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The Three Best Nature Hikes A Short Drive From New Orleans

1. Big Branch Marsh NWR

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“A beautiful Louisiana Sunset reflects golden light on the Big Branch Marsh NWR a short drive from New Orleans”

If you are visiting the Big Easy and want to get off the beaten path, try one of our daily kayak swamp tours of the historic Manchac Swamp. If you want to take it a step further and explore some interesting and scenic hikes on your own, below we share a couple of Wild Louisiana Tours’ favorite hiking spots near New Orleans. While the wet and soggy bayou state is not known for its elevated terrain, there are numerous trails to explore when you visit. One of my favorite trail complexes to recommend to guests that have already been on a swamp tour is The Big Branch Marsh NWR. A short 30-45min drive across Lake Ponchartrain will put you in one of Louisiana’s most unique habitats. The pine savannas and grassy prairies you will find at Big Branch Marsh have numerous wildlife and scenery to observe. These habitats will remind you of Florida with their pine trees, bogs, and open prairie ecosystems. Being that the north shore of the Lake is above sea level, these hikes are one of the few places around New Orleans that it is dry enough to hike on trails and not on a boardwalk.

2. Bayou Sauvage NWR

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“A tri-colored heron also known as “the Louisiana heron” at Bayou Sauvage NWR

Hands down the best birding spot you can drive to in under an hour from downtown New Orleans is the Bayou Sauvage NWR. This wildlife refuge is located on a critical piece of marshland that separates Lake Ponchartrain from Lake Catherine and acts as a fly over for birds crossing the two lakes. This area is a classic marshy grassland that serves as nesting territory for black-necked stilts, black skimmers, and many other shorebirds and wading birds. The NWR has two different board walks and a few more overlooks that give you open views over the marsh and into the bird’s habitat. To get to Bayou Sauvage take Interstate 10 east and get off on the Chef Menteur Hwy exit. Follow “the chef” until you pass the Vietnamese community right on the other side of Interstate 310. Once you pass this community the road will become rural and you will see the marshland open on both sides of the highway. Before you know it you will see the signs for the refuge. On your way back from exploring and birding on the trails of the refuge stop at Dong Phuong restaurant and bakery for the best traditional Vietnamese food in the entire metro New Orleans area.

3. Jean Lafitte National Park

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“An alligator cools off in the mud at Jean Lafitte national Park”

Probably the most well known hike near New Orleans is the Jean Lafitte National Park. At Louisiana’s only national park you will find a complex of boardwalks and trails through beautiful bottomland hardwood swamps. Jean Lafitte has the classic swamp habitat that you will see on a kayak tour with us. Only 30 minutes from New Orleans, this is an easy day trip to make and a lot of our guests will actually do our tour and then go check out the Jean Lafitte boardwalks after. Another nice perk of this park is the national park service information kiosks along the trails and in the visitor center. If you take a kayak tour with us and then go hike the trails of the Jean Lafitte National Park you will have a really in depth and well rounded take on the swamp ecosystems of South Louisiana. We hope you enjoy the outdoor activities that New Orleans has to offer and maybe join us on one of our daily kayak swamp tours as well!