Friends of Fakahatchee: Dedicated to financial and volunteer support to preserve the unique ecology and cultural heritage of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and educate the public about its importance.
Janes Scenic Drive
What is Janes Scenic Drive?
Janes Scenic Drive began as a railroad bed for logging the Fakahatchee’s old-growth Cypress trees in the 1940s. Today, this unimproved narrow dirt road gives visitors access to a portion of Florida’s remaining subtropical wilderness.
The Drive starts at the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park’s ranger station and terminates 11 miles later at the boundary with Picayune Strand State Forest.
Access to Janes Scenic Drive starts at the community of Copeland (map). Copeland is on SR 29, 2 ½ miles north of Highway 41 (The Tamiami Trail); 14 miles south of I-75 (Alligator Alley). The road is open from dawn to dusk daily. Remember to stop off at the ranger station to deposit your park entrance fee in the honor box. Here you will also find a map board, park brochures and primitive restrooms.
Do plan on a leisurely trip. Please drive slowly to protect the wildlife. Watch for basking alligators, which may climb out onto the Drive to warm up in the sun — all part of the adventure. You’ll also go slow to protect your vehicle’s undercarriage from the numerous ruts and potholes. After heavy rain it may be advisable to seek advice from the ranger station on the road’s condition.
Know Before You Go
- Deposit the park entrance fee in the honor box at the ranger station. ($3.00 per vehicle, $2 per pedestrian or cyclist)
- Ask at the ranger station about the road’s condition, especially after heavy rain.
- Do not park in front of any gates; emergency or research teams may need access.
- Drive slowly to protect the wildlife and your vehicle.
- Watch out for basking alligators on the roadway.
- Be alert for snakes, some of which may be venomous, particularly in patches of sunlight.
- If you stop to hike or bike, take ample water and bug spray.
Along the Route
Janes Scenic Drive first takes you across a marl or wet prairie dotted with numerous tree islands. Watch for Red-shouldered Hawks and other raptors flying overhead. Gradually it merges into swamp, and the cypress forest closes in on either side of the road.
As you drive, you’ll often see ditches on both sides where soil and rock were excavated to make the railroad bed in the 1940s. Watch these ditches for old railroad ties, wading birds and swamp lilies.
Culverts under the Drive allow water to flow freely. Watch for sloughs (wider water channels) which provide interesting windows into the Strand. Along the way you will see numerous ferns and epiphytes, particularly bromeliads.
You’ll also see a network of side tracks that gave loggers access to the largest trees back in the day. These spurs are referred to as trams, some of which are now used as hiking trails.
Trails to Explore – Main Trams
Gate 7 is 4.5 miles up from the ranger station on the left and leads to West Main Tram. Gate 7 is a good spot to walk a little way in to get a feel for what the interior of the Fakahatchee is like. (Please park well clear of gate and stay on the main trail.)
At mile 6.5, on the right, you’ll find Gate 12 for the East Main tram — a good place to park and hike or bike. Down this trail you’ll pass through one of the Park’s largest stands of native Royal Palms. Two miles in you’ll find the Fakahatchee Hilton, a private cabin. The small lake behind the cabin is good for alligator viewing. Please be respectful of the in-holder’s private property.
Or Leave the Driving to Us
An alternative to self-driving is to sign up for one of our Ghost Rider Tram tours led by one of our expert volunteer naturalists. These are run several times a week from November through April and must be booked in advance. If you feel even more adventurous, you can book a combined Tram tour and wet walk or full-day biologist–led swamp walk.
A detailed description of Janes Scenic Drive can be found in the downloadable Janes Scenic Drive brochure.Janes Scenic Drive Brochure