The Sawgrass Expressway marks the abrupt end of development in Northwest Broward County. The natural area immediately west of the Expressway is known as the Everglades Wildlife Management Area—an extension of the Everglades—and is off-limits to development. Packed dirt trails, used by the South Florida Water Management District to manage water resources for the metro area, traverse this natural area. Here’s the good news: these trails are open to cyclists and pedestrians year-round.
What Makes It Great
The Conservation Levee Trail is a sanctuary in (over)developed Broward County. The trail provides a refuge for South Florida cyclists and runners alike, as vehicles are banned. Here, you can cycle along the juxtaposition of civilization and nature. I’ve seen alligators, snakes (including an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake), vultures, countless birds, huge grasshoppers, dragonflies, and the occasional person.
Upon accessing the trailhead, you have three choices: head south toward Markham Park (a nice county park with really nice mountain bike trails), head north toward the town of Parkland and the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, or continue west to go into the Everglades. The segment that runs north and south to parallel the Sawgrass Expressway is far smoother than the one that heads into the Everglades. I recommend a hybrid or mountain bike for both segments, but it’s possible to get by with a road bike on the north/south segment.
If you really want a workout, you can do the 27-mile loop bounded by the trail, highway 27, highway 84, and the Sawgrass Expressway. To do so, head west into the Everglades until you hit highway 27. Ride south along the shoulder of the highway for two miles. Then, jump back on the trail heading east and paralleling highway 84. Continue to follow the trail as it bends and heads north back to the starting point.
Who is Going to Love It
Perfect for cyclists, runners, dog walkers, bird watchers, and amateur photographers, the Conservation Levee Trail is a diamond in the (suburban) rough.
While it’s a beautiful ride, the South Florida climate is relentless and the trail has zero shade (so you learn to appreciate those temporary clouds that pass by overhead). Be sure to bring plenty of water and slap on some sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to bring your cell phone because there really is nothing out there and it’s not at all uncommon to be all alone for miles.
Grab your bike and get out there. South Florida has natural beauty just waiting to be explored—you just have to know where to look.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The county is in the process of building an official access point (the Atlantic Trailhead), complete with a parking lot and signage, where the western edge of Atlantic Boulevard meets the Sawgrass Expressway. For now, you may access the trail via an official parking lot along the Sawgrass Expressway on-ramp. Numerous people park here, but be forewarned that No Parking signs are in place. Another option is to park in the small shopping center parking lot just east of the Expressway and bike the (very) short distance to the trail.