The Pinelands Trail is located 6 miles from the Everglades National Park’s Coe Visitor Center on the Main Park Road. A well-marked turnoff points to the Pinelands Trail parking lot, restrooms, an information kiosk and the hike’s trailhead.
The 0.4-mile Pinelands Trail loops through a forest of slash pines (also called Caribbean or Dade County pine). Slash pines are the only pine species that can flourish in Everglades National Park.
The trees grow in a karst landscape of uneven soft limestone known as a rocklands environment. With numerous small holes pocking the limestone terrain, you risk twisting an ankle if you move off the marked trail.
Frequent rains have dissolved the porous rocklands, pocking it with numerous hollow solution holes. Examine the ground around the trail closely. The trees are rooted in the scattered tiny cracks, crevices and potholes where there is only a thin layer of soil. Not much space for most trees, but these openings hold a rich combination of peat and marl.
The open pinelands you see will gradually evolve into a hardwood hammock if the area is not periodically burned. Almost constant sun is needed for the young pine seedlings to grow. The unchecked growth of hardwoods would shade them out. Controlled burning, which eliminates the young hardwoods, leaves the pines sooty but undamaged in the condition the trees need to thrive. The Park Service has used fire since the 1950s to sustain the pinelands and you could witness a controlled burn during your visit.
The pinelands have some of the highest and driest elevation in the Everglades, varying from 3 to 7 feet above sea level.
Late in the day, shooting from the Main Park Road, the thin, bent pine trees here make an excellent foreground for sunset photos.