By Penny Fox
Along with its swamps and tall cypress trees, Louisiana is home to some truly breathtaking fall foliage. The variety and intensity of color found surrounding some of the excellent hiking trails in the state are awe-inspiring. Each location has a special history. Here are our favorites.
If you want to see Louisiana at its best in the fall, walk the Caroline Dorman Trail. Part of the Kisatchie National Forest, this trail is over 10 miles of horseback, hiking, or biking. Named after avid Louisiana botanist, artist, author, and conservationist, and the first woman to be hired by the U.S. Forest Department, this beautiful and scenic nature trail isn’t far from Briarwood, Caroline Dorman’s home. Nestled in the northeast part of Natchitoches Parish, the trail and Briarwood are open to the public and represent preserved ecosystems and wildflowers that grow the state.
Black Bayou Lake is a 1,700-acre lake with nature trails, boardwalks, a pier and observation deck, and nature center, and is one of five wildlife refuges in the state. The swamps that surround the refuge and beautiful cypress and tupelo trees dominate the area and are at their peak in the fall months. Oak, elm, ash, and hickory present brilliant colors, and the refuge is home to alligators, ducks, tree frogs, snakes, herons, and song birds. This is a great place to hike, kayak, or canoe, and you’ll be treated to stunning scenery and plenty of opportunities for great photos.
R.W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, Louisiana, may not sound like the typical place to observe fall foliage, but in addition to the American and European artwork and collection of rare books, it is home to lush gardens and azaleas. Often called “the royalty of the garden,” there are over 15,000 plants that include 100 varieties for your viewing pleasure. There is over 40 acres of magnificently maintained landscape that comes alive with color during all four seasons of the year. This is definitely one of the area’s best kept secrets, and well worth visiting.
Because Louisiana has a number of resources, including flora and fauna specific to the Mississippi River Delta region of the United States, there are several preserves established to protect and maintain the species and cultural history of the area. The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park is such a place. Visitors can enjoy the trails and canoe tours that meander through the hardwood forests, swamps, and marshes, observing alligators basking in the sun, pelicans diving for fish beneath the water, or attend special events that tell the story of the area.
Lake Claiborne near Homer, Louisiana, is a 6,400-acre recreational lake in the northwestern part of the state that features a beach area, nature trail, picnic area, and overnight camping. Opened in 1974, the park itself comprises about 643 acres, and is a great place to bring the family. Visitors can stay and play for the day, or spend the night at one of the 87 campsites in this well-maintained area. The area surrounding the lake is ablaze with color in the fall as the leaves of trees change, and there are plenty of opportunities for astounding pictures for the photography buff. There are clean restrooms and showers available, laundry facilities, and the site is handicap accessible.