This hike is by far the best hike in Lafayette! Yes I know…it is the only place to hike in Lafayette but my what a beautiful hike it is. We met at Pack & Paddle then made our way to the Nature Station – North trail system, you can add some mileage if you hike both side of Dan Deballion Coulee.
The Nature Station itself, an environmental education facility, is located south of Dan Deballion Coulee and is accessed through Acadiana Park on the campground road. The north trail is located on Shadow Bluff Drive and that is where we went for this hike.
This trail system has about 4 miles of trail through a bottomland hardwood forest. The entrance to the trail is a bit hidden until you park, just walk along the fence into the forest and it is obvious. Most of the trail is flat and winds through palmetto, the fronds make it look like a tropical forest. There are great big live oaks, sweetgum and sycamore, it is a beautiful forest.
Once you make your way to the Vermilion River, the Vermilion Ridge trail gives you a little more of a challenge as the trail winds up and down the ridge. We met four groups of folks on the trail, 3 of which I know. It really makes me happy to know that local folks are aware of the trail, having only been open to the public since October of last year.
This trail system is located on 106 acres that was acquired through grants over about 4 years when Bill Fontenot was director of the Nature Station. Preservation of this land for wildlife and limited to “foot traffic only” is written into the grants that were received. Lafayette Consolidated Government employees, through the Nature Station, maintain this property to be used by wildlife watchers, photographers, joggers, hikers and those seeking solitude in a natural environment. One day, when there is funding for it, there will be a bridge built across Dan Deballion Coulee so that the North trail can be accessed from the Nature Station so that they can continue to educate our youth in this picturesque forest and have full use of the six miles of trail.
Our group stopped along the way to listen to birds and look at scenery. We took a short-cut along a gas pipeline which is a great place to see butterflies in the summer months. Nature Station employees left the outer edges of the pipeline vegetation alone to attract butterflies to feed on wildflower nectar and to lay eggs, this year the outer edges will be mowed but the middle will be left alone to grow naturally.
There is always something new to see in this forest, especially after a rain and during different seasons. I hope all of you folks out there will take a little time out of your day to head out there and enjoy the serenity offered right here in Lafayette.
For trail information check out the Acadiana Park Nature Station on Facebook or call 337-291-8448.
-Stacey Scarce, Trip Leader