If you’re looking for a unique mountain biking scene that will allow you to fully explore and soak up the culture of the American South, look no further than the wonderful state of Louisiana. Within cities such as Baton Rouge, the state’s capital, and, of course, New Orleans, the state of Louisiana is home to a multitude of paved and scenic routes that snake through its many parishes (counties); and the southern Bayou is simply bursting with fun and interesting trails that are sure to appease every level of rider.
Bordered by Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, Texas to the west and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, Louisiana features a vast variety of terrains, including massive deltas of coastal marsh and swampland; pine forests; and wet savannas. Collectively the varied topography of the state is sure to test the skill and nerve of riders, while also helping them negotiate a whole new set of obstacles and technical challenges.
In the brief article below, we have compiled some pertinent information on five of Louisiana’s most popular mountain biking trails (according to locals)—including courses specifically designed for beginner, intermediate and advanced/expert riders.
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Lincoln Parish Park
Located in the town of Ruston, Louisiana, the mountain biking trail system at Lincoln Parish Park is a fun and technical track that winds its way among a seemingly endless amount of beautiful natural scenery. The park is home to over 9 miles of well-manicured and multi-use trails—trails that cater to people of all ages and ability levels.
While beginner-level riders will enjoy the wide, spacious double track, some of which is paved, experienced riders will fall in love with the fast, flowing single track at Lincoln Parish Park, a course with more than its fair share of technical obstacles, including tight switch backs, grueling climbs, roller-coaster-like descents, rocks, roots, jumps and more. Most riders are inclined to ride the trail as a 9-mile loop, but there are also places along the track that allow for shuttle-type riding.
In addition to its great trails and amazing scenery, Lincoln Parish Park also features several family-friendly picnic areas, a small lake with a sandy beach and a (summer only) swimming area, where children can beat the summer heat while frolicking in the shallow water, all under the watchful eye of the lake’s lifeguard.
The Lincoln Parish Park loop was designed by Lloyd Brick in 1993, and is now considered one of the best intermediate-level courses in the state of Louisiana. Keep in mind that helmets are now required for all riders of this trail, regardless of age, and other protective gear is also recommended.
Riders new to the sport of mountain biking will thoroughly enjoy the Comite Trails, situated in the park of the same name. The trails, which are located in the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, include a few short loops that collectively measure roughly five miles in total distance. Most of the course is laid out upon wide, meandering double track, with only a handful of potential obstacles, making it the perfect ride for novice riders and recreational or family groups.
While riders will not find a lot of challenging hills and descents along the Comite Trail, they will find more than enough humps and bumps to keep the ride entertaining, including some protruding rocks and roots, berms, twisty turns and switchbacks and several shallow creek crossings. Whether one is looking for a nice afternoon workout or a leisurely ride in a beautiful natural setting, the Comite Trails are the perfect destination.
The Comite Park Trail, which is typically ridden as an out-and-back loop, is located very near to the Hooper Road Trails, a course that is a bit more advanced in nature but still manageable for beginner and intermediate riders. Many Comite Trail visitors tend to park near the Hooper Road trailhead and tackle both courses consecutively for an entire day of fun-filled riding entertainment.
This popular riding spot also has many amenities, including shaded picnic areas, restrooms, drinking fountains and bike wash stations. Trail availability depends on the season and weather conditions, so it’s best to call the Baton Rouge Parks and Recreation Department ahead of time before starting out.
Situated in the town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, the trail that is appropriately named the Beast more than lives up to its wild reputation. Intended for advanced to expert riders only, this hilly and very technical track spans roughly 6 miles in total distance, when ridden as a loop, and is sure to thrill even the most seasoned riders.
As riders set out on the Beast the first thing they will notice are the BIG climbs—climbs that are responsible for the course’s nickname. In fact, they will probably swear that the entire trail is just one big climb, until, of course, they reach the apex of the mountain and stare down the other side at their future. Once here, riders must work up the nerve to traverse down one of the trail’s massive and very speedy descents, employing all of the technical skill they have in their bag. Speedy curves, roots, bridges, berms, rocks and gravel are just a few of the technical obstacles riders will encounter, leaving them very little time to fully enjoy the glorious scenery around them.
Almost completely destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, the Beast was rebuilt in 2008 with the help of course designer, Lynn Gray, and an army of local volunteers, who together are responsible for the 16 bridges, bench cuts and other exciting features of this thrilling course.
The natural scenery surrounding the Beast, which is accessed through the West Feliciana Parks and Recreation Complex, is similarly amazing, and is known for its lush and picturesque ravines, steep bluffs and spectacular views of the valleys below.
The Monkey Trails
Experienced riders looking to tackle one of the most popular and challenging courses in the state should set their sights on the Monkey Trails—a trail system that is rated moderate to advanced, mostly due to its fast single track design. Located in the well-known town of Shreveport, Louisiana, the system includes roughly 10 miles of track and is a great way to get some much-needed exercise in a beautiful outdoor setting.
The Monkey Trail system is known for its short, steep climbs, rapid descents and a series of 180 degree switchbacks. The trail system also comes complete with all the usual challenges of an intermediate to advanced course, including a whole host of natural and manmade obstacles, including bridges, creek crossings, protruding rocks and roots, soft sand berms and break-neck speeds.
The Monkey Trails are set against a backdrop of stunning natural scenery, highlighted by tall-tree forests, rushing rivers, majestic bluffs and some very vivid local flora. The park in which the trails are located also includes a 1.5 mile hiking trail (for those so inclined), on-site restrooms and water fountains, picnic areas and a bike wash station that will come in very handy after the messy ride. The Monkey Trails are accessible year round, except for periods of inclement/dangerous weather. The park is open from 8 AM to 5 PM Wednesday through Saturday, and from 1 PM to 5 PM on Sunday. The park is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Kincaid Lakeshore Trail
Located in the town of Alexandria, Louisiana, the Kincaid Lakeshore Trail is a fun ride that accommodates riders of all ability levels. Rated as a Beginner to Intermediate trail, the course spans roughly 5 miles in distance as it takes riders along an exciting trip around one of the most scenic lakes in the state of Louisiana. Riders looking to improve their basic bike handling skills will especially love this course, which offers the perfect combination of speed and technical challenges.
Those who opt to tackle the Kincaid Lakeshore Trail will usually start in an easterly direction from the lake’s boat dock launch area. From here the trail meanders both near and away from the shoreline, affording riders gorgeous views of the lake, the local vegetation and the occasional wildlife encounter. Although there are a few short climbs and descents along the course, most are fairly manageable, as are the obstacles, which may include rocks, bridges, roots and a series of switchbacks that begin as riders move away from the shoreline. Most of the course is fairly tight single track, but there are some wider and more open areas in which rider can pick up some speed if they so choose.
At five miles in distance, the Kincaid Lakeshore Trail is a bit more demanding than the other courses in the area, rewarding riders with a flowing track and plenty of speed in both directions. The other nearby courses, some of which intersect with the Kincaid Lakeshore Trail, include the Lemotte Creek Trail and the Wild Azalea Spur Trail.
image credit: Mountain Bike Acadiana