Possessing a varied bounty of bayous, forests, beaches and wetlands, the southern portion of Louisiana is not just a hunting and fishing paradise, it's also an adventurer's paradise! For the intrepid explorer whose interests include hiking, paddling, fishing, bicycling, camping, or just heading deep into the wild where the chances of spotting wildlife are far greater than spotting a fast food restaurant, Southern Louisiana has an enviable variety of options.
Spread throughout its area lies a system of state and national parks, wildlife refuges, open roads and coastline developed with the outdoor recreationist in mind, and there are wild rivers and natural areas that can get the adventurer seemingly far away from civilization.
Southern Lousiana's numerous bayous, rivers, swamps and lakes offer a wealth of opportunities for getting off of solid ground and into the landscapes and waterways far off the beaten path. In Cane Bayou, adjacent to Fontainebleau State Park, it's possible to paddle from the slow-moving bayou to the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. While Franklin and Bayou Teche Paddle Trails offer over 30 miles of water trails, at nearby Lake Martin there is a seemingly endless cypress-lined lakeshore that can be explored by paddlers. Lake Fausse Pointe State Park offers canoe and kayak rentals and has backcountry camping accessible from the water.
Though it may not seem as adventurous as other choices on this list, the Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve Trails outside of New Orleans lead hikers deep into the bayou and historic canals along a series of boardwalks and bridges to where sunning alligators can sometimes be seen along the banks. The Bonnet Carre Spillway is an example of trails created from overlooked land outside of an urban area. The White Lake Wetlands Birding and Nature Trail is set in a rural part of the state at the far end of a series of gravel roads, offering up wide vistas that are often filled with migratory birds. The Riverwalk Trail inside Sam Houston Jones State Park is the best example of a forested trail that meanders along rivers and wetlands accessible from a park environment. And while the wilderness area in the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge may take some extra work to reach, the trails reward hikers with a truly wild and solitary experience.
Fishing figures prominently into the history of the people and cultures who have inhabited the Southern Louisiana landscape. While fishers can take to the waters in nearly any park and wild area in the region, a few stand out as offering a more isolated experience. Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge and Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge both offer waterways in the center of large tracts of protected lands that are rich with birds and wildlife. These are just two areas along southwestern Louisiana's Creole Nature Trail, a designated scenic All-American auto route that offers other fishing spots as well. Grand Isle State Park on the state's southeastern Gulf Coast area has areas for crabbing as well as a pier for casting lines into the sea!
And finally, while the state's largest urban areas are set in its Southern region, some of its most idyllic and wild areas are as well. For those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of New Orleans, the 31-mile Tammany Trace paved trail is a short drive away, and it runs from towns and breweries deeper into the forested lakeshore and along the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. If you are looking to really get away and head deep into the backcountry, the Atchafalaya River Basin encompasses over a million and a half acres of space that is most unreachable by roads or trails. Boats offer the best access to its deepest reaches, and an Atchafalaya Swamp Boat Tour provides the chance to personalize your trip into the "Grand Canyon of the South."
With year-round hunting, fishing, and countless other opportunities for outdoor recreation, it is easy to see why Louisiana's nickname is "Sportsman's Paradise.” Sure, that’s a lot to live up to. But with thousands of hiking and biking trails, beautiful State Parks, and one of the largest game preserves in the United States, Louisiana is the ultimate playground for all outdoorsmen. Our vast expanse of coastal wetlands and countless birding trails make our state a habitat for many rare and endangered species and a natural paradise for bird watchers as well. Come step into the wild outdoors of Louisiana.