Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is truly a botanical treasure, with the highest concentration of champion trees in one place in the United States—and none are over 45 feet tall. Current and prior national champions include crabwood (Ateramnus lucidus), Bahama strongback (Bourreria ovata), spicewood (Calyptranthes pallens), wild cinnamon (Canella winterana), milk-bark (Drypetes diversifolia), Guiana plum (Drypetes lateriflora), inkwood (Exothea paniculata), wild tamarind (Lysiloma latisiliquum), blolly (Pisonia discolor), and tropical soapberry (Sapindus saponaria).
Although the nature trail is relatively short, you can request a backcountry pass (available at nearby John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park) to roam miles of forest roads to see botanical treasures like wild cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), mahogany mistletoe (Phoradendron rubrum), whisk fern (Psilotum nudum) and wild allamanda (Pentalinon luteum); in all, 84 listed plant and animal species are protected here. Manchineel and poisonwood are common in the hammock. Ranger-led interpretive hikes are offered, and are especially valuable for a good introduction to tropical hammock species
Location: Key Largo
Length: 1.1 miles
Lat-Long: 25.176100, -80.369500
Type: loop and round-trip
Fees / Permits: state park entrance fee
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: annoying
Stay on the pathways—there are poisonwood and machineel trees throughout the hammock, both of which can cause severe reactions for anyone allergic to poison ivy.
Driving north on US 1 from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, keep right at the fork for SR 905 (Card Sound Rd). The trailhead parking area is on the right after 0.5 mile, in front of a large archway
The 1.1 mile loop uses a paved road (built to be the entrance to a condo development, Port Bougainvillea, which was thankfully stopped before it destroyed this hammock) and several side trails to introduce you to the largest tropical hammock in the United States. Look into the forest at the range of unusual bark textures and colors, and keep alert for liguus tree snails on smooth barked trees.
0.0 start @ parking lot
0.0 bench, turn left through wall
0.4 bench, start loop to left
0.4 fork, left
0.5 spur, left
0.5 4-way junction, right
0.6 end loop
0.6 end spur, left
0.7 emerge pavement, right
0.8 right, back to loop
1.1 end @ parking lot