Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Experience the Awesome Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

Rumination from the Rock and Beyond

Photos by Jory Westberry | The boardwalk from the Fakahatchee Hilton to the lake filled with alligators.

Here’s another “safe” spectacular place to be out outside and enjoy the beauty of nature without worry about social distancing and masks. In a four-hour period of hiking and admiring the sights on the trail, we passed only four groups of people in two miles, everyone was considerate of the other hikers and maintained safe distance from each other. 

It’s a bit of a long drive, but scenic along the way. If in Naples, go south on Collier Blvd to State Road 41, turn east and enjoy the views of the Everglades on both sides of your vehicle. There are airboat tours along the way that are fun, informative, kind of noisy, but they have muffling earphones now at many locations where they have the airboat tours. When you get to the intersection of 41 and State Road 29 at Carnestown, turn left (North). Keep driving until you see brown signs that say Florida Nature Trail and follow them to the signs to the Park Headquarters. 

Once you arrive at the Park Headquarters, there’s a $3 fee to pay, a restroomthank goodnessand then you’re on your way to the trailhead parking areaIt’s a long drive, but the scenery is beautiful. Bring water, snacks and a CAMERA and/or PHONE for the scenic foliage and swampland along the trail. There are many photo ops along the way, and some surprising fall colors. You don’t think of Florida having fall colors, but they’re there, as you can see in my photos. There is water flowing on alternating sides of the hiking trail, and it’s fun to look for animals along the way. The colorful leaves that fall in the water lay on the bottom and form a carpet of color which shines in the sunlight. 

The path is wide, mostly dry and grassy, a little muddy in spots, but you can avoid it. It’s quiet and the solitude embraces you. The goal for the hike is to make it to the “Fakahatchee Hilton,” which is a privately-owned “cabin” near the end of the trail. The cabin is quaint and locked and it sits at the beginning of a boardwalk leading to a beautiful lake. Did I mention the alligators? Yes, there are gators. We counted about ten, but they were basking in the sunshine a good distance away with no interest in our presence. 

It’s very peaceful at the trail’s end, especially because we were the only ones there. We took photos, had snacks and water and relaxed before the trip back. One highlight of the hike was discovering a Barred Owl in a tree, who also had no interest in the five of us, all snapping photos. He or she appeared to be sleeping and didn’t open an eye, but you have to wonder, how does a bird stay on a limb while asleep? 

This is another healthy excursion for a weekend with lots of open space and with like members of our community who are also searching for safe activities and keeping themselves and others safe. Thank goodness. 

Afterward, we drove into Everglades City and had a fantastic late lunch at Camilla’s on the water. The crab boats had just delivered their catch of Stone Crabs and their patrons were salivating, ordering and smiling in the beautiful weather, great service and view of the Barron River. Great new experiences that might not have happened, thanks to COVID-19, but did. 


The Fakahatchee Preserve trail is wide and beautiful and worthy of a hike on a beautiful weekend day.


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