May 2023 update: The Canopy Walkway is still closed due to Hurricane Ian damage, although the trail to get there remains popular. Boat tours, cabins, and some other parts of the park remain closed. Check out the park website before you go for more information.
If you’re looking to keep your head up closer to the clouds, then visiting the Canopy Walkway at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, is a must-see destination. Spanning 100 feet long, this canopy walkway is the only of its kind in Florida. It was also the first public treetop trail in North America.
As you may already know, Myakka River State Park is a popular destination in south Sarasota County for hiking, camping, and gator spotting (about 4,000 gators call it home). If you visit during its busiest times, it will have the slight feel of a theme park due to the crowds. Yet if you visit on a quieter weekday, you’ll hear more animals than people.
Here’s some background on how the canopy got started, and then we’ll share some practical tips for your visit. You can also find out more about the park from our previous articles, found here and here….and read this article for tips on best photography spots within the park.
Myakka State Park’s Canopy History
The idea behind the Canopy Walkway began with canopy scientist Dr. Margaret D. Lowman, executive director of the TREE Foundation. The canopy was completed in 2000.
The canopy is made possible with several funding sources that include the Florida Park Service, Friends of Myakka River, the TREE Foundation, and The Selby Foundation. It also has other sponsors. There are small plaques along the walkway that show other contributors who helped make it possible.
In addition to serving as a park attraction, the canopy provides an outdoor research and education center. It includes an observation tower that reaches 74 feet high. The canopy itself is 25 feet in the air.
The Canopy Walkway is the only of its kind in Florida and one of only about 75 canopies around the world as shown on the following map from the TREE Foundation (see the second map at that link that shows canopies around the world).
Visiting the Canopy Walkway at Myakka River State Park
Now that you’ve got some background on the Canopy Walkway, here’s the scoop for your next visit to Myakka River State Park. Also, here’s a 2 1/2-minute video of the experience as shared by the Florida State Parks Foundation.
When you enter the park, you’ll pay an admission fee that includes access to the Canopy Walkway. In fact, it’s just one flat, very affordable admission fee of $6 per vehicle for all the park has to offer.
Many people take about a three-mile drive through the park to reach its store/concession area as well as the ticket booth for the boat and tram rides. A little over a mile into the three-mile drive, you cross a short bridge over the water where you can often see alligators. People commonly pull over to see what they can see from the bridge. It’s as if the alligators are Harry Styles or BTS, and everyone wants to snap pictures.
Access to the Canopy Walkway is between this well-known bridge area and the area with the concession/ticket booth. Driving from the main entrance, you will see a small, brown sign on the right side. The small parking lot may be busy.
One great thing about the Canopy Walkway is that it’s easy to access. You’re not walking 45 miles in the Florida heat to reach it. In fact, it’s a pleasant, family-friendly, five minute or so walk along a wide, attractive nature trail. If you want a longer walk, there’s another nature trail near the canopy. The park has many other trails as well.
Myakka Park is known for its gators but the trail where the canopy is located is not particularly close to water. You’ll have to go elsewhere in the park to see alligators.
Once you get to the canopy, be prepared to climb some steps. After all, it’s 25 feet in the air. Wear good shoes.
Depending on when you go, it may be busy. The walkway shakes a little when you walk on it, so keep that it mind if you’re afraid of heights.
There’s a tree growing through part of the walkway, so you may have to duck your head if you’re tall.
The walkway is one way only, so be prepared to do your walk, snap some pics, and then climb to the top of the tower for a fantastic view of trees and birds. Then you’ve got more steps on the way down.
A Few Final Tips for Your Canopy Walkway Visit at Myakka State Park
—Arrive early. The early bird truly gets the worm. You’ll have fewer crowds, easier parking, and a more peaceful visit.
—Plan to check out the rest of the park. Myakka River State Park is famed for its boat ride, birdwatching, gator spotting, camping, biking, nature photography, and much more. The canopy visit itself may not take that long, but you’ll have other things to see and do at the park.
—When visiting elsewhere in the park, keep a safe distance from wildlife in general and alligators in particular. After all, you’re traipsing around in their home. Gators actually prefer to be left alone but if provoked, they can be dangerous.
—Always have your water, sunscreen, and bug spray. Always.
And enjoy your visit getting closer to the clouds at the Canopy Walkway.
How much does it cost to visit Myakka’s Canopy Walkway?
It’s included in the price of admission to the park, which is $6 per vehicle for two people or more and $4 if you’re alone in your vehicle.
How long is the walk to the canopy?
It’s about 5 minutes.
Are pets allowed on the canopy?
From what we read online, they are not. However, leashed dogs are allowed on the nature trail to access the canopy.
How long is the Canopy Walkway? How high is it?
It’s 100 feet long and 25 feet high. However, the observation tower is 74 feet high.
Can I wear flip flops to reach the walkway?
You can, but it’d be better to wear sturdy shoes like sneakers. You’ll be climbing steps and walking through nature to access the walkway.
How early can I arrive to visit the Canopy Walkway?
The park opens at 8 am and closes at sunset year-round. You may have earlier access if you are camping there.
How can I help support the Canopy Walkway?
You can support the Friends of Myakka River.