East of Naples, the Big Cypress National Preserve has several areas open to ATV riding. The Bear Island Unit has a looping trail network of roughly 10 miles. It passes through dense scrub forest. Keep an eye out for panthers and alligators. This area tends to hold up well during the wet season, where the other riding areas in Big Cypress National Preserve tend to be flooded.
To reach the primary ATV riding trailhead for the Bear Island Unit in Big Cypress National Preserve from US75, use Exit #80. Head south on SR29 to US41. Turn left heading east on US41 to CR839 (aka Turner River Road). Turn left heading north CR839 (a narrow dirt road). Pass under US75. Turn right on first dirt road to the Bear Island Campround.
This area requires a permit from the National Preserve before arriving. The following permits are required for ORV use within the preserve:
- Vehicle Inspection Permit (free at the visitor center upon vehicle meeting specifications)
- BICY ORV Operator's License (free after taking orientation course at the visitor center) note: must possess valid state driver’s license or learner’s permit (and accompanied by a licensed adult 18 years or older)
- ORV Permit ($50.00 at the visitor center)
- Backcountry Permit (free at trailhead, Required for all backcountry activities)
AREAS CLOSED TO MOTORIZED USE
- A one-mile wide buffer zone parallel to U.S. Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) is closed to ORV use except on designated trails to cross the zone from designated access points.
- Zone 4 Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Protection Area - see map.
- Loop Unit, Deep Lake Unit, Copeland Prairie areas, Zone 1, Addition Lands and all prairies - see map.
- The preserve is closed to ORV use between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
- 11-mile road and the Florida National Scenic Trail are closed to motorized travel, vehicles may cross at designated points.
- Any zone may close temporarily due to environmental and emergency conditions. This is especially true of Zone 4, which may be closed due to hydrologic conditions.
- An annual 60-day seasonal closure to all ORV use throughout the preserve, has generally been starting in June, but the dates may vary.
Note: As of July 2008, the State Of Florida requires riders under 16 years old to have taken an approved OHV safety course and to carry proof of course certification.
Overall, Bear Island Unit is the 3rd most popular ATV riding trail of all 20 ATV trails in Florida.