Kisatchie National Forest - Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail

From Interstate 49 take the Derry exit which is exit number 119. Take Louisiana Hwy 119 5.5 miles south to Forest Highway 59 (Longleaf Scenic Byway). Turn right (west) on FH 59 and travel 3 miles to the sign location. From the parking lot, follow the paved path to the gazebo on the point and the trail begins down the steps to the right. The loop ends up the steps near the restroom by the parking lot.

The sprawling Kisatchie Ranger District encompasses breathtaking vistas encountered nowhere else in Louisiana. Its Longleaf Vista Recreation Area is home to the 1.5-mile Longleaf Vista Interpretive Trail, which loops through various habitat types, from longleaf pine/mixed pine-hardwood forests to meadows, to bottomland hardwoods, to high rocky mesas, to creek bottoms. 

The trail begins from the parking area as a stone path before changing to asphalt for the entire walk. Throughout the month of March, blooms of Carolina jessamine and wild azaleas festoon the edges of the trail. Expected mixed forest bird species include Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-shouldered Hawk, several woodpeckers, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, and Pine Warbler. A small creek runs close to the trail, crossing it several times. Look for water lovers here, including Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron, and Great Egret. 

The trail traverses longleaf pine stands harboring Red-cockaded Woodpecker colonies. Other birds to look for in the area include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, and Bachman's (spring) and Henslow's (winter) Sparrows. A heavy thicket of saplings, yaupon holly, and sweetleaf dominates the understory for much of the trail. That makes it a haven for White-eyed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orange-crowned Warbler, and other thicket-dwelling species. 

Amenities at this particular recreation area are limited to parking, directional/interpretive signage, restrooms, and the trail itself. Camping and off-road vehicles are not allowed. Many areas along the trail and steep and rocky and not handicapped accessible. However, this area is located within the national forest with RV hookups, hiking, biking, botanic, equestrian, and other birding trails, along with two fishing areas and four picnic areas.