Are you looking to try something new? Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, offers treetop adventures. Taking a canopy walk is just one of many fantastic things at the park.
We cover what you need to know about the Myakka River State Park canopy walk and other park activities. Get ready to have fun in the trees.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for keeping Miles with McConkey going!
Myakka River State Park: What to Know
Let’s cover the basics first, so you know where to find this fantastic place and what to expect.
The park sits 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.
- Single occupant vehicle/motorcycle: $4.00
- Car (2 to 8 people): $6.00
- Pedestrian/bicycle: $2.00
Myakka River State Park covers about 37,000 acres, making it one of southwest Florida’s largest state parks.
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:
Accordingly, you will find diverse scenery and wildlife in the park.
Myakka Canopy Walkway & Tower
Margaret D. Lowman, canopy scientist and Executive Director of the TREE Foundation, inspired the Myakka Walkway. It is the result of a unique partnership of local sponsors and:
- Florida Park Service
- TREE Foundation
- Friends of Myakka River
Although the first public treetop trail in North America serves as an outdoor laboratory for research and education, it gives visitors opportunities for discovery, close observation of canopy inhabitants, and a spectacular view of treetops.
The Myakka Walkway, completed in 2000, proved its practical value when scientists found an exotic weevil from Central America. TREE Foundation workers continue to monitor the situation.
Tremendous fun for the whole family, the Myakka Canopy Walkway is a swinging bridge suspended 25 feet above the ground. You will walk 100 feet through lush oak and palm hammock canopy.
If you have watched any of our travel videos, you already know I do not do well with heights. Naturally, I was apprehensive about walking 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 like a slow, rolling wave motion.
The canopy itself is beautiful. Myakka houses many trees, especially oaks and palm trees. The bridge takes you directly through an area thick with live oaks.
You probably already guessed it, but you must climb steps to access the swinging bridge.
Many adults and kids lit up with delighted grins as they traversed the canopy walkway. It is such a different activity that you will find it a great way to appreciate and enjoy nature on another level (pun intended).
The park has an observation tower in the same area where you can climb to a viewing deck above the treetops. You will climb over 100 stairs to reach the top of the 74-foot tower.
I must admit that my fear of heights kicked in during this experience. Going up the stairs, I was fine. I was shaken on the observation deck and descending the stairs. If you fear heights, the tower will likely be challenging 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 pretty surreal to peer down at birds in flight.
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 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 on the park website.
We will focus on three other family-friendly activities you can enjoy at no additional cost. Here are our other top things to do at Myakka River State Park.
We mainly went to Myakka River State Park 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. 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. Unaware of their existence before our trip to south Florida, I found them 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 see a red heart on its crown. This surprise brought a smile to my face.
You can see some of these incredible birds and footage of the Canopy Walkway and Tower in our south Florida video.
Types of Birds
Many different types of birds get commonly spotted in the park. Here are some of the birds you may see:
- Roseate Spoonbills
- Great Blue Herons
- Tricolored Herons
- Snowy Egrets
- Great Egrets
- White Ibises
- Bald eagles
- Red-shouldered Hawks
- Wood Storks
I always carry two unique items in my backpack when we hike. Both items are of great value when it comes to birdwatching.
You never know when Mother Nature will present you with a gift. These items will allow you to make the most of that moment.
Did you know that you should approach the area quietly when people are taking pictures of birds? 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.
Birds are one of the main attractions at Myakka River State Park. However, there is plenty of other wildlife.
Many people come here to see alligators. Fortunately, we were able to accomplish this as well. You can often see gators 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.
Gators enter a dormant state in colder weather to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Alligators can hide in shady spots in sweltering weather 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.
Beyond alligators, the park has lots of other wildlife, including:
- Wild boars
While walking in the park, scan your surroundings 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, check out our guide to Everglades National Park.
There are many beautiful places in south Florida. Myakka River State Park and Everglades National Park are the best for birdwatching and wildlife viewing opportunities. Both are top-notch!
The Myakka Hiking Trail has four loops and nearly 39 miles of trails. It 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 is an easy 0.9-mile loop trail through a forested area that takes you to the Canopy Walkway & Tower.
- Birdwalk is an accessible 0.25-mile boardwalk that takes you out over freshwater wetlands. As the name implies, this is an excellent spot for birdwatching.
- Deep Hole – Looking for something to test your mettle? It 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. Exercise caution near the Deep Hole. A special permit is required to make this hike. The Florida Park Service only issues 30 permits per day on a first-come, first-served basis. Rangers recommend that you arrive at the park before it opens for the best chance to obtain a permit.
Best Time to Hike
Hiking conditions are ideal in late fall, winter and spring. It gets scalding and muggy in summer, leading to two primary issues for hikers:
- Heat exhaustion
Trails can become flooded and overgrown during Florida’s rainy season (typically late May through late October).
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. 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.
Featured image credit: Miles with McConkey
More Articles from Miles with McConkey
About the author
Scott McConkey is a nationally syndicated travel writer and the founder of Miles with McConkey, where he provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and inspiration. His travel articles have been seen in The Associated Press wire, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, MSN, and many more. He and his wife, Julie, left the corporate world after nearly 30 years for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year has evolved into a second act. She creates visual content while he utilizes the written word. Their goal is to create content inspiring others to travel more and live their best lives now.