The Blog

Hiking the Tropics in the Middle Florida Keys

May 7, 2014 Travel & Tourism

 

"Everbody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."

– John Muir, naturalist

 

When you think of hiking, you may not immediately think of the Florida Keys, but this island chain offers a surprising number of trails and opportunities for those who like to get to know an area on foot. And, of course, the Overseas Heritage Trail will eventually run the lenght of the Florida Keys along the Overseas Highway. Some of our favorite spots for exploring the flora and fauna of these islands are below.

Crane Point

Located at 550 Oveass Hwy in Marathon FL

If you are looking for a day of fun, educational activities for you and the family, Crane Point has it all! This nonprofit museum and nature center sits on 63 acres of land and is an exciting way to learn about the Florida Keys natural history and environment.

Take a walk down the nature trails and observe and read about the hammock trees, native flowers and plants, and insects (Crane Point added 80 new informational and navigational recently). Along the way explore the Wild Bird Rescue Center and see how they rehabilitate sick and injured birds, or stop at The Point and enjoy the gorgeous views of the Florida Bay. The main trail is about 1.5 miles but you may also venture off onto a side trail for a more challenging experience.

Crane Point does offer complimentary trolley rides for those who are not willing or able to walk the distance.

After you’ve explored the Nature Trails be sure to stop by and see the latest addition to Crane Point: marine touch tanks which house many critters native to the Florida Keys, as well as the Creature Feature with land crabs, corn snakes, box turtles, and an observational bee hive. You'll be ablt to buy a jar of honey in the gift shop fon the way out, along with a t-shirt, or other souvenirs, of course.                

Crane Point
550 Overseas Hwy, Marathon FL
(305) 743- 9100
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm & Sunday 12pm-5pm
Adults – $12.50 / Seniors (65+) – $11.00 / Children (5-13) $8.50 / Children 4 & under are FREE

Pigeon Key

Pigeon Key is a small, historic island that at one point in time housed over 400 workers who built the railway, located  two miles down the Old Seven Mile Bridge.

There are 3 nonprofit organizations that keep this island preserve and aim to keep this large piece of history available to the community. Pigeon Key offers work camps for the summer and small school groups giving them a hands on learning experience.You may even choose to stay directly on the island in one of the guest houses. Getting married? Rent the entire island for your wedding party. 

If you have your hiking shoes on, enjoy a walk down to Pigeon Key which is approximately 2 miles away from the start of the Old Seven Mile Bridge.  Be sure to keep your eyes open for dolphins, sea turtles, eagle rays, and other marine life you're sure to see along the way. For those who are unable to walk the distance a ferry boat runs 3 times a day from Knights Key to the island. Don't forget to reserve your spot in advance as limited seating is available. 

Pigeon Key
Ferry Station: 1 Knights Key Blvd, Marathon FL
Open Daily from 9:30am-4pm
305-743-5999
Ferry Boat Admission: Adults- $12.00 / Children (5-13)- $9.00 / Monroe County Residents: $9.00
Pedestrian walking on the bridge pay a $2.00 donation to tour the grounds (donation box located in the old dining hall on the island)

Along your way down the Florida Keys you may also stop here to explore the natural environment and learn a little more about these chain of islands we call home: 

 

Golden Orb & Layton Trail located in Long Key State Park (MileMarker 67.5)

These two trails are located at Long Key State Park which cost approximately $4 per person to enter. The Golden Orb is the longer trail, approximately a 1.5 mile loop. Layton trail is located on the Bay side (smaller trail approximately a quarter mile). 

 
Image Courtey of Florida State Parks

Curry Hammock Trail located in Little Crawl Key MM 56.2

This trail is located across from Curry Hammock State park off of US1. The Trail is approximately 1.5miles and leads you to the open water. Guided ranger tours are available every Tuesday mornings. After you walk the trail enter the park and inquire about a kayak or paddle board rental and continue along the water trails. (Kayak tours are also available.)

To reserve your spot on a tour contact (305)289-2690.

Image courtesy of of Florida State Parks  
 

Bahia Honda State Park

Silver Palm & Red Bridge Trails 

For a more relaxing easier hike, Silver Palms is one of the shorter trails (approximately .5miles) that loops around through a hammock, mangrove areas, and dunes. When you reach the highest ground enjoy the panaromic views of the island. 

Be sure to checkout the Butterfly Garden located near Loggerhead beach. Just past the Garden is another short trail that takes you  near the old seven mile bridge and leads you to the another main trail – Old Bahia Honda Bridge Trail.

For information on Bahia Honda beaches, see: https://www.keysproperties.com/blog/bahia-honda-best-keys-beach.


Image Courtesy of Natural Born Hikers

Blue Hole located in Big Pine Key

There's only a short trail here, but this old rock quarry collects a deep "lens" of rainwater and is now home to a few Florida Alligators and some other fresh water species, inlcuding turtles. Visitors often see Key Deer here, the miniature sub-species of deer that are native to the Florida Keys. This is also a popular spot with birders. 

To get to Blue Hole, turn onto Key Deer Blvd (the northwest fork) at the traffic light on Big Pine Key. Blue Hole is 3 miles north on the left. 

 

More photos by Draken http://bit.ly/1nNUtdJ

Watson Hammock in Big Pine Key MM 30.5

About 3/10 mile further on Key Deer Boulevard is the trail head for  north is the Watson Hammock trail. It's less than a mile, round trip, but you will see the lower Florida Keys in their most natural state; its hardwood hammock and Southern Slash Piine forest and mangrove forest all offer a shady respite from the sub-tropical sunshine. The trail is named for Frank C Watson, the "Watchful Steward of the Key Deer" … a game agent in the Lower Keys who recognized that the diminutive deer were close to extinction and took steps to preserve them. He was the first manager of the National Key Deer Refuge (est. 1954) and remained as director until retirement in 1975. His staunch protection saved not only the Key Deer, but much of the natural habitat in Big Pine. 

key deer in Watson Hammock, Big Pine Key
Key Deer in the mangroves of Big Pine by Kathy & Sam.

Wish you safe and happy trails.