Myakka River State Park


In honor of our upcoming night hikes we decided to post about our favorite park, Myakka River State Park. Not only is it our favorite park, it is also very close to us! I’ve spent hundreds of hours hiking, clearing trails, and exploring almost every inch of this park! There’s so much to do here, no wonder it’s one of the top ‘things-to-do’ in Sarasota County.

If you’re not aware – this park is huge! It’s over 37,000 acres! It’s also one of the oldest parks in the state. Myakka River S.P. became a state park in the 1930’s. Just 13 short years until the park’s 100th birthday! That’s amazing!

Myakka River is known mostly for it’s great hiking trails….and alligators! I’m sure by now everyone has seen that infamous photo from the Deep Hole (photo by Lee Dalton) with tons of alligators. We’ve been to the park hundreds of times and have never seen that many gators in one spot, but we see a few every time we visit. The best place to easily see an alligator is from the bridge on the main road. You’ll know you’re there when you see a ton of people looking, pointing, and taking photos! It’s a popular spot to {almost} always guarantee a gator sighting. Another great, easily accessible viewing spot is at Upper Myakka Lake. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of gators in that lake! If you catch it on a day when the water is cold and the air is warm you’re bound to see a slew of gators warming up! Winter is usually the best time.

Deep Hole, Myakka River State Park, Florida, USA.

If you don’t see a gator at one of those spots you might want to spring for a ticket on the Air Boat Tour! This isn’t one of the high-speed air boats, it’s more like a loud, tame tour boat. It’s a must at least once! The Air Boat is a neat experience and great for all ages.

If you’re a little more daring, you can also rent a canoe and take it all around the lake! Be warned, these are the metal canoes that feel a little ‘tippy.’ Definitely fun, but a little nerve wracking for those that aren’t used to canoeing…or those that remember there are alligators potentially swimming right under you! My wife wasn’t the biggest fan of this adventure! More info can be found at the Myakka Outpost.

Not a fan of water but still want to take a tour?! Well, you’re in luck! Myakka River S.P. also offers a tram tour! And believe it or not, you can still see alligators on this tour. The last time we were in the park the tram was driving down Powerline Road, which is a popular hiking trail, and there were momma alligators with their babies down in the water ditch! Remember, in Florida where there’s water there could be a gator! For the most part they’re just gonna swim away…but just be safe and steer clear anyway. This tram tour will also take you through the park and show you the different landscapes – hammocks, pine flatwoods, prairies, etc. It’s a nice, leisurely ride.

Ok, so we’ve gone over the different tours offered, but what if you just want to explore on your own? Lucky you! There are plenty of hiking options! Myakka River has everything from a short jaunt to the Canopy Walk, the 38.9 mile Myakka Hiking Trail, and everything in between.

If this is your first time in the park then the Canopy Walk is a must-do. Canopy Walkways are fairly rare, so when you have the chance to walk on one you should take it! If you’re up for a little bit of a climb definitely be sure to make your way to the top of the observation tower on the end of the Canopy Walk…the views are amazing! For better views either bring binoculars or use their coin-operated viewer at the top. I’m pretty sure we saw the Skyway Bridge way off in the distance once!

For those that are looking for a longer hike and backpacking experience I have to recommend checking out the Myakka Hiking Trail. It’s maintained by volunteers from the Florida Trail Association – Suncoast Chapter. This trail makes a 38.9 mile loop through the park. You will experience everything from hammocks, to prairies, to grasslands, and more. This trail provides a true hiking experience. The Myakka Hiking Trail provides the perfect escape from busy city life. You’ll forget you’re so close to civilization! Our personal favorite time to hike this trail is in the winter in the late afternoon while it’s still light out, but the sun isn’t baking us! In the summer I suggest hiking in the earlier part of the day due to the afternoon thunderstorms. Believe me, you do not want to be stuck out in the prairie with a fast approaching storm…been there, done that – and it’s not fun. Another great thing about this trail is that there are many entrances and exits, so you can go all 38.9 miles or you can veer off onto one of the side trails and make your hike a little shorter. Be sure to grab a trail map at the entrance to the park and you’ll find your options are limitless. If you’re planning on making this trail a backpacking trip be sure to call the Ranger Station, (941) 361-6511, and reserve one of the 6 primitive camp sites. These sites are currently $5 per person, per night and provide a total primitive camping experience.

Speaking of camping, did you know Myakka River S.P. has an amazing new camping area? Well, they do! Nice, private campsites with new bath houses are located in the Palmetto Ridge loop. They also offer other sites that have been there for a while, but still provide nice camping options. Those loops are – Old Prairie Campground and Big Flats. They even have a few cabins if true camping isn’t your thing! For more info and to make reservations check out ReserveAmerica. If you want to camp I would suggest making reservations as far out as possible, especially if you’re coming during ‘season’ (January to April). Camping is super popular at Myakka River S.P. and the campground can fill up quickly!

I could go on and on about this park! There’s so much to do here! Bicycling, fishing, bird watching, geocaching, wildlife, kayaking, concerts, bird walk, the nature center, animals, campfire programs, camping, gift shop, concession stand…too much to list!

If you have questions about the park be sure to contact me. I’ve zig-zagged all over this park and can answer almost any question you may have. If this post has intrigued you, why not check out on of our events and join us?!

Want to take a virtual hike? Check out our video of one of our trail maintenance ‘parties’ on YouTube – Myakka River Virtual Hike

3 thoughts on “Myakka River State Park”

  1. Myakka River State Park is (thus far) my favorite Florida park as well. I’ve also spent hours hiking and many nights camping out there. The place is amazing. I’ve been to Deep Hole, but it was too soon after the rainy season to see any alligators. Thanks for sharing.

  2. The deep hole photo was actually taken by photographer Lee Dalton. I’ve been to Deep Hole several times but you are correct, right now it is not that active.

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