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Loop Road (CR 94) is a 24-mile, two-lane road that begins just off the Tamiami Trail (US Hwy 41) about 4 miles west of the Shark Valley entrance to Everglades National Park. From here the road goes west, paralleling US 41 through the Big Cypress National Preserve, before turning to the north and rejoining US 41 at the site of the former Monroe Station, located about 4.5 miles west of the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center. This is a top eco-route as the scenery is unmatched! Watch for birds in the brush and perhaps otters cavorting in the ponds - and of course alligators galore! (Map link and photos below.)
Overview Map... Loop Road Scenic Drive
Location: Big Cypress National Preserve; Collier,
Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties
Mileage: 24 miles
Surface: 8 miles paved; remainder dirt, gravel
Nearby Points of Interest: Clyde Butcher Big Cypress Gallery, Miccosukee Indian Village, Ochopee Post Office
Bike Shops/Rentals: N/A
Loop Road begins and ends along US Hwy 41. There are no no other access points. On the east side, Loop Road is accessed just off Hwy. 41 at a sharp bend in the highway (called 40 Mile Bend because it's 40 miles from Miami), and on the west side, at the former location of Monroe Station, for years the main service station and eatery between Miami and Naples. From the eastern end, Loop Road is paved for the first 8 miles, and for a very short distance at the western end. The remainder is unpaved and hardpack, but it can be bumpy in spots. It's a mostly an easy bike ride (fat tires recommended), but the road is shared with slow-moving motor vehicles. When conditions are dry, passing cars can kick up dust along the unpaved sections. Thus, bikers should consider riding in the direction where the wind will blow the dust away from your side of the road. Most people drive the road - generally 1.5 to 2 hours, with frequent stops at culverts to take in the views that will typically include plentiful wildlife. Often short hikes and bike rides are done from a stopping point. The road runs mostly through cypress swamp, with some Sawgrass prairie and pineland. Portions may be flooded in the summer, November to May is the best time to visit. Restrooms are available near the western end at Gator Hook Trailhead and the Monroe Station Off-road Vehicle Trailhead, otherwise no other facilities.
The road starts at the hunter check station just off US 41 "40 Mile Bend." The paved road passes a number of private homes of members of the Miccosukee Tribe - be respectful of their privacy. Continuing on the road as it becomes more remote are:
Past the Loop Road Education Center, the pavement ends and the road continues unpaved hardpack until the pavement resumes near the western end at Tamiami Trail. This is a very remote area and can flood. The best wildlife viewing is generally at the culverts going under the roadway. In this section:
Wildlife along Loop Road include alligators, many assorted birds, otters, deer, bears, snakes, turtles, and occasionally a Florida panther.
The Tamiami Trail through Big Cypress National Preserve is a scenic route. We do not recommend biking on this busy 2-lane road, with cars traveling at high speeds. Several stops along the way provide information, showcase natural areas, and tell history.
Here are some we visited, shown from east to west:
4.5 miles east of Monroe Station. Parking, restrooms, information, exhibits, shop, bookstore, boardwalk along a waterway filled with alligators. Florida Trail ends here.
Originally a private airport in the 1960's, an airplane sat on the roof. Later a service station, the building was acquired by the Park Service in the 1980's and converted to the Visitor Center.
At about the midpoint of US 41 through Big Cypress, 3.5 miles west of Monroe Station. Parking, restroom, picnicking and one-mile round-trip scenic boardwalk.
Kirby Storter oversaw construction of the Tamiami Trail and other south FL roads for the State Roads Department.
Turner River paddling launch, 0.5 mile west of H.P. Williams Roadside Park. Parking, restrooms, picnic. Drop-off point for paddling tours. The river flows south 8.5 miles to Chocoloskee Bay (link below).
The Ochopee Post Office, 2 miles west of the Turner River bridge, is the smallest post office in the U.S. at 61 square feet. Tourists stop for photos and to get their letters postmarked.
Originally a storage shed on a tomato farm, the building was converted to a post office in 1953 when the original burned down.
Parking, restrooms, information and exhibits, store, boardwalk, auditorium available to rent. Located 2 miles west of Ochopee Post Office, and 2.5 miles east of SR 29 (the road to Everglades City).
Nathanial P. Reed was a leading environmentalist at the Federal and State levels, and a champion of Everglades restoration. His accomplishments are too lengthy to list here, read more.
Note: Not shown here but a worthwhile stop is the Clyde Butcher Big Cypress Gallery. Butcher is world renowned for his large-scale black-and-white landscape photography, with his Everglades work best known. The gallery offers a variety of items for sale, and conducts swamp walking eco-tours to educate the public on the beauty of the swamp.
Construction of Loop Road was started in 1921, envisioned as an east-west highway through the Everglades, with the town of Pinecrest as its hub. Eventually, however, the Tamiami Trail was built along a route to the north, opening in 1928. With Loop Road left behind by the new road, the developers went bankrupt and sold the property to the Federal government in 1937. See full history here .
Loop Road Trivia: Rumors have circulated that Al Capone had a hunting lodge at Pinecrest in the 1920's (some versions say it was a moonshine operation, bordello and gambling den). No actual records exist.
- Inside the National Park
- Historic Roads
- Canal/Levee trails
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