New Orleans is a beautiful city bubbling with unique opportunities and places to explore, but recently I’ve been missing something I too-often forget to treasure when I am at home in California: nature. While there is greenery all over Tulane’s campus and throughout the city, and Audubon is lovely for a stroll on a nice day, life as a Tulane student doesn’t consist of much time in the wilderness, away from the distractions of city life. However, by widening your horizons of areas to visit in Louisiana, you’ll find there are plenty of places to hike, camp, and enjoy nature not too far away.
Tulane’s new Lagniappe Days scattered throughout the semester offer the perfect opportunity to venture outside of New Orleans for fun day trips. While the beach is many people’s go-to when we have a day off, mixing it up with a relaxing day in unadulterated nature may be just what you need during these stressful times. Recently, a three-day weekend saw many Tulane students taking the chance to either go home or away for a weekend trip. I was no different, and I wound up spending a few nights in Tickfaw, Louisiana. Only a scenic hour away, Tickfaw State Park has campgrounds, cabins-for-rent, hiking, fishing, canoeing, campfires, and even alligators. It was unexpectedly exactly what I needed, and it stirred up nostalgia for being in nature, away from obvious signs of civilization, and at times, people. Ultimately, one weekend was not enough and I returned to campus with the urge and inspiration to see what else I’m missing. I quickly discovered that there are plenty of opportunities to hike nearby that might fulfill one’s desire to enjoy the great outdoors in a way that an afternoon at the Fly doesn’t quite achieve.
Some of these locations are much closer than you may expect. For example, the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center in New Orleans East has plenty of walking trails, including boardwalks that overlook lush green wildlife. If you have a morning during the week when you are free of class, you can head over and enjoy a variety of trails between 9AM to 1:30 PM from Monday to Thursday. These trails are open to the public and are the perfect way to kick off the day without being cooped up in your dorm or apartment.
Outside New Orleans, there are even more ways to experience Louisiana’s wildlife. The Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and the Barataria Preserves Trail are a part of Louisiana’s wetlands, including habitats like marshes, swamps, and bayous, and possibilities to see animals like snakes, turtles, birds, and alligators. Brechtel Park, situated on the west bank, also offers a variety of hiking paths and fishing spots, costing just $1-2 for entrance. Whether you wish to stay overnight in one of their cabins or spend the day exploring both trails and a small beach, Fontainebleau State Park is the perfect place to experience a little bit of everything.
If you’re looking for something on the more intermediate side, check out the trails at Bogue Chitto State Park which offer a little more elevation and longer distance than some of the other hikes. On the other hand, if you are interested in experiencing historic hikes, trails at the Woodlands Conservancy Park might be more up your alley. Regardless of what your interests are concerning time outdoors –nature, exercise, animals, wildlife, or history– there is an abundance of opportunities to experience new aspects of Louisiana not far from campus. After a year of being inside a lot more than we’d like, many of us are exhausted and yearning for a relaxing breath of fresh air. Take this as a sign to step outside and enjoy the spring weather before the semester ends!
Feature Image Credit: Renee Bunszel