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J Smilanic | 04.02.2018

Some of Louisiana's biggest outdoor attractions are found in Central Louisiana. Both Kisatchie National Forest and Chicot State Park are within a 50-mile radius of Alexandria, the proverbial center of Louisiana. Expanding that same radius to 100 miles will also include South Toledo Bend State Park and Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge, both of which are excellent fishing destinations.


You could easily spend a three-day weekend enjoying all of the activities at Chicot State Park, which is located between Alexandria and Lafayette. Lake Chicot, the main attraction of the park, is an excellent place for paddlers to get out and enjoy some time on the water. The forested lake keeps the winds minimal and slows down motorized boats, keeping them from creating large wakes. Hop on the Lake Chicot Water Trail for 8 miles of iconic Louisiana cypress tree habitats. One of our other top choices for paddling in Central Louisiana would be Lake Bruin State Park, which is home to Lake Bruin Water Trail. Here you can weave your way through the cypress trees that line the shores of Lake Bruin.


Nestled within Chicot State Park is the Louisiana State Arboretum, which hosts several scenic hiking trails and a very informative visitor center. If you’re looking for a longer trek than what’s offered at the state arboretum, you only need to drive less than a mile to access the Chicot State Park Trail, which is 19 miles long. Those who like some steep hills on their hikes should check out Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area Trails located in St. Francisville.


Looking to do some backpacking in Louisiana? The Caroline Dormon Trail in Kisatchie might be your answer. The trail stretches 10.5 miles through the longleaf pine forest that largely makes up the national forest. Connect the Caroline Dormon Trail with the nearby Backbone Trail and/or Sandstone Trail to make your backpacking adventure a multi-day experience. Alternatively, you could do the 19-mile Chicot State Park Trail loop that wraps around Lake Chicot. This 19-mile loop has six primitive campsites that all sit at the water’s edge.


One of the best state parks for camping in Louisiana is the South Toledo Bend State Park Campground. Whether you’re RV camping or tent camping, this state park is covered with beautiful forests that grow all the way to the edges of the bluffs that overlook Toledo Bend Reservoir. Chicot State Park Campground also has some scenic camping with two campgrounds as well as backcountry primitive campsites for backpackers. Primitive campers who like camping in remote locations might consider camping at Kisatchie Bayou Campground in Kisatchie National Forest. The remote nature of Kisatchie Bayou makes for some great stargazing.


Toledo Bend reservoir in South Toledo Bend State Park is also one of the best places to fish for bass in the country! The reservoir is a nationally-recognized destination for bass fishing tournaments. Be sure to stop by the gorgeous visitor center while visiting South Toledo Bend State Park. Both excellent fishing and bird watching can be experienced at Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge, which is about an hour and half northeast of Alexandria. Central Louisiana has a lot to offer for outdoor enthusiasts!


Don't forget the Wild Azalea Trail, a 32 mile trail through Kisatchie National Forest just west of Alexandria, which can be broken into segments for day hikes or a weekend backpacking trip.
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