Kisatchie Loop (Alternate Route 2)
Kisatchie National Forest is just a short drive north from Alexandria, LA on I-49. Here you'll find rolling hills with dense stands of longleaf pine and arguably the best backpacking experience in Louisiana. With a couple of road walks, I was able to combine some of the trails in this area to form this loop.
I have separated this loop into several sections. You have a lot of options on how to hike this loop but for this guide, I followed a counterclockwise direction and completed the loop in 3 days.
Section 1 - Backbone / Sandstone Trail - 11 Miles
As you drive along the scenic Longleaf Vista Byway, you'll pass the Longleaf Recreation Area, and turn left at Mora Red Dirt Rd. The Caroline Dormon Trail parking lot is on your right. Park here and head across the Longleaf Vista Byway to reach the Backbone Trailhead to begin Section 1. Click Here To read my Trail Guide for the 7.5 mile Backbone Trail.
Once you have completed the Backbone Trail, walk through the gravel parking area and turn left on FR 339. Walk along the red dirt road for a short distance and turn right onto the Longleaf Vista Byway (Par 830). This begins a short 200-yard road walk to where the Sandstone Trail crosses this road. Turn right onto the Sandstone Trail and continue for the next 4 miles of this section. The trail can be a little muddy with some deep stands of water if it has rained recently. Remember, the Sandstone Trail is multi-use and is open to motorized vehicles from May 1st until December 31st.
The Sandstone Trail has green blazes
Once you reach FR 311, you can cross over to stay on the trail, or turn right and do a 1/4 mile road walk to Corral Camp. This is the end of Section 1. There are vault toilets and lots of places to camp but NO WATER. There is a use fee for camping here.
Length: 36.5 Miles
Entrance to Corral Camp from FR 311
Section 2 - Sandstone Trail - 15 Miles
Head out from Corral Camp, and the Sandstone Trail heads to the right. Shortly after starting the trail, come to a sign that points to the "cut across trail". This 5-mile shortcut will lead you through beautiful longleaf pine mixed with old-growth hardwood. The trail crosses Steep Hill Creek several times in the first few miles, so water should be plentiful year round. Around 3 miles into the trail, you cross FR 342 and there will be an established campsite with plenty of room for a large group.
The Cut Across trail is made up of jeep roads and ATV trail
The Cut Across trail is a little over 5 miles long and now links back up with the main Sandstone Trail. Head left towards the next established campground, Cane Camp. The trail begins to become a little more difficult, with a few decent climbs. The sand also gets deeper in some spots but is generally in good shape for a multiuse trail. Cane Camp is a great place to take a lunch, get water, and use the luxurious flush toilets. There is no direct access to the camp from the trail but I found several spur trails to it.
Sunset through the Yaupon
Head back out to the trail and cross over the Longleaf Vista Byway. There is a sign for Lotus Camp, another campground but I've never been to it. There is also a parking area a mile or so down the trail that is off of FR 396. This next section of trail is fairly easy and has some nice bridges over Steep Hill Creek and Jim Dowden Branch. Thank you to the trail maintainers that build bridges! The trail intersects FR 366 (Bayou Camp Rd) and you'll turn right to begin the mile-long road walk to Bayou Kisatchie Campground.
Great campsites at the campground
Section 3 - Caroline Dormon Trail - 10.5 Miles
Follow the trail through the campground and you will come to the beginning of the Caroline Dormon trail. This trail is 10.5 miles long and pretty much parallels the southern section of the Sandstone Trail. The trail follows along the bluffs above Bayou Kisatchie for a short while and you then into the rolling hills that this area is known for. If you want more details on this trail, Click Here to check out my Caroline Dormon Trail Guide.
Enjoying the sunrise and the interesting landscape of the Caroline Dormon trail. There are several gullies on the first half of the trail.