The trails right outside Alexandria are the perfect place to get off the beaten path.
Escaping into the woods gives you a nature experience that the roads can’t.
You can access the most beautiful trails in the south within 10 minutes of Alexandria.
These one hundred miles of trails got Alexandria listed as one of the top 50 outdoor cities in America in Outside Magazine.
The benefits of trail running span the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual areas of your life. Doesn’t that cover just about all of it?
Here are a few benefits to trail running and how you can try it for yourself.
Bottom line, humans were made to run on naturally occurring surfaces like trails, grass and pastureland.
It’s good for muscle development to have lots of ups and downs and changes in direction.
Changes in heart rate from running up and down hills is the best way to improve endurance.
Constantly paying attention to avoid roots and ruts sharpens your mind.
It provides an escape from the hectic day. It eliminates the sound of cars and noise from Alexandria. Instead, you hear birds, squirrels, water flowing and wind blowing. You may even get lucky and see deer or wild horses (yep, you read that right).
Running on the uneven surface recruits more of the smaller muscles which tend to stabilize joints and reduce injury when you do other physical activity.
The trails provide a totally unique experience.
There are several points you can start your trail run. Here’s a three with maps and what we like about each.
This is one of the more scenic trails in Kisatchie National Forest. The entire trail is along the edge of Kincaid Lake so you get beautiful views of the water.
It’s a technical trail meaning there’s lots of steep ups and downs, twists and turns, creek crossings, sandy spots and tree roots to dodge. This makes it the most difficult trail on our list.
Don’t let the difficulty discourage you from trying it. Slow down the pace. Enjoy the views.
The Lakeshore Trail is perfect for doing an out and back. There are mile markers every half mile so you know exactly how far you’ve gone. If it’s your first time trailing running, run to the 1 mile marker and come back for a total of 2 miles. You’ll feel well accomplished after that run!
This trail connects to the Wild Azalea Trail, Lamotte Creek Trail and the Wild Azalea Spur Trail. There are a ton of routes you can make on this trail. To see how these trails interconnect, click here for the trail map. The Lakeshore Trail starts at the East Kincaid Boat Ramp shown in the upper right corner.
15 – 20 minutes
Drive west on LA Hwy 28 for 8 miles. Turn left on Messina Road (FR 273) and go 3 miles to the boat landing entrance. Turn right and follow the signs.
You’ll park at the East Kincaid Boat Ramp
If you have limited time and want to squeeze in a quick trail run, this is your spot. It’s only minutes from Alexandria and you can park right at your starting point.
This four mile route is great for beginners because it’s the least technical. You’ll have several hills and a few small creek crossings that you can hop over and the trail is mostly smooth with not many tree roots to dodge.
It’s simple to make this out and back route shorter or longer if you’d like.
There are mile markers every half mile along the way. However, you’re not starting at a mile marker so you run about .25 miles before you get to your first one. From there every half mile is marketed.
The woods along this trail are very pretty. You’ll get into dense areas and then it opens up to where you can see quite a distance through the woods. It’s a great area to see and hear wildlife.
The simplest route is to run out and back towards Evangeline Camp. Park and then walk across Twin Bridges Road and you’ll see the trailhead.
Begin running and 2 miles in you’ll get to a dirt road. Look to your left and you’ll see a parking area which is Evangeline Camp. At this point you can turn around and go back to make it a 4 mile run. Or, you can take a left on the road then a quick right at Evangeline Camp to continue along the Wild Azalea Trail.
10 – 15 minutes
Drive to the end of Jackson St and take a right on Twin Bridges Road. Drive approximately 9 miles to the intersection with Messina Road. At the intersection, take a left and you’ll see the parking area.
Coming from Alexandria, parking will be on your left. Park and then cross Twin Bridges and you’ll see the trail head.
This scenic 3.4 mile loop is perfect for a laid back trail run. It’s the least technical trail on this list which makes it perfect for any fitness level. The terrain ranges from flat to hilly to creek bottoms. The wild flowers are beautiful at certain points of the year.
You’ll park at the Northshore Campground area. The loop starts and ends here.
20 – 25 minutes
Drive along LA Hwy 28 West toward Gardner. Take a left at the blinking light in Gardner onto LA 121. You’ll pass an Exxon on your right then take a left onto Valentine Lake Road. Go 0.8 miles to Forest Road 282 and turn right. Go 1.1 mile. The first paved right is to the North Shore Campground. Go down that road, park and you’ll see the trail head.
Know this: You don’t need trail running shoes to run on the trails. There’s no reason a road shoe can’t been worn off road. That said, trail shoes offer three main advantages.
Roots, rocks and varying terrain require more stability than on flat, even surfaces like the road. Trail running shoes have all the perks of stability road shoes have like heel counters, supportive uppers and variably density midsoles. In addition to all that, many trail running shoes have a thinner midsole which puts your foot closer to the ground. It allows you to feel the ground better which makes it less likely you’ll trip or turn an ankle. Some have a wider toe box and grip which gives you a wider platform that increases stability.
If a trail surface is muddy or sandy, trail shoes offer an advantage over road shoes which tend to have a flat bottom. Trail shoes have lugs (like cleats) that dig into the surface to provide solid traction.
The rocks and roots you’re trying to avoid call for more protection. Most trail shoes include a thin rock plate that protects the bottom of your foot when landing on rocks and roots. Toe bumpers also protect from jamming your toes if you accidentally kick something.
If you decide that trail running is your thing, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of trail running shoes.
Run Wild is a great local store that can set you up in a good pair.
Although trail running is much easier on your body, it’s much tougher than running on the roads. Running a mile on the trail can sometimes feel like running two on the road. A good distance for your first run is 2 – 3 miles. In general, you can estimate your miles to be 2 minutes slower on the trail, although you’ll be putting out the same effort or more. If you bite off more than you can chew, simply turn it into a hike and walk. If you have decent fitness base, you can make it through 3 miles with a combination of running and hiking.
Dogs love the woods! It’s like their Disney World. It’s where they were meant to roam. Do them a favor and bring them with you. It’s quite enjoyable to have them run alongside you.
I don’t know the rules for leashes, but I’ll tell you this, dogs were meant to run free, so I let them. I do carry a leash for when bikers come by because my dogs don’t get out of the way.
You know your dog. You make the call. Obviously, if they’re going to bite someone or run away and not return, use a leash.
Dogs can run further than people but they are like people in that they need to work their way up to it. If your dog is in good health, start them on 2 – 3 miles.
Most of these trails have creeks for them to get water. The Lakeshore Trail around Kincaid is along the lake so water is always available.
Dogs love chasing wildlife and running through the woods and jumping in the water!
It’s not that “cool”, but it is when the horse flies are out. Don’t worry, the flies and bugs are usually not an issue. But you may want to bring some just in case.
Try Babyganics Natural Insect Repellent. This natural spray is highly effective and free from toxins.
Running without music is much easier to do on the trails. I highly encourage you to try it. It’ll clear your head and a lot of times, you’ll get valuable ideas like the ones that come in the shower. But if you must, the Apple’s AirPods or EarPods are good options. If you’re worried about them falling out, get EarBuddyz Ear Hooks to keep them secure.
Handheld water bottles are easy to carry and don’t weigh much. Go by Run Wild or check out the Nathan Handheld Flask.