroves, and ends at an open marsh. During the dry season, the area teems with birds, fish and a variety of marsh wildlife. If you’re on the trail toward the end of the day, some say that the sunset over the marsh is “one of the most spectacular in the state.”

(www.nps.gov)

Florida Trail

Big Cypress National Preserve
www.nps.gov/bicy/planyourvisit/florida-trail

The Florida Trail actually runs north to south for 1,300 miles and ends at the Oasis Visitor Center. You can take either of two loops, a six-mile hike north of I-75, or a sixteen-mile hike just north of the center. The trails run alongside a canal where you can spot birds, alligators, snakes and possibly panthers. Be sure to wear sunglasses and a hat, and use sunscreen as you will be exposed to the sun most of the time. However, the trail is for hikers only, no bikes allowed.

(www.nps.gov)

Turner River Paddling Trail

Big Cypress National Preserve
www.nps.gov/bicy/planyourvisit/canoeing-kayaking

Be sure to pack bug spray, gloves and water in your backpack when you take a kayak from the Turner River access in Everglades City. The “trail” is so narrow at times you’ll have to pull yourself along on the overhanging tree branches. As you glide through the still quiet air adjacent to Everglades National Park, the largest designated wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, keep an eye peeled for baby gators basking on branches. Also watch for a large variety of birds and exotic flowers. You’ll have to bring your own kayak or rent one from the park service, and you’ll need to register with them before setting out.

Related:  Best Backpacking Trails In The Continental US

(Source: Loxriver, Inc.)

Italian Farms Trail And Masten Dam

Jonathan Dickinson State Park
www.loxahatcheeriver.net/Jupiter-Bike-Trails

The trail, shared by hikers and bikers, is located on the Loxahatchee River in the southern area of Jonathan Dickinson State Park. It’s a short trail that can be accessed from Riverbend Park. To get to Masten Dam, cross under Indiantown Road on the Ocean-to-Lake trail, head left and pay attention to the blue blaze painted on trees along the “lollipop shaped” trail. When you see the primitive rest room, turn left again. During the rainy season the trail floods a little, so be prepared for some shallow water crossings.

(Source: Matt Johnson)

Spite Highway Trail

Biscayne National Park
www.nps.gov/bisc/planyourvisit/elliottkey

This National Park is situated about twenty miles south of Miami. While hiking, follow the Spite Trail (so-named because of a land dispute in the 1960s). The hike is a fourteen-mile round trip on Elliot Key that cuts through the center of the key. On your way, you’ll pass through mangrove and hardwood forests. Bring along a camera in case you see any small woodland animals while admiring the myriad of vivid tropical flowers. Lavish use of bug spray is highly recommended, as mosquitoes also seem to like this trail.

Related: Hiking America’s Most Treacherous Mountains

Ms. Clarke is an out-going, charismatic communicator and author of The Royalty Principle. Her personal testimony includes events which she refers to as “close encounters of the God kind.” She has published Flash Fiction stories with Splickety Publishing Group and contributes to Examiner.com. Dylyce resides in Cocoa, Florida.