Myakka River State Park is one of the largest state parks in Florida. Protecting a large section of the Myakka River watershed, including two lakes, this massive park has all kinds of outdoor recreational opportunities. Most importantly for us hikers is a 39-mile hiking only loop trail that is located in the center of the park. The park also has many miles of dirt roads suitable for both hiking and biking, and even a few nature trails, like this one. This hike occurred on July 19th, 2015. My plan was to hike the short nature trail clockwise. I would then move on to hiking half of the park's main hiking loop, although that hike will be described in a separate post.
R/T Length of Trail: 0.9 Miles
Duration of Hike: 0:35
Type of Hike: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Well-graded, very easy trail; good family stroll
Points of Interest: Canopy walk and observation tower
Trail Blaze Color(s): None
Best Season(s) to Hike: Year-round
Beginning Point: William S. Boylston Nature Trailhead
Directions: Sarasota, FL, is a large metro area and it would be tedious and pointless to give directions from the center of the area. Thus, the directions below are from Exit 205 on I-75 (Florida State Route 72). It should be easy to get to this point from other areas in Sarasota. From the exit, follow Florida State Route 72 East for approximately 8.8 miles. At the Myakka River State Park entrance, turn left onto the main park road. Pay the $6 dollar fee, and follow the road for 1.2 miles. The trailhead is shortly after a bridge over the Myakka River.
This short trail was just a warm-up for my ambitious hiking plan for the day. However, I intended not to skip it, as it had some key highlights from Myakka River State Park that I intended to miss. The canopy walk is a unique feature, and being the only canopy walk in the US, I wanted to see it. The view from the top of the observation tower is worth the climb to get there. From there, you can see some of the prairies that are encountered on the longer trails.
To hike the nature trail clockwise, start from the entrance on the left side of the parking lot. The trail is wide, flat, and easy. At 0.1 miles. a shortcut leads right to the canopy walk. The nature trail continues straight. There are interpretive signs along the way. At 0.3 miles, cross a marsh on a boardwalk and continue into more woods full of palms. At 0.6 miles, recross the same marsh on another boardwalk At 0.8 miles, reach the canopy walk. Climb up the steps and then travel across a narrow suspension bridge at tree canopy level. At the end of the suspension bridge, you reach the observation tower. You will climb many flights of steps before finally reaching the small observation deck at the top. The view is commanding, with the entire Myakka River State Park visible. The prairies that the Myakka Hiking Loop crosses are partially visible straight ahead. After you've spent some time on the observation tower, return down the steps. Do not turn onto the suspension bridge. Instead, continue all the way down to the trail. Turn left onto the trail. You will reach the parking area at 0.9 miles.
Just visit the Canopy Walk and the observation tower, if you want to do a longer hike in the park too - 0.2 Miles
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