Myakka River State Park Canopy Walk: Try Something New

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CANOPY WALK

Looking to try something new?  Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida offers treetop adventures.  Taking a canopy walk is just one of many wonderful things to do at this park.  

We cover what you need to know about the park, its canopy walkway and other activities.  Get ready to have fun in the trees.

MYAKKA RIVER STATE PARK: WHAT TO KNOW

Let’s cover the basics first so you know where to find this amazing place and what to expect.

Location

The park is located at 13208 State Road 72, Sarasota, Floria 34241.

Operating hours and seasons

Myakka River State Park is open 365 days a year from 8:00 am to sunset.

Entrance Fees

  • Single occupant vehicle/motorcycle:  $4.00
  • Car (2 to 8 people): $6.00
  • Pedestrian/bicycle:  $2.00

Park size

Myakka River State Park covers about 37,000 acres, making it one of the largest state parks in Florida.

Scenic drive

The main park road is 7 miles long and winds through shady sections of forest and along a lakeshore.  There are various points along the way to stop and enjoy spectacular views.

What makes Myakka River State Park special?

It contains a variety of ecosystems, including:

  • Wetlands
  • Prairies
  • Hammocks
  • Pinelands

Because of this, a diverse array of scenery and wildlife can be found in the park.

MYAKKA CANOPY WALKWAY & TOWER

Canopy Walkway

underneath view of Myakka River Canopy Walkway
Underneath view of Myakka River Canopy Walkway

The Myakka Canopy Walkway is great fun for the whole family.  The swinging bridge is suspended 25 feet above ground.  You will walk 100 feet through a lush hammock canopy.

If you have watched any of our travel videos, then you already know that I do not do well with heights.  Naturally, I was apprehensive to walk across a swinging suspension bridge.  

To my relief, it was a blast.  I felt like a kid again. Crossing the walkway through a canopy of trees was fun.  The bridge does sway a bit as you make your way.  It feels somewhat like a slow, rolling wave motion.

The canopy itself is beautiful.  The park houses many trees, especially oaks and palm trees.  The bridge takes you directly through an area that is thick with live oaks.

You probably already guessed it, but you will have to climb steps in order to access the swinging bridge.  

We saw many adults and kids light up with delighted grins as they traversed the canopy walkway.  This is such a different activity that I think you will find it to be a great way to appreciate and enjoy nature on another level (pun intended).

Tower

Myakka River Observation Tower
Myakka River Observation Tower

In the same area, the park has an observation tower where you can climb to a viewing deck above the treetops.  The tower is about 74 feet in the air.  You will climb over 100 stairs in order to reach the top.  

I must admit that my fear of heights kicked in on this experience.  Going up the stairs, I was fine.  I was a bit shaken on the observation deck and coming back down the stairs.  If you have a fear of heights, the tower will likely be difficult for you.

The view from the top is spectacular.  You are literally above the trees.  It feels like a scene from The Lion King where you can look out over the vast landscape from the top of Pride Rock.  The varied sections of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands seem to stretch on forever. 

It is quite surreal to have an aerial view of birds in flight.  This is especially odd when you are peering down at them.

The observation tower offers a different, but equally rewarding experience as the canopy walkway.  I recommend that you do both.

After paying to enter the park, there are no additional fees to take a canopy walk or to climb the observation tower.

THINGS TO DO AT MYAKKA RIVER STATE PARK

What else can you do at Myakka River State Park?  

There are actually quite a few things to do at the park.  You can bicycle, kayak, camp and more.  These activities require additional fees.  You can find more information about these activities at the park website.

We will focus on three other activities that we feel make the park well worth your time.  Best of all, the whole family can enjoy these activities at no additional cost.  

Here are our other top things to do at Myakka River State Park.

BIRDWATCHING

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill at Myakka River State Park

The main reason we went to Myakka River State Park was to observe birds.  The goal was to spot a roseate spoonbill.  I had never seen one and desperately wanted to find this elusive bird.  Our dear friends, John and Jenny recommended Myakka.  It did not disappoint!

Myakka River State Park is a birder’s paradise.  I was blown away by the number and variety of birds in the park.  Yes, I found my roseate spoonbill.  In fact, we saw a few of them.  

The beautiful pink plumage was just as I had imagined.  I was fascinated to watch the bird methodically run its bill back and forth through the water searching for food.  It was a dream come true for me.

We also encountered sandhill cranes.  I was unaware of their existence before our trip to south Florida.  I found them to be quite intriguing.  

The sandhill crane has a long neck, white cheeks and a red forehead.  When the sandhill crane bends down to forage for food, you can clearly see a red heart on its crown.  This surprise brought a smile to my face.  

You can see some of these amazing birds as well as footage of the Canopy Walkway and Tower in our south Florida video.

Types of birds

Three Amigos: Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill & Anhinga
Three Amigos: Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill & Anhinga

Many different types of birds are commonly spotted in the park.  Here are some of the birds you may see:

  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Green Heron
  • Tricolored Heron
  • Snowy Egret
  • Great Egret
  • White Ibis
  • Anhinga
  • Osprey
  • Bald eagle
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Wood Stork

I always carry two special items in my backpack when we hike.  I find both items to be of great value when it comes to birdwatching.

I love my Avalon binoculars to zoom in for a closer view.  Since I am a novice, I struggle to identify birds.  So, I consult my handy birds of North America field guide.

You never know when Mother Nature will present you with a gift.  These items will allow you to make the most of that moment.

Birding etiquette

Did you know that when people are taking pictures of birds, you should approach the area quietly?  Julie was unaware of this.  

Two gentlemen had serious camera equipment and were taking photographs of birds.  As we approached the area, Julie talked in a normal tone and volume.  Both of them immediately turned their heads and gave her a death stare.  To this day, I am not sure how she survived.

Please learn from our poor etiquette.  When in birding areas, talk in a whisper so you do not frighten the birds or offend the birders.

OBSERVING WILDLIFE

Birds are one of the main attractions at Myakka River State Park.  However, there is plenty of other wildlife.

Alligators

Many people come here to see alligators.  Fortunately, we were able to accomplish this as well.  

You can often see alligators floating in or sunning near the shallow waters.  

To improve your odds of alligator sightings, go to the park on a warm, sunny day.  Alligators tend to be most active with temperatures between 82 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

In colder weather, alligators go into a dormant state to maintain a comfortable body temperature.  In very hot weather, alligators can hide in shady spots to keep cool.  On days above 92 degrees, your best chances are most likely closer to sunrise and sunset

If you pick a day with favorable weather, you should observe numerous alligators without much effort.

Other Wildlife

Beyond alligators, the park has lots of other wildlife including:

  • Otter
  • Wild boar
  • Deer
  • Armadillo
  • Turtle

While walking in the park, keep a watchful eye for other creatures.  Your best odds are near water sources around sunrise and sunset.

If you are looking for other places in south Florida with lots of wildlife, be sure to check out our blog post on Everglades National Park.  

There are many beautiful places in south Florida.  We found Myakka River State Park and Everglades National Park to be the two best for birdwatching and wildlife viewing opportunities.  Both are top notch!

HIKING

Hiking trail at Myakka River State Park
Myakka Hiking Trail

The Myakka Hiking Trail has 4 loops, making nearly 39 miles of trails.  This gives hikers many options for both day hikes and longer hikes.  Hikers can go through an array of habitats with opportunities to observe birds, alligators and other wildlife.

Popular day hikes at Myakka River State Park

  • William S. Boylston Nature Trail – Easy 0.9 mile loop trail through a forested area that takes you to the Canopy Walkway & Tower.
  • Birdwalk – Easy 0.25 mile boardwalk that takes you out over freshwater wetlands.  As the name implies, this is a great spot for birdwatching.
  • Deep Hole – Looking for something to test your mettle? This is a 4.4 mile round trip hike that takes you to a karst sinkhole often occupied by black vultures and alligators.  Deep Hole is approximately 130 feet deep.  The area is said to be overflowing with alligators.  To say this place is scary is being kind.  Caution should be exercised near the Deep Hole.   A special permit is required to make this hike.  Only 30 permits are issued per day.  These are awarded on a first come, first served basis.  It is recommended to arrive at the park before it opens in order to have a chance to obtain a permit.

Best time to hike

Hiking conditions are more ideal in late fall, winter and spring.  It gets very hot and muggy in summer.  This leads to two primary issues for hikers:

  • Heat exhaustion
  • Insects

Note that during Florida’s rainy season (typically late May through late October), trails can become flooded and/or overgrown.

TIPS FOR VISITING MYAKKA RIVER STATE PARK

  • Protect your skin from the sun.  Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.
  • Protect your skin from insects.  Use insect repellent.
  • Stay hydrated.  Drink plenty of water.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good traction.  The terrain is mostly level, but it can get muddy.
  • If you plan to hike to the Deep Hole, arrive at the park before it opens to give yourself the best chance to obtain a permit.
  • Bring your camera.  Be ready to capture beautiful scenery and wildlife.

BEST TIME TO VISIT MYAKKA RIVER STATE PARK

Summer brings high temperatures, rain, humidity and insects to south Florida.  In general, spring, fall and winter are good times to visit the park.   

Hiking is best in late fall, winter and spring.

Alligator sightings are more common on sunny, warm days in spring and fall.  

Birdwatching tends to be more productive in spring and fall.

PLAN YOUR VISIT TO MYAKKA RIVER STATE PARK

Where to start

  • Monitor the Myakka River State Park website for information, current updates and closures.
  • Plan your activities ahead of time.
  • Watch our south Florida video for additional travel tips.
  • Use the interactive map below to view the area.

About the author

We are Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey. After nearly 30 years, we took a leap of faith out of the corporate world to enjoy a life of travel and adventure. We hope to inspire you to find ways to travel more and enjoy life now.

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