The Kisatchie National Forest in central Louisiana is the only national forest in the state. At just over 600,000 acres, this spacious wooded area is a natural playground for the wild critters as well as more than two million human visitors each year. President Herbert Hoover designated the forest in 1930 in an effort to preserve nature in the Natchitoches Parish. Some of the activities you can enjoy here include backpacking, OHV riding, horseback riding, cycling, hunting, and photography.
If you want to play in the water, there are several dozen lakes and more than 50 streams and ponds to splash around in. Some of the larger parks have beaches such as Beaver Dam, Kincaid Lake, and Valentine Lake. The forest boasts over 100 miles of trails for biking, hiking, and equestrian use. Most of the parks and campgrounds are open all year because it does not get very cold here, even in the winter. However, it has been known to drop below 50 in some areas so check the weather before heading out during the winter months.
Camping is fun all year long since it is typically warm and rarely ever snows. Fishing and picnicking or BBQing are popular no matter what month it is, and you can go boating all year long. There are 15 RV campgrounds in the Kisatchie National Forest with five to 40 campsites of varying sizes and amenities provided. We have highlighted our top three choices below.
Located in the center of the state, the Kisatchie National Forest has some awesome views along the drive so pack a camera in the RV. Take a trip along the 17-mile Longleaf Scenic Byway just below Natchitoches from Highway 117 to Highway 119. This trip takes you through the most amazing scenery in the forest and crosses the Kisatchie Bayou. You can see wildflowers, longleaf vistas, forests, rock formations, and plenty of wild critters.
Just 30 minutes from Alexandria, an hour from Natchitoches, or two hours from Shreveport, the forest is in the center of the state, so it is easy to get to no matter where you are coming from. You can get to it from Interstate 49 if you are coming from the south, west, or north, and you can take Interstate 55, 12, 10, or 20 if you are headed in from the east. Once you get closer into the forest, you will need to get on Highway 71, 165, or 167.
The roads are fairly well cared for but not as much as the city or county streets, so you should be prepared for rough roads. This is especially important if you are driving a big rig or trailer. Keep it slow and easy and be alert for wildlife on the road, especially at dawn and dusk. Once you are in your campsite, it is a good idea to walk or ride a bike to get places if you can because the campground roads are typically not easy to maneuver on.
Open all year long, the Beaver Dam Campground near Minden has 28 campsites in the Kisatchie National Forest. Each site has electric hookups, water hookups, a picnic table that seats eight, a fire ring with a grill for cooking, and a parking pad that can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 85 feet long. You can also find hot showers, modern flush restrooms with running water, a large playground for the kids, and an RV waste station.
Located on the banks of the 125-acre Caney Lake, there is a large sandy beach for swimming as well as a boat ramp for boating and skiing. Fishing is excellent with bass, bluegill, catfish, and crappie. If you want to take a walk, there are three trails on the grounds: the 5.7-acre Sugar Cane Trail, 2.1-mile Lost Man Loop, and the 1.7-mile Beach Bottom Loop. These are shared with mountain bikes so be alert. Make your reservations online well in advance to get a good spot. Pets are welcome as long as you supervise them and keep them restrained at all times during your stay.
Kincaid Campground close to Gardner has 40 campsites open all year long, but they are first-come, first-served, so you need to get here early to get a spot. Each spacious and wooded campsite has a picnic table, fire pit with a grill, and a pedestal grill. The parking pads range from 24 to 62 feet long, and they are level and paved as well. You can find several water spigots around the park, and they have hot showers as well as modern toilets with running water.
Kincaid Lake is 2,600 acres and provides a plethora of water sports such as boating, skiing, and jet skiing. There is also a large sandy beach with restrooms and picnic pavilions as well as a playground for the kids. Fishing is a popular sport with huge catfish, perch, and largemouth bass. Crappie are plentiful as well. You can bring your pet too as long as you supervise them and keep them restrained during your visit.
Nestled among the mature pines, Valentine Lake Campground near Gardner has 15 large campsites, six that are along the shores of the lake. Each campsite has a lantern hangar, fire pit with a grill, and a picnic table big enough for eight people. The parking pads vary from 25 to 60 feet in length so you should have no problem fitting no matter how large your rig. The park also provides trash pickup, four water spigots, restrooms, showers, and vault toilets. They are first-come, first-served so you need to get here early to get a spot.
The 46-acre Valentine Lake is pristine and there are no motorized boats to keep it that way. Canoes, kayaks, and other paddle boats are allowed as is swimming and fishing. You can catch catfish, perch, and largemouth bass here. Pets are welcome as well, but you must supervise them and keep them restrained at all times.
With dozens of lakes and several rivers in the Kisatchie National Forest, you can find a spot to go boating that is perfect for you. If you have a boat with a motor, you can try the huge Corney Bayou or Corney Lake, which is a 2,300-acre lake very popular with the locals. Take a trip on the Saline Bayou Water Trail, which is 19 miles in length and ends at Saline Lake. This is perfect for those with canoes or kayaks as motorized boats are not allowed here.
Go ahead and pack the water skis because skiing is popular in the Kisatchie National Forest. Kincaid Lake is 2,600 acres and has plenty of room for skiing and a campground as well. Caney Lake has launch ramps for water skiing as well as tubing and wake boarding. Beaver Dam also provides access to Caney Lake and has camping, picnicking, and hiking too. Whether you want to just visit the day use area or stay the night in your RV, there are plenty of places to enjoy water skiing in the forest.
Whether you have a motorcycle, four-wheeler, side-by-side, or an ATV, go ahead and hook up the trailer to the RV because there are plenty of spots to ride in the Kisatchie National Forest. There are dozens of trails and roads to enjoy, and you can also find two campgrounds that cater to OHV riders as well. The Lotus Camp by Natchitoches has a large camping area with toilets, picnic areas, and fire rings. The Sandstone Trailhead is located here, and you can meet up with other trails too. Corral Camp in the National Red Dirt Wildlife Area also has general camping and is near the Sandstone Trail.
Want to do some spelunking? There are quite a few caves in the Kisatchie National Forest including the historic Wolf Rock Cave. Thought to be about 25 million years old during the Oligocene period, the cave is described as a pair of rock overhangs that look over Bundick’s Creek. It is the only known rock shelter in Louisiana used by Archaic Indians. The evidence here shows that these Indians lived here from 2500 to 1000 BC as they have found tools, arrowheads, and other artifacts.
You can enjoy a picnic or BBQ anytime of the year in the Kisatchie Forest so go ahead and pack the family in the camper. You can find quite a few different parks and campgrounds that have group picnic areas with pavilions or shelters throughout the forest. Beaver Dam has picnic areas that can accommodate up to 200 guests, Blue Hole has a large group-use picnic area with BBQ pits next to the lake, and Caney Lakes has several picnic areas and a plethora of activities like a beach, fishing docks, volleyball, BBQ pits, and plenty of tables.
Pack the hiking boots in the camper before coming because there are about 50 trails from a half mile to 30 miles long. Kincaid Lake Campground has five trails including the seven-mile Lakeshore Trail and the 26-mile Wild Azalea Trail. The Beaver Dam Campground has three trails: the 5.7-acre Sugar Cane Trail, 2.1-mile Lost Man Loop, and the 1.7-mile Beach Bottom Loop. These are shared with mountain bikes so be alert.