Nestled within the Kisatchie National Forest in central Louisiana, the Longleaf Trail Byway covers some of the most varied terrain in the state. Elevations range from 80 feet to 400 feet above sea level, and the topography is rugged by Louisiana standards. The byway runs entirely along Forest Road 59 with Highway 117 on the west and Highway 119 on the east. The only stops are the Kisatchie Ranger Station on the west end and the Longleaf Vista Recreation Area, just four miles west of Hwy 119, on the east. Along the byway there are scenic outlooks, campgrounds, and picnic areas where views of mesas, buttes, sandstone outcrops, and of course, longleaf pines abound. Hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfast inns, restaurants and shops are available in the towns of Natchitoches and Alexandria, each about 30 to 45 minutes away from the forest.
The federal government began acquiring the land that eventually became Kisatchie National Forest in 1911, when much of the area had been clear-cut by the timber industry. Now, the 600,000-acre national forest – portions of which lie in several different areas of the state – enjoys protective management. National Longleaf Pines, known as “super” trees, grow in this forest. Genetically designed to enable foresters to harvest more lumber on less land, only one in 350,000 trees earns this designation. White beech and evergreen Southern magnolias line the banks of the Kistache Bayou.
This scenic overlook is surrounded on three sides by the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness Area, known locally as “Little Grand Canyon.” A 1.5-mile interpretive loop is one of the most beautiful and varied hiking trails in the state, winding through meadows and stands of bottomland hardwoods to high mesas and creeks. Some lucky visitors have spotted small fossils or petrified wood here.
The forest provides a habitat for deer, armadillo, wild turkeys, raccoons and many other critters. Birds and waterfowl of many kinds thrive here and provide endless opportunities for bird watching. Some pine trees that have acquired red-heart decay are a preferred nesting ground for the endangered bird, red-cockaded woodpeckers.
The Caroline Dormon Hiking and Horse Trail is a tribute to the woman who helped secure the legislation to establish the Kisatchie National Forest, this 10.5 mile trail leads to Kisatchie Bayou Camp.
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USDA Forest Service