Longleaf Trail Scenic Byway
Kisatchie National Forest
|Mileage||16 miles (27 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||42 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||Spring, Fall, and Winter|
|Roadways||Forest Road 59|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, pharmacies, etc.||Derry, LA▼|
3.2 average from 23 votes
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Traveling through the rugged terrain on Longleaf Trail Scenic Byway is very different from what you might expect in Louisiana. This 17-mile drive winds through the Kisatchie National Forest, revealing a diverse landscape as it leaves the flat agricultural fields and lowland forest, then heading to pine uplands. Along the way, there are many turn outs to take in expansive views of hills, buttes and steep rocky bluffs. The byway was originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a single-lane road in 1935.
The Kisatchie National Forest is comprised of more than 604,000 acres spread across seven parishes Louisiana, and is divided into five Ranger Districts. The Longleaf Byway falls within the Kisatchie Ranger District.
To get to the byway, take 1-49 to the Derry exit, then head south on LA-119 to FSR-59 (Longleaf Scenic Byway).
Stop at the Longleaf Visitor Center (I1) for detailed hiking information, and to learn about this unique terrain, a sandstone bed known as the Cathoula Formation. Nearby is the 1.5-mile Longleaf Vista Nature Trail — don’t miss the spur trails that lead to beautiful sandstone bluffs and 360 degree views.
The forest offers many modes of outdoor recreation, making this a prime destination for equestrian trail riders and off-roaders. About 1 mile west of Longleaf Vista is the 10.5-mile Caroline Dormon Hiking and Horse Trail which meanders through beautiful wooded trails, over creeks, to high ridges. Caroline Dormon was the first woman employed by the U.S. forestry industry and was instrumental in persuading state leaders and the U.S. Forest Service to establish the Kisatchie National Forest. Or hike the 7.6-mile (one way) Back Bone Trail which leads to lavish views of rocky bluffs, outcrops and mesas, the reason why this area is known as the “Little Grand Canyon”. It also intersects with other trails.
There are six campgrounds with varying services off the byway. Though campgrounds are open to all, each one has a focus. Coyote is primitive, a designated hunter’s camp and close to OHV trails; Oak is primitive, a designated hunter’s camp and suitable for horses; Lotus is developed, offering easy access to OHV trails and can accommodate RVs and trailers; Cane is developed and suitable for horses, and finally, Dogwood is developed and can accommodate RVs and trailers.
The byway skirts the Kisatchie Wilderness before heading into the Red Dirt National Wildlife Management Preserve. Thrill seekers will love the 36-mile Sandstone Multi-Use Trail, designed for OHV’s, ATV’s, motorcycles, mountain bikes, horseback riding and hiking. Wildlife abounds. Birders flock here to observe the federally-endangered red-cockaded woodpecker which require pine trees at least 60-years old, and over 100 species of birds that call the forest home throughout the year. Be on the lookout for wild turkey, otters, salamanders, turtles, snakes (some poisonous), coyotes, bobcat and whitetail deer. Take note that seasonal hunting is permitted, and wearing bright colors is recommended.
Consider a detour from the byway to access the Kisatchie Bayou Recreation Area (H2). Here, you’ll find white sand shoreline, swimming, fishing, and Class II rapids (especially after a frequent rainy period) for kayaking and canoes. There is primitive camping here and no drinking water available. Get there by turning right (south) on FR-321 and then right (west) on FR-366 until the end of the road.
The drive officially ends at the intersection of LA-117 which you can take north to Natchitoches or south to Leesville.