West of Alexandria near Gardner in the Kisatchie National Forest, the 31 mile Wild Azalea Trail is one of the most spectacular hiking routes in the state. The hiking route is lined with azaleas, dogwoods and magnolias as it rolls through upland harwood forests, pine stands and cypress bogs. Starting at Valentine Lake, head nine miles to Evangeline Camp--or pitch a tent anywhere as long as youre at least 30 feet from the trail. About 14.5 miles in is Castor Creek Scenic Area, a seldom-trodden section of hardwood forest that’s been untouched for more than 50 years. In March and April, the last two-mile stretch is awash in pink and white blooms as you approach Woodworth Town Hall.
To reach the western trailhead at Valentine Recreation Area from Alexandria, take SR 28 west for 15 miles to Gardner, head south on SR 121 for half a mile, take a left on FS 279, and drive five miles to the trailhead.
To reach the eastern trailhead near Woodworth from Alexandria, head south on US165 to Woodworth. Turn left heading west on Castor Plunge Road (FS287) for 1.5 miles.
Overall, Wild Azalea Trail is the 1st most popular hiking trail of all 6 hikes in Louisiana.