By Chase Berenson
Trapped in an office or classroom all week? Take your weekend adventure outside and explore the great outdoors at these five locales for a change of pace located in and around the capital city.
Highland Road Community Park
BREC’s Highland Road Community Park has a wealth of resources for various methods of outdoor recreation, including tennis courts, baseball fields, and even archery. The park also features a disc golf course, and by following the course, a runner could complete a good 5K run with some hills thrown in for good measure!
The hidden gem of the park, however, is the wooded trail behind the archery range. The trail leads off into the woods alongside Fountain Bayou, and provides a short but genuine hiking experience without leaving the city!
Clark Creek Natural Area
In the heat of summer, one of the only ways to cool down is to get in the water. If the apartment complex’s pool is too crowded, or if you want to feel like you’ve earned your relaxation, Mississippi’s Clark Creek Natural Area is the perfect solution.
Clark Creek has miles of hiking trails, but the area is primarily known for its waterfalls! Heading north from the city it doesn’t take long to get into the Tunica Hills.
The Tunica Hill region not only provides a bit of elevation for your hike, but also allows Clark Creek to descend in some spectacular fashions. While some of the waterfalls are small tumbles, others have significant drops.
The main trail is mostly woven together with the creek, providing ample opportunity to cool off, dip your toes in the water, or just stand directly under a waterfall and get drenched in the refreshing stream!
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Barataria Preserve
People don’t often think of the New Orleans area as being particularly natural or scenic, so it can be a bit of a surprise that one of Louisiana’s five national parks is located only twenty minutes south of the city.
The next time some out-of-state-visitors want to drag you to Bourbon Street, drive a little farther and show them what the real Louisiana is like.
The park’s Barataria Preserve features miles of boardwalks through the swamps, leading along abandoned canals, and reaching all the way out to Barataria Bay. The swamps are absolutely beautiful, and the low boardwalks (without railings) make the alligator sightings even more thrilling.
Without access to a boat and an encyclopedic knowledge of the Louisiana backcountry, it would be extremely difficult to ever experience an area like this outside of the park.
Whether you’re trying to learn more about the environment or whether you’re just looking to impress others with your local knowledge, the visitor’s center is very well curated and the trails have educational signs describing the sights you’re passing.
Port Hudson State Historic Site
If you’d feel guilty skipping out on your homework to spend some time in nature, maybe you should visit a state park that both features hiking trails and is educational.
The Port Hudson State Historic Site, located in Jackson, was the site of the longest true siege ever carried out in American warfare. Port Hudson is full of Civil War history, and also has six miles of hiking trails to follow in the footsteps of the Union and Confederate soldiers who were stationed here.
Situated on the first bluff over the Mississippi River, the trails have a bit of elevation to them, and the hills can be a welcome distraction after some time in our relatively flat city. The site also features a nice museum telling the history of the siege and the battle.
It’s hard to decide whether to check out the museum first so you can better understand what you’re seeing on the hike, or check out the museum after you’re done so you can bask in the air conditioning after a sweaty day on the trails!
Who doesn’t love camping on the beach? It’s a little-known fact that Louisiana possesses Gulf Coast beaches that are open to the public that can be utilized for driving and camping.
Instead of heading southeast towards Grand Isle, set out southwest to Cameron Parish in the far bottom corner of the state. There are eight beaches in Cameron Parish, with Holly Beach being the most popular.
Even so, Holly Beach isn’t anything like the beaches of Biloxi or Pensacola! Holly Beach has dark sand, and due to Gulf currents the beach is littered with shells, sea glass, and other oceanic treats.
Cameron Parish is blessed to have no large developments, no resorts, no hotels, and no tacky beach bars. All you need to do is grab some friends, a tent, a camp stove, and a cooler, and you can have a weekend to yourselves on a natural, empty beach!