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J Smilanic | 04.09.2018

Northern Louisiana has something to offer outdoor enthusiasts of all types. There are endless waterways to paddle, dense forests to explore, and rolling hills to mountain bike. You could easily spend weeks or even months exploring northern Louisiana, but most people don’t have that much time, so we’ve put together a three-day guide to exploring the north part of the state. This guide will introduce you to some scenic state parks and natural waterways.

Day 1

Working your way from northeast Louisiana to northwest Louisiana, we recommend starting with Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge consists of 80,000 acres of forests and swamps, offering many opportunities to spot some of the abundant wildlife that call this park home. There are short hiking trails found near the visitor center. Alternately, if you start your day early enough, you can float down part of the Tensas River on a paddle boat. Call the visitor center to arrange a shuttle. Save a little bit of daylight and head north from Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge to Poverty Point Reservoir State Park, just a 30-minute drive from the refuge.

Go ahead and pitch your tent or pull your RV into one of the many charming campsites found at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park Campground. Once home base is established, get out and explore the park a little. There are a couple of hiking trails found on the edge of the campground that begin right near the bathhouse. Hard Bottom Trail will take you down by Bayou Macon, which is home to some wildlife that includes alligators. Alternatively, you could walk to the reservoir from your campsite and throw a fishing line in the lake.

Day 2

Heading out of Poverty Point State Park early the next morning, head west toward Monroe to Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is enjoyed by wildlife viewers, fishermen, and paddlers for its rich wetlands and surrounding forests. Hop on the Black Bayou Lake Canoe Trail for beautiful views of a flooded cypress tree forest.

From Black Bayou Lake, head north toward Bastrop and make your way to Chemin-A-Haut State Park. After setting up camp at Chemin-A-Haut State Park Campground and maybe grilling an early dinner at your campsite, take a hike on one of the three hiking trails found in the state park to walk off those hotdogs you just ate. This state park is incredibly peaceful.  

Day 3

While still at Chemin-A-Haut, you may want to check out the truly ancient old-growth trees found on Bayou Bartholomew, or Chemin-a-Haut Creek. This does require paddling upstream for 2 miles, but your efforts will be rewarded! These trees are a sight to behold. Once you've finished at  Chemin-A-Haut, start traveling west again to Lake D’Arbonne State Park. This gorgeous state park has plenty of amenities such as a swimming pool and tennis courts, and it also offers outdoor activities such as mountain biking and great fishing opportunities. Set up camp at Lake D’Arbonne State Park Campground and start exploring!

If you have more than three days to spare, check out Saline Bayou outside of Shreveport after you’ve finished at Lake D’Arbonne, or check out our Adventurer’s Guide to Central Louisiana.

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