Happy Hoofers ChapterServing Broward and Hendry counties
Chartered in 1983, the Happy Hoofers Chapter of the Florida Trail Association first met at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Ft. Lauderdale. Chapter officers were elected with Gordon Koncelik as the first chairman. The newsletter was called the Hoopla and Happy Hoofers was adopted as the chapter name.
Ken Carpenter, a longtime dedicated trail maintainer in our chapter, was instrumental in working with Big Cypress Seminole Reservation to ensure that the Florida Trail had a continuous path north from Big Cypress National Preserve to Lake Okeechobee. The Happy Hoofers hold monthly backpacking and day hike trips in Big Cypress Preserve during the months of October through April, and present informative public programs monthly at the Fern Forest Nature Center.
The Happy Hoofers maintain the Seminole section of the Florida Trail, which encompasses 65 miles of hiking. The section starts at Alligator Alley (I-75) and passes through the northerly portion of Big Cypress National Preserve into the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. It continues on dikes of the South Florida Water Management District through Hendry County to Lake Okeechobee.
In Big Cypress National Preserve, loops of 7 and 15 miles just north of Alligator Alley lead hikers into the wilds of the Big Cypress Swamp and provide opportunities for day hiking and backpacking through this wilderness of cypress trees and slash pines.
The Florida Trail follows established roads through the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, and you must be a Florida Trail member and apply for a permit in advance to walk through reservation lands. Hikers pass citrus groves, cattle ranches, and the educational Billie Swamp Safari and Ah-Tha-Tiki museum, devoted to Seminole culture.
Along the dikes of the South Florida Water Management District, hikers see a different side of Florida: where agriculture supplanted the grassy sea of the Everglades, and sugar cane stretches as far as the eye can see. A short walk past Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area allows you to experience the abundance of native bird life in one preserved natural habitat. This section is best accessed from CR 835 for day hiking and is primarily used by backpackers.