Shark Valley at Everglades National Park

Sharks in the Everglades? This is unlikely, however the Miami Entrance of Everglades National Park is well known as Shark Valley. The area is known as Shark Valley because the Everglades River flows into Shark River and Little Shark River. While you will not see any sharks you will most certainly see alligators!

Shark Valley park entrance sign

If you’ve been following along, you know that I am working on a series about Florida National Parks after my recent visit to Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park. You can find my first general article on Florida National Parks here. Next, I covered everything you need to know about exploring the Homestead Entrance of the Everglades. Keep reading to learn more about Shark Valley!

The Basics – Shark Valley

The Everglades spans over 1.5 million acres across three counties. Entrance into the park is unique as there are three different entrances in three different cities. This post will cover the Miami Entrance also known as Shark Valley. The other entrances are in Homestead, Florida known as the main entrance and Everglades City, Florida known as the Gulf Coast area.

Alligator

Miami Entrance

  • Address: 36000 SW 8th Street Miami, Florida 33194
  • Entrance Gate Hours: 8:30 AM-6:00 PM

The entrance fee provides access to all three entrances for 7 consecutive days.

  • Vehicle: $30
  • Motorcycle: $25
  • Person/cyclist $15

Park Passes can also be utilized to enter the park.

  • Everglades National Park Annual Pass: $55
  • America the Beautiful Annual Pass: $80

Shark Valley Visitor Center

  • Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM
Fog and spider webs among the plants in the early morning

How do I get to Shark Valley?

Shark Valley is located off US-41 & Tamiami Trail. If you live in Florida you can drive to Everglades National Park, but if you are coming out of state you will want to fly into a nearby airport and rent a car to access the park.

Driving distance from select Florida cities to the Shark Valley Entrance

  • Miami: ~50 minutes
  • Naples: ~1 hour 30 minutes
  • Tampa: ~3 hours 45 minutes
  • Orlando: ~4 hours 45 minutes
  • Jacksonville: ~6 hours

The closest airports to the Shark Valley Entrance of the Everglades are Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Driving distance from select major airports to the Shark Valley Entrance

  • Miami International Airport: ~45 minutes
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: ~1 hour 15 minutes
  • Palm Beach International Airport: ~2 hours
  • Southwest Florida International Airport: ~2 hours
Alligator next to the road by the water

When should I visit?

The most popular time to visit the Everglades is during the dry season. The temperature is usually more comfortable ranging between low 50’s and high 70’s. A tip is to arrive early and visit popular destinations during the week if you can. Parking is limited at Shark Valley, therefore I recommended arriving before 9AM to ensure you can find a parking spot without waiting in a lengthy line of cars.

To avoid crowds some people visit during the wet season. However, if you choose to visit during the wet season be prepared. Temperatures are usually in the 90’s and a heat index over 100 is not uncommon. Additionally, thunderstorms occur frequently throughout these months, wildlife viewing may be more sporadic and insects including mosquitos may be more prevalent.

  • Dry season: December through April
  • Wet season: May through November
Baby alligators

Biking in Shark Valley

Biking is one of the best ways to experience Shark Valley! You can rent bikes or bring your own. If you plan to rent bikes, below are a few tips.

  • Make your reservation ahead of time, there are limited bike rentals available
    • I reserved my bike rental about 2 months before my trip and there was plenty of availability
  • Bike rentals begin at 8:30 AM daily and bikes must be returned by 5 PM the same day
    • Additional rentals are available throughout the day as bikes are returned
  • Cost is $22 per bicycle
Bike racks available at the bottom of the Shark Valley Observation Tower

In addition to the logistics of renting the bike there are a few things to note about biking tram road.

  • Tram road is a 15-mile loop in direct sunlight with no shade
    • Pack plenty of water and sunscreen
  • The bike loop is counterclockwise, which is the opposite direction of the tram tours
  • Stop if a tram is approaching so they can safely pass you

Biking the tram road provides many opportunities to see wildlife,  particularly alligators. While riding, always respect wildlife and stay a safe distance of 10- to 15-feet to ensure the safety of yourself and the animals. We took our time and stopped each time we saw alligators along the road.

Shark Valley Observation Tower

Shark Valley observation tower

The Shark Valley Observation Tower is located at the half-way point of the trail and is the highest accessible elevation point within the park. On a clear day, you can see for miles from the top of the observation tower. The tower is a great break to get off the bikes and stretch your legs. There are also restrooms available.

Bikes are not allowed on the tower, but bike racks are available at the base. It is recommended to take all your belongings with you to the tower as vultures have been known to take people’s belongings if they are left behind. Fortunately we did not see any vultures during our visit.

It took us approximately 2 hours to bike the 15 mile-trail. I recommend to plan for 2 to 3 hours to bike the trail depending on the pace you ride, how much time you spend at the tower, and how many stops you make for wildlife viewing.

View from the Shark Valley Observation Tower

Shark Valley Tram Tours

If biking is not your thing, there is no need to worry. You can enjoy Shark Valley by taking one of the tram tours. The tram allows plenty of wildlife viewing opportunity as well as a narrated tour to learn more about the Everglades ecosystem. The tour lasts approximately 2 hours and is available daily.

Tram Tour Times

  • May through December 17: 9:30 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM, 4 PM
  • December 18 through April: Hourly 9 AM to 4 PM

Additional tour times are available during peak season December through April, however I recommend booking your reservation in advance. The park can also be remarkably busy during this time so allow extra time for parking to ensure you arrive on time for your tour.

Shark Valley Tram

Tram Tour Cost

  • Adults and children 13 years and older: $28
  • Seniors 62 years and older: $22
  • Children 5 to 12 years old: $15

More information can be found here for the bicycle and tram tours.

Hiking in Shark Valley

The Shark Valley Tram Road is paved, and you can walk on it, however due to the length most people chose to either ride bicycles or take the tram tour. There are two other short hiking trails at the Shark Valley entrance.

Shark Valley Tram Road
  • Bobcat Boardwalk: 0.5 mile one-way
    • Boardwalk trail, Wheelchair accessible
    • This trail can be accessed directly behind the Visitor Center; there is an east and west entrance directly off Shark Valley Tram Road
  • Otter Cave Hammock: 0.25 mile one-way
    • Trail is not paved; terrain is limestone with small footbridges over a small stream
    • To access this trail, you must walk approximately 0.5 mile along Shark Valley Tram Road, therefore if you plan to hike this trail the total distance will be closer to 2 miles
    • This trail may be flooded during wet season

Airboat Tours

Another popular activity in the Everglades is airboat tours. There are numerous companies that provide airboat tours, but there are three that are recommended through the National Park Service website authorized to tour inside the park boundaries.

The three companies are located along US Highway 41, the Tamiami Trail, between Miami and Shark Valley. There is a restaurant and gift shop available on site at all three locations.

Coopertown Airboats

  • Address: 22700 Southwest 8th Street Miami, FL 33194
  • Hours: 9 AM to 5:50 PM
  • Tours offered daily   
  • Includes airboat tour and alligator exhibit

Everglades Safari Park

  • Address: 26700 Southwest 8th Street Miami, FL 33194
  • Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM
  • Tours offered daily
  • Includes airboat tour, jungle trail, observation platform and exhibits, and wildlife show

Gator Park

  • Address: 24050 Southwest 8th Street Miami, FL 33194
  • Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Tours offered daily  
  • Includes airboat tour and wildlife show

Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time at a discounted rate. Prices vary based on which location you choose, but the average price is between $20-30 for adults and $10-15 for children. A $5 park entrance fee may be charged in addition to ticket price; however, some exclusions apply (e.g., National Park Pass Annual holder fee is waived).

More information can be found on the individual websites linked above.

Me riding my bike with my arms lifted up on Shark Valley Tram road

Final Thoughts on Exploring Shark Valley

I hope this post contains some useful tips to help plan your next visit to the Everglades. Have you ever visited Shark Valley? Did you take the tram tour or ride bicycles? Leave a comment below to let me know! Be sure to stay tuned next week for my last blog post on Florida National Parks, which is all about Biscayne National Parks.

The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge.

Looking to explore other National Parks? Check out my three-day itinerary for Hot Springs National Park!

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