Bear Lake Trail, Bear Lake Trailhead - Everglades, Everglades National Park, Florida
Bear Lake Trail - 3.6 miles
Bear Lake Trailhead - Everglades
|Round-Trip Length:||3.6 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||2' - 0'|
|Elevation Change:||Nominal Elevation Change|
Bear Lake Trail - 3.6 Miles Round-Trip
The Bear Lake Trail comes highly recommended for its rich biodiversity, which includes over 30 tropical and sub-tropical tree species that form a dense canopy over 95% of the trail.
Tropical hardwood hammock vegetation lines the higher ground of the trail's spoil bank. To the north and south lies a mixture of mangrove forest, hammocks of rough-barked buttonwood trees, and low-lying coastal prairie comprised of salt-tolerant succulent plants.
These overlapping communities form one of the most ecologically diverse tapestries in the Everglades.
One tropical tree visitors should avoid is the Manchineel Tree. Manchineel is toxic to the touch. The leaves and bark of this tree secrete a poisonous milky substance that can burn skin like battery acid. Its fruit can be fatal if ingested. The Calusa Indians used to tip their arrows with Manchineel poison for hunting and battle.
Ponce De Leon, who was killed by a Calusa arrowhead, is believed to have died from the Manchineel poison.
There's often a strong sulfur odor along early portions of the Bear Lake Trail, which dissipates as you move along the trail.
This odor emanates from the mangrove forest, where underwater bacteria break down organic material in the absence of oxygen. These mangrove forests lie at the juxtaposition of Florida's fresh water interior and coastal salt waters.
The brackish estuaries and canals of the mangrove ecosystem provide a breeding ground for shrimp, fish, alligators, sea turtles, manatees and other marine life. The mangrove habitat is also home to the American Crocodile, making this one of the few places where crocodiles and alligators intermingle.
The Bear Lake Trail starts from the parking area and heads west along a narrow footpath. Within a few hundred feet the trail meets a small boat dock where canoeists 'put in' at the Old Homestead Canal (which will likely be impassable). Hikers will stay left to remain on the Bear Lake Trail.
From the boat dock, the trail heads due west on the spoil bank above the Homestead Canal. The spoil bank is an area of raised ground comprised of dirt removed during the canal's excavation. The trail narrows and continues west along the historic Homestead Canal.
At 1.6 miles the trail opens with your first glimpse of Bear Lake to the south. The lake is home to alligators and crocodiles, and while fishing is allowed, getting a permit is the least of your worries. Gators and crocs wait submerged off-shore for fishermen to hook their lines. Then the race is on to reel in their lines before these opportunistic predators can strip the fish. Patience and vigilance are keys to successful fishing at Bear Lake.
The trail skirts the lake another .2 miles to its terminus (the canoe route continues on to various destinations). The shore widens and views improve along this final stretch.
As of October 2005, the Bear Lake - Homestead Canal is closed. Please call before your trip to check status.
- N 25 10.457 W 80 55.328 — Bear Lake Trailhead at end of dirt road
- N 25 10.465 W 80 56.860 — Shore of Bear Lake
- The Bear Lake Trail owes its existence to the Homestead Canal, which was built using dirt removed from the canal-building process. Completed in 1922, the Homestead Canal was used as a drainage canal to funnel water out to Florida Bay; years later it would become affiliated with Everglades National Park.
- The Bear Lake Trail technically lies in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness. Everglades National Park does make an effort to keep the trail cleared, however no trail crew is dedicated to the job. They rely on volunteers and natural fire to keep it clear. This limited oversight earns it 'backcountry trail' status.
- Bear Lake is great for birding - Ibis, Wood Storks and other woodland birds frequent the canal and lake. This is arguably the best trail in the park for seeing wintering warblers.
- Long sleeves, pants, and bug repellant are strongly advised.
- DO NOT swim in Bear Lake. Alligators and crocodiles inhabit Bear Lake.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Camping is not permitted at Bear Lake.
- Fishing is permitted at Bear Lake. Visit the Everglades Fishing Page fo regulations. Note: Alligators live in these waters, and are known to attack caught fish, and inadvertently, may harm anglers. Caution advised.
Rules and Regulations
- Fishing is permitted with a license.
- Bicycles are permitted on Bear Lake Road only; bikes are NOT permitted on the Bear Lake Trail.
- Canoes are permitted in adjacent waters of the Bear Lake Trail.
- It's illegal to disturb or feed wildlife.Regulations are strictly enforced.
- Overnight parking at the Bear Lake Trailhead is not permitted.
Directions to Trailhead
The Bear Lake Trailhead is located two miles (3 km) north of the Flamingo Visitor Center. Drive, bike or or walk to the end of unpaved Bear Lake Road to begin this trail, which ends at Bear Lake. Walking or biking Bear Lake Road will add considerable distance to the hike. Parking is plentiful at the end of the road. The road may be closed to motor vehicles during rainy periods.
Everglades National Park
40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, FL 33034-6733