Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
20.00 ft (6.10 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
3.60 mi (5.79 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge offers surprisingly few ways to explore on foot in a wildlife refuge of this size, with the best options for exploration limited to boat. However, the Indian Bayou area stretching just a few miles north of the refuge welcome center has the highest density of hiking options in the 15,000-acre basin.

The Indian Bayou Loop Trail, at 3.6 miles, traces a loop around a length of Indian Bayou, accessing the forested interior and hardwood stillwater of Indian Bayou.

The trail begins at an easy-to-miss wooden footbridge set on the south side of the entrance driveway to the parking area, opposite an informational kiosk. From here the hike follows a service road, a flat wide leafy track, along the edge of the bayou as it reaches back into the interior of the basin. Box elder, green ash, sweetgum and cottonwood trees line the still water, and cypress trees rise from its edges. Insect sounds waft through the air, and it becomes clear how abundantly still the deep interior of the basin is. 

At 2 miles in, the trail intersects with another service road that makes up the White Shell Trail. To complete the loop, turn right and walk over the bayou where it flows through a wide pipe, then make another right and begin paralleling the north bank of the bayou back toward the parking area. 

Trails aren't marked, and the signs of improvements, or even past human influence for that matter, seem to get smaller the further from the already-primitive trailhead that you venture. It becomes clear that the Indian Bayou Trail sums up the feel of the Atchafalaya Wildlife Refuge as a whole: vast, teeming with wildlife, and mostly undisturbed.

Upon hitting another unmarked road, make a right turn to follow an ATV track as it heads back toward the parking area.

Aside from a vault toilet and benches, there are no amenities at the trailhead. Because the trail is low-lying and flat, large areas of it may be muddy following wet weather. The area is also a popular hunting area. Be cautious and prepared if visiting the area during hunting season.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Great access to Atchafalaya area. Wildlife viewing opportunities.

Cons

Can be muddy.

Trailhead Elevation

16.00 ft (4.88 m)

Highest point

19.00 ft (5.79 m)

Net Elevation Gain

3.00 ft (0.91 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Bird watching
Wildlife

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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