Frenchtown Road Conservation Area. Photo by Jordan Hefler.

Experience: Take a Hike

This story was originally published in the September 2020 issue of inRegister.

Frenchtown Road Conservation Area

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world,” wrote John Muir more than a century ago. Though the naturalist could never have predicted the pains of 2020, his words are a balm to those looking for an escape from the current barrage of bad news. As we welcome fall this month, what better way to lift our spirits than to transport ourselves into an outdoor paradise right beyond our doors? Start at Frenchtown in Central (pictured above), where BREC offers more than 3 miles of trails through bottomland hardwood forests and bamboo groves and along the Amite River inside its largest park. Birders should keep an eye out for the yellow and grey prothonotary warblers that nest in the cypress and tupelo trees within the swamps.

Black Swamp Trail

This short but picturesque path is part of a 3-mile network of trails at LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens. Tucked into an oasis beside I-10, this shaded route is packed with points of interest, including helpful (and kid-friendly) signs about the wildlife and plants that have inhabited this spot since long before visitors ever trod here. At the end of the trail is a boardwalk loop that takes hikers over a tupelo swamp. Before you head home, venture a little farther into the property to see the rose garden, a children’s garden, and an Insta-worthy sunflower field now in bloom.

Port Hudson State Historic Site

Get your steps with a side of American history at this Civil War battlefield in Jackson that was the site of a 48-day-long siege in 1863 and later a recruiting center for African American troops. Six miles of hilly trails weave past earthworks once used to shelter soldiers during the fighting, and visitors get a sense of the story by hiking through areas with names like “Artillery Ridge” and “Fort Desperate.”

Clark Creek Natural Area

You’ll be crossing the state line, but it’s worth the hour-long drive up U.S. Highway 61 from Baton Rouge to get to one of this area’s most memorable hiking destinations. Dozens of waterfalls up to 30 feet in height provide much-appreciated cooling-off spots along the steeply sloping trails through hardwood and pine forests. Stop off at the 1881-built Pond Store just outside the park for refreshments after a hot and sweaty hike. Note: At press time, this park remained closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, so check the website before heading out to hike.