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Big Cypress National Preserve, FLORIDA

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Camping Florida Big Cypress National Preserve
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Most Recent Big Cypress National Preserve Camping Reviews
Love staying here

Stayed here a few times and always have a good time! Campground is always kept clean and showers have hot water.

Nice camp

You will spend about hour to get there from alligator highway, despite it close location (you need make a loop). 

camp by itself is very nice and quiet. it also has two locked entrances to special off-road  trails (ORV permit required).

Great State Park

Immaculately kept facilities. Interesting historical sites. Nice walking trail.

Decent Florida camping

It’s a nice campground that is accessible from the city of Miami. It’s a quick way to escape the city and all the people. It’s a nice campground in the Everglades, with decent bathrooms. Have stayed here a few times and probably a few more. Watch out for mosquitos!

Decent Florida camping

It’s a nice campground that is accessible from the city of Miami. It’s a quick way to escape the city and all the people. It’s a nice campground in the Everglades, with decent bathrooms. Have stayed here a few times and probably a few more. Watch out for mosquitos!

Very peaceful

Very friendly camp host, he was eager to greet me n my crew of moto riders and offer us a cooler with ice and a dozen bottles of water. Gave us a site away from the main area for some peace and quiet and a great view of the sky’s above. Definitely a nice place to search out for a nice nite star gazing.

Simple place

If your looking for a weekend get away this is not the place. If you are looking for long term camper living this is the place for you. The sites dont have fire rings or bbq pits and they are very small and cramped together but what can you ask for. They do have a heated pool and are close to town since they are in the middle of it. Coin operated laundry and there is a day room

Bring Bug Spray

Tgis place offers a nice fishing area and screened in community area by the bathrooms. However the bugs at this park are the worse I have ever encountered. It's like prehistoric times with teridactles coming in to suck your blood. I kid you not the mosquitos are that bad. If you have a good camping net room for around the picnic table you may make it out alive.

Nice place

A nice campground near Marco Island. Nice people. Good pool.

Perfect local getaway

For south florida, its about as good as it gets. Also has a nice observatory on saturday nights to visit.

RANGER REVIEW: GREGORY ZULU 35L BACKPACK AT PICAYUNE STRAND STATE FOREST

RANGER REVIEW: GREGORY ZULU 35 BACKPACK AT PICAYUNE STRAND STATE FOREST-HORSESHOE CAMPGROUND

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Florida offers very diverse camping opportunities throughout the state. Not many states can offer year-round camping along lakes, rivers, oceans, swamps, undulating terrain to pancake flat, grasslands, sugar sand to elevated chickee huts. Camping in Florida is not for the faint of heart, but for the adventurous…much like any state. However, in Florida, you may encounter crawling or slithering reptiles and spinning spiders in various shapes and sizes, non-venomous and otherwise…gators or saltwater crocs…otters, manatee or sharks…wild hog, bear, bobcat or relocated panther.  In the fairly young Picayune Strand State Forest many of these reside. Most are shy and elusive, rarely to be seen…but they are present. Many wrongly assume the voracious and plentiful mosquito is the state bird…not so much…but come prepared with repellant any time of year.

Almost comically, Picayune Strand State Forest (https://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/Our-Forests/State-Forests/Picayune-Strand-State-Forest) was the location where the 1950's phrase has its origination…"If you believe that, I've got some swamp land in Florida to sell you." Land developers laid flat the land southeast of the city of Naples, put a grid of sandy roads in and flew prospective buyers in helicopters above the land during the dry winter months to sell them on the dream of cheap prime SW Florida real estate. Problem is…this land is all part of the Everglade watershed and is under a few feet of water every year from June through November, once the rainy season begins June 1. Some bought, but very few built…so to return the sheet flow back to its original state…the State began purchasing land back through eminent domain from the mid-1980's until a remaining parcel was purchased in the mid-1990's when the Picayune Strand State Forest was named. The man-made pump-regulated canals are being blocked to allow the natural sheet flow to reclaim much of this area.

Unilike many State Forests, while you can hike and bicycle the roads and trails throughout Picayune Strand, you cannot camp wherever you like. Horseshoe Campground https://floridastateforests.reserveamerica.com/camping/horseshoe-primitive-campground/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=FLFS&parkId=1120199 is located on the north end of the State Forest, which travels on the south side of Alligator Alley (Interstate 75) as it turns and slices across the Everglades to Miami.

Horseshoe Campground is a small parcel of high ground carved out of the swamp scrub. The grounds are well-maintained and clean. I found Ranger Reid, in the Ranger office, to be very friendly and helpful. He even offered a highlight that a panther, the night before my arrival, was chasing some deer about 300 yards west of the campgrounds.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

No potable water (bring all the water you need)

No Electricity (None, zero, zilch…plenty of sunshine for solar chargers though)

No Showers (I'd also advise against swimming in any water nearby)

No waste recepticles (Carry out what you bring in)

No Internet offered (Adequate cell service is available)

⦁ Open fires permitted in designated camping areas, in fire rings, unless posted

⦁ Two portable pit latrines enclosed within wood fence enclosures

⦁ Prepare for mosquitos year round

⦁ Don't forget your sunscreen

Reservations can be made through Reserve America's website. Or you can chose to utilize one of the six (6) walk-up sites. Actually, I liked the added feature of the two tarp poles (or hammock poles) on the non-reservable walk-up sites. Between mid-November and April, it does not rain often, so its of no real advantage…unless you utilize a hammock. But from mid-May to mid-November, you are likely to experience some heavy downpours each afternoon…so sturdy tarp poles would be appreciated.

Each site is grass covered, has one fire ring and one picnic table.

Can't beat the pricing…$10 a night.

True to its name, Horseshoe Campground offers paddocks for the horses and ample room for horse trailers. The Equestrian Group Camping area also has picnic tables, some grills and a pavilion. Horses must be picked up after in the campground, just like dogs.

I saw one pop-up camper during my stay. I imagine you could back in a larger RV, but there is no gravel or concrete pad…and the grass is on a sugar sand base. So plan accordingly.

Several trails leave the campground from the northwest corner. Adequately marked and all are sandy. If you choose to ride a bicycle on the trails or gravel roads, you'll want the largest tires possible to have both comfort and control. You can drive to other trails, such as the3.2 mile Sabal Palm trail…though during the height of the rainy season, the back road there will likely be impassable.

Wildlife abounds and birding is huge during winter migratory months. You are also likely to see the nesting pair of bald eagles, gopher tortoise, wood stork, eastern indigo snake, red cockaded woodpecker, osprey, red-shouldered hawk, kites, and a myriad of wading birds.

Numerous activities are nearby, whether you want to take in an Airboat Everglade tour, Shark Valley National Park, kayaking, canoeing throughout the Big Cypress Basin. Gulf Coast beaches are an hour away…either in Marco Island, Naples, Bonita Springs or Fort Myers Beach.

Bike racers convene on Picayune Strand every May for the 50 mile Tour de Picayune https://tourdepicayune.org/.

PRODUCT REVIEW: NEW GREGORY ZULU 35 BACKPACK

Gregory Mountain Products have really stepped up their game in recent years! Not that they’ve been a slouch…Gregory Packs have long been synonymous with easing heavy loads, durability and comfort. Here's a look at Gregory's New Zulu 35 backpack https://www.gregorypacks.com/packs-bags/day-packs/zulu-35-1115ZUL35.html?dwvar_1115ZUL35_color=Fiery%20Red&cgidmaster=packs-day-packs#start=1 As a TheDyrt.com review Ranger, I have opportunity to review gear at no cost or substantially discounted pricing, as was the case with Gregory's New Zulu 35.

PROS:

•Featherweight 

•Breathable/Airflow

•Comfortable 

CONS:

•Very limited pole loop and bungee

First and foremost, Gregory's Zulu 35 prolific use of breathable cutouts in the hip-belt and shoulder strap padding, coupled with the large holed mesh liners elevate airflow to new levels. The taut mesh back panel creates ample space between the pack body and the wearer’s back resulting in more airflow. Greater airflow, greater comfort. A thinner aluminum loop outlined the back panel for pack support and stability.

The Hip Belt: All hip-belts are not created equal. The Zulu 35 is a huge departure from previous Gregory models. The 3D Comfort Cradle was created to eliminate hotspots. Absent is the lower lumbar padding, thick hip bone padding and swivel…present is the FreeFloat ventilated suspension system. Hip-belt bellow pockets are cavernous in comparison to former Gregory models…8” zippers offer plenty of room for current smartphones, even when housed in protective cases. The pocket bellows 1.5” at the top and 2” at the bottom…and is nearly 11” from front to rear. Both pockets are coated nylon packcloth in contrast Gregory’s former generation Baltoro with one waterproof pocket and first generation Paragon packs that offered one of the pockets in a light breathable fabric. Note: Cram too many hard edged or lumpy items in those pockets and you may feel them through the ‘foam cutout’ areas.

Shoulder Straps: They may not be thinner, but they feel thinner… amply comfortable. Adjustment for size is a snap…well, actually more of a pull. Slide a hand down and separate the hook-n-loop and adjust to your desired height (marked in 1” increments). The chest strap slides along 9” integrated piping making the perfect placement simple. At 6'0," and with my torso length, I felt I was at the very top end of the adjustment.The logo’d QuickStow eyewear band and elastic keeper strap adorns the left shoulder strap simplifying sunglass storage. The right chest strap incorporates a hydration hose retention hook…but the coolest is the chest strap buckle now has an integrated high shrill whistle! How cool is that?! Buckle coloration has changed too. Male end is a dark gray, female end a light gray.

Pack Body: The main body is a lightweight coated, nylon pack cloth shell with lightweight stretch fabric ambidextrous 8”x 6” deep waterbottle/storage sleeves and a 12” x 7” deep breathable stretch fabric exterior rear stash pocket with adjustable top buckle. Two compression straps on each side help keep the load stable. The Zulu 35 offers one large compartment with a top load cinch opening and a U shaped 40” zipper allows easy access to entire main pack contents. Absent is an unnecessary bottom zipper. The top load offers a 34” circumference so no worries about restrictions. The main body interior supplies a protective hydration sleeve along with both a Gregory hydration pack specific SpeedClip snap hook and also a nylon loop for other brands. Trekking/ski pole or ice axe loop (adjustable!) and cinch bungee are intended to keep items secure. (*I found the combo for attaching my poles to be rather ineffective, as the bungee, even cinched tightly, did not prevent my poles from swinging metronome style at the top, which you can see from my pics).  All pack zippers include molded Comfort Grip nylon loops for easy pulling.

Pack Hood: The hood has one outer and one inner zippered pocket. The outer pocket will hold ample ancillary items, whereas the inner pocket is intended as a dedicated “labeled” Rain Cover storage pocket. But stuffing the Rain Cover into the main body stretch stuff pocket or water bottle/storage sleeve frees up an additional zippered pocket. Two small web lash loops on the outside of the hood are nice for securing solar panels or carabiners for hanging your Tentlab Deuce shovel.

Final Thoughts:  Born a skeptic, things are rarely as advertised but the New Gregory Zulu 35 is the real deal. Until now, I loved my overly padded hip belts, shoulder straps and back panels of yesterday’s packs…but the Zulu 35’s comfort level was astounding, catching me totally off guard. Granted, I was only hauling 30lbs, but it was ‘out of sight-out of mind.’ The purposefully engineered breathable mesh and cut-outs worked…in blazing sun and 89 degrees, I was comfortable. I usually haul heavy loads (55-65lbs) for long treks…but I was able to pack enough in the Zulu 35 for four days worth and still had room. Apart from the ineffective bungee cinch/adjustable loop for poles…it is nearly perfect! In the future, I’ll just stick my trekking poles (upside down) in the side pocket and cinch ‘em down with the side compression straps with my tent poles. Problem solved.

Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Stats: 

Size: Gregory Zulu 35 (Med/Lg)

Capacity: 35 liters/2136 cu in

Pack Weight: 2.89

Recommended Maximum carry weight: 35 lbs

Reviewer: 6’0/185, 21” torso 

Price Point:  $169.95

Year Round Camping with Alligators

Midway Campground is half way between Naples and Miami and a great central point if you're planning to explore both Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Preserve.

The campground is both RV and Tent friendly, and unlike the other nearby campgrounds, this one is open all year round -- although you're likely to have it mostly to yourself in the summer. 

The campground is set up wide open as a big loop around a lake. There isn't any privacy between sites which isn't a problem in the winter. In the summer, be prepared to get to know your neighbors.

The site is close to the Big Cypress Nature Trail as well as the Everglades Bird Trail.

There isn't anything available at the campground- so be sure to pack everything in with you-- especially you're mosquito repellant.

National Park Service Campground in Big Cypress

This is campground in Big Cypress National Preserve is the same campground that is managed by that National Park Service. See more reviews and images here ->Burns Lake Campground

Only Open for Overnight Camping August to April

Burns Lake is about midway between Naples and Miami, making it a great location to explore either of both of Big Cypress or Everglades National Park. The campground is open all year long for day use (it's a big area for ATVs), but unfortunately you can't overnight there during the summer season. (The closest campground open year round is Midway a few miles away).

The camp ground is set up to accommodate off-road vehicles, and you've got to drive down a dirt road a little ways to access it.

The Camping area is structured in one loop around the lake with lots of beware of Alligator signs. Like most of the other camping areas in the Everglades, there  are no trees, so the campground is wide open and you're right next to your neighbor.

In addition the the Alligators, you'll notice in this area when driving on US 41 that you are also in a Panther crossing area. Fortunately, the only thing to eat me was mosquitos.  Be sure to pack your repellant. 

You'll also want to make sure you've packed all your supplies, there's not a whole lot in the area besides wilderness! Each site is equipped with grills and tables.

Nice distant campground.

No access from 75, don’t be fooled by close location to it. Overall it’s nice

Seasonal Big Cypress Campground - Closed for Summer

I was looking to stay in Monument Lake (located at Mile 60 on Hwy 41 - Alligator Alley) after a fun day of Everglades airboating, but was surprised to find the campground closed for the season upon arrival.

Monument lake is only open during the Florida winter. For alternative options, Midway Campground was the closest option open in Miami direction, and Trail Lakes Campground was the closest option open in Naples Direction.

Monument Lake is a National Forest Service campground and can be reserved at recreation.gov in season.

Great basecamp for Everglades Adventures!

I gave this campground 5 stars because it feels so different than the rest of the Campgrounds available in Big Cypress Reserve and Everglades National Park. 

Trail Lakes is a proper campground which is staffed and gated just off of Hwy 41 (Alligator Alley) on the west side in Ochopee. It's open all year long. 

For me, visiting in the off season, it felt nice to have the structure of the campground. Most of the other campgrounds I visited along 41 between Naples and Miami were completely empty of people, but full of signs warning campers of Panthers and alligators - and even bears. I had no idea Florida had bears. I didn't want to camp alone, so I loved that this campground had staff and a few other guests who might notice f I got eaten.

The campground is open all year long, and has a small store in the camp office. 

The campground is built in several loops around a couple of lakes and has space for RV's and tents. If also offers cabins and some screened in open air huts (which I didn't stay in but they looked really cool). You could buy ice and firewood, as well as rent kayaks if you dared to boat through alligator swamps.

There's not much in Ochopee, so stock up when you leave Miaimi or Naples (depending which way you drive). There are a few things available at the campground store.  There is a mini post office in Ochopee which is worth stopping for a photo opp. The airboat tours which are everywhere along the highway here are definitely worth it. 

You can get their latest pricing for all their sites and cabins at www.evergladescamping.net

Good location and well kept!

We stayed here on our way to Key West and we were pleasantly surprised by how well kept the campground was. The bathrooms were closed but it didnt say why. The sites are electric which is nice in the heat. From what the ranger said this park is the only one open this time of year.

Not here

There's no park here…

Small Campground Offers Comfort

Ideal camping before April. We appreciated easy access to washer, dryer, wood, ice and a screened in area with tables for those buggy nights.

Small but lovely

This park is nice for a short bike ride or hike along it’s nature trail. Don’t forget the kids helmets because it’s a law in Florida for them to wear them and the park ranger will remind you of it. The park is also on a river you can kayak or put a canoe in. They even provide rentals. The campground is well maintained and has three good size shower houses. The RV sites are pretty close together especially in the back. There is a nice playground by the river and a few historic markers to explore. The location is about 30mins to the beach depending on traffic. We visit Naples and Marcos island which were both nice but crowded. The park is also a short distance to the northern part of Everglades National Park. You can easily hitch a ride on an airboat tour there. We visited in December and the mosquitoes were definitely thirty that time of year! The ones that got in ate us alive while we slept in our camper. I still have nightmares but with out a breeze that’s just florida. Overall, great little park to explore just sleep under a mosquito net.

Not the best camping in a NP but ideally located

This seemed like the only option around for staying on the east side of everglades. It's a very large campground. We had no problem getting a site (apparently they are first come first serve but I've read reviews that there is a way to reserve sites) during "peak season". Some of the sites are fairly close to one another but we got one on the perimeter which was really nice and a little more private. The showers are huge plus (beware water only gets luke cold at best- no hot or warm water in the winter) and having flushing toilets are always nice. Tables and fire rings at each campground. I believe I read that you needed to bring your own wood but I think you could buy some. The campground is in a pretty ideal location. Close to a couple great trails (Anhinga and Long Pine Key). We were able to break up our 2 days in the everglades by splitting it with an day in Biscayne bay- driving too and from the campground to Biscayne NP was very reasonable from this "home base". The only down side to the campground is how close sites are to one another (again perimeter sites seem a little better). Additionally, walking around and seeing people sitting in their RVs watching TV kind of takes away from the camping experience (especially a NP). It's also pretty pricey for camping in a tent. Lastly, their staff is terrible. They're not bright (they'll have trouble figuring out which sites are open and then tell you sites that are obviously taken are actually open). They also lack any customer service skills and can be rude at times.

Quiet and remote, great campground

Amazing campground (as long as you're cool with pit toilets and without showers). Great picnic tables and fire rings. We're tent campers and loved this place. There's only 7 tent sites and they're on the opposite side of the lake from the RV's (I think there's about 10 RV sites). It's far enough from the road that's it's quiet (about a mile on gravel from the state route to the campsites). Stars are great. Bathrooms are clean. Bring your own firewood. We didn't see any hikers or OHVers (their website says this campground is commonly used by them). There was an alligator swimming in the lake at dusk. Don't make the mistake like we did and wear sandals though, the chiggers/no see ums are terrible.

Go in the winter time

My husband and I lucked out to get an absolutely gorgeous day to tent camp at this campground. The next day was back to Florida’s hot and humidity. This campground is in one of natire’s most wonderful places, big cypress national preserve. This campground has tent and rv sites. No electric sites. We went on a Sunday and the whole campground was full, it’s a popular spot, would recommend making reservations in advance. There are vault toilets over on the rv sites and flush toilets by the tent sites. There are campground hosts, fire pits in the tent area, and a lake that does have alligators, because this is Florida. The nite sky was perfect so many stars to see. Little to no noise pollution. Make sure to bring your insect repellent, I got eaten alive once the sun started setting. No trails at the campground but there are trails within big cypress. Tent campsites were level and not right on top of one another. There were a few trees for shade as well.

Nice, scenic campground

This campground is in the Everglades National Park but is managed by a third-party. That was good for us because we were able to stay here during the government shutdown. We stayed for 8 nights at the beginning of January 2019.

First, the website shows that sites are first-come, first-serve except for a limited number of sites that can be reserved. I called and was told reservations were not accepted so we took our chances on getting a spot. When we arrived, the agent stated that there were only 3 spots available for the 3 nights we were going to originally stay (we weren’t sure about connectivity). Needless to say, that was incorrect, there were tons of spots available for the time frame we were there. Anyway, we also found out that they do take reservations somewhere on-line, but I couldn’t find the website for it. We stayed three nights in spot #5. It was a good spot, but our solar was struggling because it was in shade most of the afternoon. We decided to stay a few extra days to explore more. Connectivity was not an issue – Verizon has 3-4 bars without booster. AT&T has no service though. With our booster, we were able to get about 1-2 bars of AT&T and thankfully one of our phones as Wi-Fi call capability, so we were able to make and receive calls. Keep that in mind if you are AT&T only. The campground Flamingo about 40 miles from this campground does have AT&T connectivity, but we didn’t explore the campground to see how it compared.

When we decided to stay longer, we were told we had to move because someone reserved spot #5. That was fine because we wanted to move spots for better solar anyway. The agent said she couldn’t look up which spots were available for the time frame we wanted, but we could drive around and find a few spots we wanted and then she could look it up. That seemed weird, but we did that. We found that spot #66 had great access to solar in the mid-late afternoon so chose it. Thankfully that spot was available. There was some confusion about whether we could reserve it or not. Each person we spoke to said something different, but after many tries, it ended up working out and we were able to stay longer. 

We stayed another 5 nights at our new spot #66. Solar was much better there, and we had a nice view of the lake. Both spots we were on were level and it seemed most in the park were level. The road coming in is paved so no issues with accessibility. Since the campground is in the park, you do have to pay the entrance fee, but we have the national park pass. Of course, because of the shutdown there was no one at the gate anyway.

We didn’t inspect the bathrooms or shower houses, but the park was clean and well-maintained. They have a camp host on-site and we did not see any issues that were seen in other parks because of the shutdown.  For some reason, the dumpsters were not emptied until our last day there so some people had put their trash next to the dumpsters, but it was otherwise clean. Very quiet and peaceful as well. 

The campground has a lot of slash pine trees which give some shade, but still allows some solar. There were not a ton of good spots for solar IMO (at least in the winter), but anything by the lake would be good. There are no hookups at this site, but they do have potable water and a dump station near the entrance to the campground.

Tons of things to do near this campground. There are trails and of course exploring the Everglades. Homestead/Florida City is about a 20 min drive and you can get groceries, gas and whatever you need there. Robert is Here is a nice fruit stand in Florida City you may want to check out. Worth a trip to the Flamingo visitor center to see crocodiles and manatees. I would also recommend the Royal Palm visitor center and the anhinga trail.

Overall, despite the confusion and frustration over the reservations, it was a nice place and we would stay again. It is closed in the summer months which makes sense, it would be way too hot, and mosquito infested for the summer. Mosquitos were tolerable when we were there, but you need bug spray.

Out of the way, and secluded. Mosquitoes bad even in Jan.

Very secluded, obviously you can only get there by kayak or canoe, perhaps a smaller boat on high tide. Water is nearly fresh this far into the glades, good place for a bath. A bit small, it would be cramped if two or more groups arrived there at the same time.

Love that they don't make visitors sign in, there's people of all ages, & very kind staff!

Love that they don't make visitors sign in, there's people of all ages, & very kind staff! Laundry, showers, grills, a pool.

Not bad for a short stay

Sites are pretty close together without much privacy. Nice, well kept park, but the maintenance people closed ALL the bathrooms for cleaning for up to two hours late mornings every day we were there. Otherwise nothing too notable - there were some hiking trails available to take advantage of, but we had bad weather. I might be willing to come back with better weather and more accessible bathroom facilities!

A nice place for quiet seclusion but not a lot of activities

There are plenty of RV spots around a cute lake. We stayed in a tent only campsite which was a little farther from the lake. They were far apart from each other and did not seem too crowded. It seems every site was full the weekend we camped there. There is no shade in the tent only campgrounds and as this is south Florida, I recommend bringing some sort of pop-up or tarp to escape the sun. They had pretty great fire rings that were high with a grate across the top. There is one building with bathrooms and showers. It was pretty clean while we were there. There is also animal proof trash cans that are near by as well.

Keep in mind that there are no stores anywhere near this campground. It is located in the big cypress preserve almost right between Miami and Naples. You have to bring everything you need with you (water, firewood, food, etc). There aren't many activities in the campground besides a short walk around the lake. The lake is NOT for swimming as there are gators so you'd have to drive to get to the activities.

All in all it is nice if you are looking just to relax and hang out around your campsite for a few days but it is a littler underwhelming.

Great for Groups

Took a group of Girl Scouts aged 7-10 and they loved it. Cabins were clean, firewood was dry. The park staff and volunteers were friendly and helpful at check in and the next morning.