Created as part of the rails-to-trails movement on the bed of a former Illinois Central Railroad line, the Tammany Trace today is a paved hiking/bicycling path that runs about 31 miles through St. Tammany Parish. The trail is level and has stretches that are completely separated from roads, making it a great place for families with children or for cyclists looking for long, uninterrupted stretches of roadway. Additionally, several trailhead locations exist along the Tammany Trace. These have parking areas, bathrooms and drinking fountains, and other features that make them ideal bases to begin and finish a ride or to take a break. Two trailhead locations offer bicycle rentals through adjacent private businesses, and there are several of other stops that feature historical and offbeat museums, community markets, or beer breweries and tap rooms.
While the northernmost trailheads tend to have more options for things to do, they are also more frequently inturrupted by road crossings. The southernmost trailheads tend to have less to do, but they have longer stretches of uninterrupted trail. The landscape also changes from the light forests nearer to Covington and Mandeville to the swampy and bayou-rich sections nearer to Slidell.
Below is a brief description to the different points of interest near the trailheads from north to south. However, with parking lots and bathrooms and water at each, any trailhead provides a great opportunity to begin or end your ride or hike along the Tammany Trace.
- Covington Trailhead (419 N. New Hampshire Street, Covington LA 70433): This trailhead area definitely has the most going on. It is located in historic downtown Covington at a complex with a visitor center, outdoor amphitheatre, and the world's largest Ronald Reagan statue. The trailhead is within a block of the Covington Brewhouse, several cafes, and Brooks' Bike Shop, which offers bicycle rentals and repairs.
- Abita Springs Trailhead (22044 Main Street, Abita Springs LA 70420): The Abita Springs Trailhead is only a couple miles from the Abita Brewing Company Taphouse (985) 893-3143, the largest brewery in the state, who offer tours and tastings daily. The trailhead itself has a small historical museum inside the converted railroad station and a large viewing platform with fountains. Just a half-mile further down the trace is the Abita Mystery House [(985) 892-2624 / AbitaMysteryHouse.com ] which features an eclectic assortment of amusements and creations in an outsider folk-art type of museum setting and is definitely worth seeing.
- Koop Drive Trailhead (21490 Koop Drive, Mandeville LA 70471): Adjacent to the large St. Tammany Children's Museum and an inclusive children's playground, the Koop Drive Trailhead is a great location for children. The trailhead also sits next to a large outdoor park setting with covered picnic tables. The Chafunkta Brewing Company lies just off the Trace about a half-mile north.
- Mandeville Trailhead (675 Lafitte Street, Mandeville LA 70448): Along with Covington, this trailhead seems to be the most commercial. The trailhead has space for a weekly community market and seasonal nighttime events, and there is also an observation platform. Bicycle rentals are available along with seasonal food and treats from The Shack de Ville, which shares the trailhead parking lot. Beside the trailhead is the Old Rail Brewing Company, which offers beer and food.
- Lacombe Trailhead (28452 Balehi Road, Lacombe LA 70445): This trailhead is really just a small viewing platform with bathrooms and fountains overlooking the Lacombe Bayou. There is no adjacent parking, however. But the views over the bayou show that the Trace has left the commercial centers and has entered the bayous.
- Slidell Trailhead (2289 Gause Blvd W, Slidell LA 70460): With a playground and boardwalk sitting area, Slidell also lacks the commercial opportunities. Instead, this is more of a functional parking area for an afternoon on the Tammany Trace, although plans exist to route the trail to downtown Heritage Park in Slidell.
Distances between Trailheads:
- Covington to Abita Springs: 3.5 miles
- Abita Springs to Koop Drive: 4.4 miles
- Koop Drive to Mandeville: 4.4 miles
- Mandeville to Lacombe: 6.7 miles
- Lacombe to Slidell: 7.2 miles
The Tammany Trace is open daily from sunrise until sunset, and additional information is available at TammanyTrace.org