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Shark Valley offers cyclists scenic route and thrilling sites

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For many people, the Florida Everglades is a dark, swampy place, full of voracious gators. For cyclists in Miami, the Everglades is also home to the best scenic bike route south of Lake Okeechobee.

Shark Valley is thirty miles southwest of Miami and is reachable through US 41. Within Shark Valley is a 15-mile scenic loop that offers cyclists a nice, long ride through the Everglades' swamp.

The paved loop cuts through a section of the Everglades. Native trees border the sides of the road and it is normal to see an anhinga or cormorant hanging out on a tree branch or fishing in an alligator hole.

For thrill seekers, or those that don't like birds or care little for trees, the trail will not disappoint as there are dozens of alligators lounging on the sides of the paved path just a couple of feet away from cyclists. They make great selfie-shot backgrounds.

Don't disturb the alligators, no matter how many episodes of Swamp People you've watched.

The park is open all year round but the best time to go is winter. South Florida winters tend to stay warm but when the temperatures drop a few degrees the alligators come out of the water to soak some rays. The winter breeze also helps people keep cool under the hot sun.

Regardless of the weather, it is important to carry water bottles and a couple of energy bars because there are no water fountains or vending machines on the trail and roasting wildlife is a no-no.

At the halfway mark there is an observation tower where riders can take a break and shoot a couple of photos. From the top of the watch tower there are no highways, cars, or buildings to be seen. It’s only cyclist and the great South Florida flatness stretching as far as the eye can see.

The second half of the loop has a few more curves. Fake alligator holes can be seen along the way. These holes look like the ones alligators make but are in reality holes left after stones were dug out to build the route. Still, alligators, birds and turtles hang out in there.

This scenic route, or Tram Route as it is also called, welcomes all cyclists. Since the road is paved, it is safe for road bikes.

Maximum speed on the trail is 25 mph and groups over twenty people have to get a special permit from a park ranger. A tram passes by occasionally and all riders have to stop, for safety purposes and to wave at the tourists. But mostly for safety.

It’s important to remember that even though there is a paved road, it is still the Florida Everglades. Staying a safe distance away from alligators is a must while on the trails and knowing emergency numbers is a must before even getting on the bike.

For more information and to plan a trip visit Shark Valley’s website.

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