This Overshadowed Louisiana State Park Is A Paddlers' Dream With The Best Scenic Views

In a world full of stress and drama, wouldn't it be nice to drift lazily along on a lake, surrounded by magical cypress trees growing out of the water? With just an occasional bit of effort and a paddle to gently push you along, you can feel the everyday world receding into the background. All you need to think about is the whitetail deer you spot on the shore or the lovely birds chirping above you. If this sounds like a dream, it's time to pay a visit to Chicot State Park in Ville Platte, Louisiana. 

This 6,400-acre area is right by the Atchafalaya Basin and has plenty to do other than paddle, and it's hard to beat the pretty scenery and relaxation you can find here. Of course, if you're into a more active type of vacation, you couldn't ask for a better spot. There's fishing, hiking, backpacking, campsites of all sorts, playgrounds, and the Louisiana State Arboretum on site — which is a mere $3 for entry. Here's everything you need to know about Chicot, Louisiana's largest state park.

Boating and fishing in Chicot State Park

Chicot State Park sits around 165 miles northwest of New Orleans, the most fun city in America, and if you love the water, this is the spot for you. For the avid fishers, you may be pleased to know there have been a number of state freshwater fishing records set in Chicot Lake. You may catch largemouth bass, bluegill, red-ear sunfish, or crappie. Not only that, but there are three boat launches, and you can rent boats right in the park. If you want to relax in a canoe or kayak, you can paddle through the marshes with the cypress trees growing in the water. There is an 8-mile canoe trail you can follow to see it all. 

Birders will have a blast here, and it's worth bringing binoculars to spot herons, egrets, and other avian residents. To see and learn more about the animals in the area, including raccoons, whitetail deer, coyotes, bobcats, and even alligators, you can visit the 300-acre Louisiana State Arboretum's outdoor classroom. There are also trails to travelerblog through the arboretum's beech-magnolia forests. Chicot State Park also has both a regular playground and a water playground for your little ones. You can check out a map of the park here. It's also got an Olympic-sized swimming pool on the lake that is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, with certified lifeguards on duty. 

Hiking and camping in Chicot State Park

Chicot State Park has some great hiking, including the well-marked 18.1-mile Chicot Lake Loop that goes around the entire lake with some boardwalks (like the one seen above) to wander down for more animal and scenery viewing. (Here's how to protect yourself from animals while hiking.) That one is considered moderately challenging, and you can bring your leashed dog with you to enjoy the park. Just make sure to dispose of dog poop properly while you hike.

You are also welcome to take your bicycles on the trails in the park, though you cannot ride after dark. Bring your own bike (and helmet), and be prepared for some exciting hills. Another one to try is the South to North Landing trail, which is 8.3 miles out and back and a popular choice for birdwatchers.

Some people choose to backpack through the Chicot Lake Loop over several days. Luckily, there are campsites right off the trail and in other spots around the park. There are RV sites, cabins and lodges to rent, and a group campsite. You can make reservations right here. The cabins and lodges come with basic cookware and utensils, dinnerware, silverware, and linens. The deluxe cabins can sleep up to eight people, and the North lodges can sleep up to 14. There are also backcountry and primitive campsites to reserve.