Tamiami 'Triathlon:' A South Florida Wilderness Adventure
By James Branaman
In between Tampa and Miami, just south of Naples, a 40-mile stretch of The Tamiami Trail highway links a hiking, biking and paddling adventure like no other. It's called The Tamiami Triathlon. Hit the water in a canoe or kayak at Everglades National Park's Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City, where you'll navigate a 3.5-mile route through a mangrove forest. Next, venture to the Oasis Visitor Center at Big Cypress National Preserve to slog a 3-mile loop through cypress swamp and pine uplands. Finally, travel to Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park to pedal yourself along a 15-mile loop and enjoy an impressive view overlooking the river of grass.
Unlike most triathlons, you choose the order of events — the Tamiami triathlon isn't meant to be a one-day race. Instead, go at your own pace and enjoy the scenery while immersing yourself (literally) in nature.
This isn't just a physical test. After completing each activity you are challenged to answer a question specific to that environment. Answer all 3 correctly, and a ranger will award you with a finisher decal proclaiming you've conquered the Tamiami Trail Triathlon!
If you go:
Don't have your own canoe, kayak, or bike? Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center and bikes are available for rent at Shark Valley Visitor Center. Shark Valley requires Everglades National Park entrance fee.
The hiking portion requires a backcountry pass, which is available at no cost at the Big Cypress National Preserve's Oasis Visitor Center. Once you've received your pass, a ranger will give you directions and offer a walking stick to use on your hike.