7 tranquil nature trails to explore outdoors while social distancing

Spring is here, which makes it the perfect time to stretch your legs outdoors.

In fact, many people continue to turn outdoors for recreation and escape, as we’ve seen all during the pandemic.

Maybe instead of heading to the popular park areas, you can look for an outdoor experience that is more off-the-beaten-path.

Here’s a list of some nearby tranquil nature trails to enjoy while social distancing, along with maps.

Northlake Nature Center

Just across the Causeway in Mandeville, nature lovers can explore walking paths at the Northlake Nature Center. Walking trails wind from a cypress swamp and through a piney, forested wetland.

The site features trails offering scenic spots near Bayou Castine.

Photo courtesy: Louisiana Northshore

You’ll find three trails on the property — Edge Trail Loop, South Loop and North Loop, with distances ranging from less than one mile to nearly two miles.

Source: Northlake Nature Center

The center, on U.S. 190 across from Fontainebleau State Park, is open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset at no cost to visitors. Wildlife lovers will spot egrets, herons, turtles and the occasional alligator.


The Couterie Forest

This hidden gem in New Orleans City Park, is the perfect place to escape without even leaving the city. At Couturie Forest, nature lovers can spot a dozen native trees and bird watch along the beautiful trail.

City Park even released this video below to help you explore the area.

Next time you visit City Park for passive recreation, you can take a trip down this one mile trail off-the-beaten-path. Enter Couturie Forest at 1035 Harrison Avenue.


Scout Island

These days, Scout Island is more commonly known for outdoor haunts during Halloween when it transitions to Scout Island Scream Park.

However, during the off-season, you can wander along the Scout Island Trail inside New Orleans City Park.

Photo courtesy: New Orleans City Park

Combined with Couterie Forest, the area covers 60 acres filled with trees, scenic waterways and wildlife right in New Orleans.

The site was once a prime location for many Boy Scout and Girl Scout camping activities. The Scout Island trail distance is less than a mile.

Scout Island is further along Harrison Avenue toward Marconi Drive.


Bottomland Trail

You’ll find this hidden gem in Belle Chasse at the Woodlands Conservancy. The Bottomland Trail is a set of parallel trails — one hiking and one equestrian, approximately 6 miles in length. A trek through the winding trail almost feels like a walk through Jurassic Park, without the dinosaurs.

Nature lovers and history buffs can explore the scenic trail with informative kiosks along the routes.

Photo courtesy: Woodlands Conservancy via Facebook

Hikers who stroll along the Bottomland Trail will stumble upon an unexpected piece of history at the end — a grouping of 10 ammunition magazines used during World War II.

If you’re looking to walk a shorter distance, the property also features a 1.1 mile loop hiking trail — the Upland Trail.

Source: Woodlands Conservancy

The Woodlands is located at 449 F. Edward Hebert Boulevard in Belle Chasse, La. The trails are free and open to the public daily from dawn to dusk.


Wetland Trace Nature Boardwalk

In Jefferson Parish, the Wetland Trace Nature Boardwalk loops through the hidden wetlands of Jean Lafitte. Enjoy the beautiful scenery, and you might even spot a gator.

Photo courtesy: Visit Jefferson Parish

Stroll along the a one-mile, raised boardwalk that covers 41 acres of scenic swamps. The many trails include covered pavilions, scenic overlooks and benches. It is a popular place to see various wetland wildlife like alligators, turtles and herons as well as marsh plants like lilies and orchids.

Wetland Trace Boardwalk, is located at 4917 City Park Drive, Lafitte, LA 70067, right behind the Lafitte Barataria Museum.


Bayou Sauvage Ridge Trail

Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge offers an opportunity to connect with nature and experience wildlife habitats, while staying close to New Orleans.

Get your nature fix with a trek along the Bayou Sauvage Ridge Trail. Hikers can take the full trek, which is nearly seven miles, or opt for the boardwalk trail, which is closer to a mile.

During your adventure, you can see views of bottomland hardwood forest and marsh habitats.

Not to mention, you can also spot all the wildlife in the area. There are opportunities for bird watching, and you might even spot an alligator.

You can also take a virtual tour along the loop trail and interpretative boardwalk along the Ridge Trail here.

Source: Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge

To access the trail coming from the New Orleans area, take I-10 east to exit #246A (Chalmette, I-510); go about 2 miles south on I-510 to Highway 90 East exit; turn left onto Hwy 90, and go approximately 4 miles to reach the Ridge Trail access on the left.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Louisiana National Widlife Refuges’ main headquarters and visitor center is located at 61389 Hwy 434 in Lacombe.


The Mandeville Lakefront

While this isn’t quite a nature trail, you can take a peaceful stroll down the Mandeville Lakefront. It’s a great spot to take a deep breath and escape.

The paved path is a popular spot for locals to walk their dogs, jog, bike or stroll. The views of Lake Pontchartrain are mesmerizing, and images of the sunset over the water make for a picture-perfect evening.

Just imagine the vast view of the tranquil water and the giant oaks along the pathway while you stroll along.

The scene from this historic town on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain offers a relaxing view to end your day. Check it out close to sunset when the last traces of sunlight peak through clouds over the horizon.


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