Loop Road starts and ends on US Hwy 41, with no other access points. On the east, it connects just off Hwy. 41 at a sharp bend called “40 Mile Bend.” On the west, it begins at the former Monroe Station, historically a popular stop between Miami and Naples.
The road is paved for the first 8 miles from the east and a short section at the west, with the rest being unpaved and can be bumpy. The route offers great wildlife views, short hikes, and bike rides, passing through cypress swamps, Sawgrass prairies, and pinelands.
Big Cypress is home to an array of wildlife, including alligators, white-tailed deer, Florida panthers, black bears, and a variety of bird species. Take a leisurely drive along the Loop Road or hike the various trails to spot these creatures in their natural habitats.
Pinecrest Gas Station (6 miles): Located approximately 6 miles from the beginning, a relic of the Pinecrest ghost town.
Lucky Cole’s (7 miles): Further down the road, you’ll discover Lucky Cole’s distinctive homestead adorned with memorabilia. The renowned Everglades photographer, famous for his nude portraits, occasionally opens his gates on weekends to share stories and serve beer and hot dogs to visitors.
Loop Road Education Center (8 miles): : At around mile 8, you’ll encounter the Loop Road Education Center, which offers programs for 5th and 6th graders. The paved road comes to an end shortly beyond this point.
Tree Snail Hammock Trail (8 miles): Across from the Education Center, this brief 0.3-mile nature trail is named after the endangered Florida tree snail.
Gator Creek Trailhead (14 miles): The Gator Creek Trailhead is the original starting point of the Florida National Scenic Trail, situated at approximately mile 14. Nowadays, the trail officially begins at the Oasis Visitor Center along US 41.
Sweetwater Strand (19 miles): Characterized by towering cypress trees Sweetwater Strand is one of the most picturesque and frequently photographed sections along Loop Road, teeming with wildlife.
Gator Hook Trailhead (22 miles), situated about 2 miles from the western end of the road, provides restroom facilities and picnic tables. The trail’s name harks back to Gator Hook Lodge (1958-1977), a lively bar and dance club in Pinecrest that served as the social hub of Loop Road, offering evening entertainment to locals. Fiddler Ervin T. Rouse, the composer of “Orange Blossom Special,” famously frequented this establishment, a song later popularized by Johnny Cash.
Monroe Station Off-road Vehicle Trailhead (End): The Drive meets US 41, the Tamiami Trail, at the Monroe Station Off-road Vehicle Trailhead, offering parking, restrooms, and an off-road vehicle course. This was the original Monroe Station from the 1920s, the largest of six outposts on the original Tamiami Trail, providing fuel, food, and lodging. Regrettably, the historic building was lost to a 2016 fire due to severe storm damage.
It usually takes around 45 minutes to cruise from the Port of the Islands to the ocean. The journey includes navigating through a long, no-wake zone, canal, providing a delightful and unhurried ride. Bring a cover for sun protection during this slow and scenic route. About half an hour in, you’ll arrive at the expansive and naturally beautiful mangroves before reaching the open waters of the ocean.