By Chase Berenson
Baton Rouge has a nearby state park that features miles of trails, swampy lowlands, and hardwood forests. Tickfaw State Park, near Springfield, is home to a wide assortment of environments and proves that enjoyable hiking doesn’t require steep terrain or epic topography.
At the park gate the rangers distribute trail maps, which very clearly show Tickfaw’s four trails. The park’s trails vary in difficulty and feature something for everybody, ranging from half-mile boardwalk jaunts over the swamp to three-mile loops through the woods.
The first trail is the River Overlook that starts from the Nature Center just inside the park gates. The River Overlook is the half-mile boardwalk that leads you out over the swamp, and it even has a “shortcut” boardwalk cutting through the center of the loop for people who don’t want to tackle the full half-mile. The River Overlook is a great starting trail for people unsure of how much they want to commit to the park experience.
One of the unique things about Tickfaw is the number of easy to follow and well-maintained trails that don’t even show up on the park map. A visitor could drive around the park and leave the car at each one of the trailheads for a hike. On the other hand, you could just leave their car at the Nature Center parking lot and hike the Hurricane Cut-Through trail, which is a trail that leads hikers to the next trail head.
And surprisingly, off the Hurricane Cut-Through is yet another trail labeled Soggy Bottom, a single track through the lowlands where hikers follow blazes marked on trees. Soggy Bottom loops hikers around and back to Hurricane Cut-Through, which then deposits hikers at the Gum Cypress Trail, and before you know it you’ve discovered awesome new trails and made it around to the main trailheads without driving at all.
Past the Gum Cypress trail is the Pine Hardwood Trail and then finally the River Trail, which is the biggest trail of the park. The River Trail is a three-mile loop along the Tickfaw River. When water is running high the trail can be impassible, but after a bit of a dry spell this trail is great for more adventurous hikers.
Though we are not the target audience for this feature, Tickfaw also sports a “water playground” to help cool off. There is no maximum age for the playground, but the rules do clearly state that entry requires “proper swimming attire”. It seems like a great idea to hike with your bathing suit or even hike wearing your board shorts, because after a few miles of trails the water playground is a great way to cool off.
When you finally make it back from the last trail and have found your car in the Nature Center parking lot, it is a great time to go inside and check out the Nature Center itself. Not only could you learn a little something about the area you just hiked though, but also after miles on the trails you’ve certainly earned that air conditioning!