By Chase Berenson
As carnival season is picking up steam, sometimes it’s nice to escape the stress and commotion of family gatherings.
If you don’t have the time to get out of Baton Rouge, you can still get outside to unwind at the LSU Hilltop Arboretum. While you won’t find any hardcore adventures or intense hiking, the natural space is a great reminder of how beneficial getting outdoors can be.
The Arboretum is pretty small (total size of 14 acres) and the trails are short (total length of 0.26 miles), but it is definitely worth checking out. It’s also a good idea to revisit the Arboretum if you haven’t been within the past couple months; every season brings new and different blooming plants, so the scenery changes throughout the year.
The Arboretum has three main sections to explore.
The first area that you encounter (unsurprisingly) is a wooded area. Among the variety of trees are stately live oaks with giant trunks, sugar maples, and canes. In addition to looking up at the treetops from the trail, you can also get a peek at foliage from above when crossing bridges over natural ravines. For the nature nerds in us, the trees are all labeled with name and species.
The second area is the Pondwalk, where a short path loops around a pond next to the conference center. The last time I was exploring the Arboretum an egret was also checking out the pond, and he and I managed to share a few quiet moments of contemplation before he took off and skimmed above the surface of the water.
The third and final area is the meadow, which as you can imagine is a large grassy area with great, old shade trees spread about. Unlike the previous sections of the Arboretum where visitors are limited to the trail, you can wander around the meadow and find your own special place. There are benches under the trees in the meadow, so once the semester starts up again and the temperatures warm back up a bit this would be a great place to come out with some books to get your reading done in a natural environment.
The Arboretum is located on Highland Road between Bluebonnet and Siegen; to get there from campus, head south on Highland for about six miles and it will be on the left. Though off campus the Arboretum is overseen by the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, and the recently completed visitor center is the first LSU building to be LEED-certified. The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset, while the visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.