Backbone Trail is a 9.9 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Provencal, Louisiana that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
I hiked this trail today as a day hike. I took the advice of many others and parked at the C.D. trailhead and walked up Longleaf Road (just under 3 miles) to the northern trailhead of Backbone. Along the way I stopped at the site of the Red Dirt Lookout tower, which was no longer there, because, as I just saw on firetower.org, it was removed in 1983. The hike was going smoothly until I got to the campsite with the overlook at the 7-mile point (4 miles in from the north trailhead). While the trail was well-worn, well-marked, and well-correlated to the GPS map up to that point, at the campsite it diverged into several tenuous footpaths. I followed each of these until they faded out, returning back to the campsite each time. Finally, I just descended the hill and walked towards were the map tracing showed the trail should be. I tried to catch that little straight south segment on the easternmost tip of the loop. I walked through the woods in a zig zag pattern crossing where the trail was shown on GPS 6 times, overlapping by at least 100 yards each time. I saw no sight of it. When I got to Bayou Cypre, I walked up and down the banks a bit each way looking for where the trail crossed the creek. Still nothing. After crossing the creek, and looking again for the trail from that bank, I just bushwhacked 2 miles southwest towards what was marked as a little forest road connecting back to Longleaf Vista Road. That was non stop thick brush and thorns and was generally not fun. The "forest road" turned out to be the Turpentine trail. I hiked it back to Longleaf Vista Road and walked back up the road to the C.D./Backbone south trailhead where I parked. My total distance 11.4 miles, including searching.
Looking through some other users' GPX tracks of the hike, you can see that they did not follow the southern half of the trail as marked. Clearly the trail does exist and I messed up somehow, but losing the trail at the same place the trail diverged from the map made it much worse.
* I would recommend starting at the southern trailhead (you could still park at the north trailhead and walk down the road to begin with if you did not want to end with a road segment). The northern half of the trail is a sand path that is well-marked (yellow arrow blazes) and matched the map here on AllTrails and other sources. I actually don't know what the southern half of the trail looks like.
* Pros: extremely quiet (not even car sounds or overhead planes); clean (I didn't see any litter); unique rocky terrain with a surprising amount of elevation change for Louisiana; probably a good trail run; 4G coverage throughout the hike.
* Cons: map does not match the southern half of the trail; nothing in bloom when I went in April.
I will probably come back to this and other trails in the Kisatchie National Forest, but I will do a much more thorough map recon first.
nice hike, wild azaleas were blooming and some dogwwods.hiked it from the south entrance and walked the road back,gps indicated 11 miles total with 8.25 of that on the trail and the difference was walking the road back to the trailhead. Southern part was nicer, walking the road was not much fun.
Went for a four day hike and get away. We parked at the Caroline Dorman parking lot and decided to hoof the road section first. It rained for most of the second morning as we hiked to the river in order to find a good spot to spend two days. Our things were soaked, but there is enough fat pine to start a fire in wet conditions. We made sure we were pretty far from the trail as not to disturb anyone with our wilderness shenanigans. So we roughly hiked half in a few hours, camped a few days, then hiked the rest on our last day. This is when things got a little crazy. On our hike out, you are ascending hills to the tops. At this time, the heavens seemed to open up and Thor's wrath was set upon us. I even had the urge to expel "IS THIS ALL YOU GOT!" with lightning strikes in the not so distant surrounding. Overall, I very much enjoyed the hike. A great trail to get away, spend a few days camping near the river, and getting back in touch with the wilderness.
If you took away the walk on the highway after it would warrant a higher rating. The trail was nice and the lookout point was pretty cool .
Just be aware at 1 mile in from trail head there are downed trees obscuring the trail. We hiked from trail ended to head and got quite turned around at that point because the AllTrails map doesn't match the exact route. Trail blazes were frequent and apparent except at the hollow where the fallen trees obscured the trail.
Best hike I've done in Louisiana, which is a significant caveat. Parked at Caroline Dorman, hiked to the northern trailhead. Camped near the intersection with the high ridge trail. It rained in the morning, and, as one might expect with sandstone hills, the trail became really slick and the creek fords were knee high. The trail is more challenging than most in Louisiana but still a piece of cake. Would definitely return.
Camped at the end of high ridge trail. Nicely secluded.
The trails were very well kept up and well marked. We spent a couple days on the trail, and for the most part it was pretty easy hiking. There were a couple spots that could be labeled as difficult, but really only if you're not packing light
great trail, beautiful views on the south end.
Enjoyed this trail very much. As other reviewers suggest, park at the Caroline Dornan trailhead and walk the 2.5-3 mile road to the north end of the Backbone trailhead. The northern end has several burned trees from a fire last year (I believe) Make sure to pack at least 2 liters of water as the water sources are located near the middle to second half of the trail. Campsites are located throughout the length of the trail. Some better than others. We camped on a ridge at the first creek crossing. The southern end of the trail is much more scenic. Did a side hike on some of the Turpentine Trail. Next time I will check that whole trail out. It was pretty and worth the detour. All in all we did over 14 miles. I thought the trail was well marked. There was only one part where a very large tree was down on the trail, but the trail continued directly behind it. We just had to go around it. Take notice of the switchback. We happened to see a tent with hikers and headed that way to ask about water sources and they directed us to the trail that continued down the hill. We may have continued straight, but would probably have turned back after not seeing a trail marker. I suggest to properly prepare and if you are someone who is regularly active this trail will give you a workout, but not be unmanageable . Enjoy! Happy Hiking!
Just hiked the Backbone Trail as an overnighter. Parked at Caroline Dorman Trailhead and hiked the road 2.5 miles to the northern Backbone Trailhead to start. I recommend doing it this way if you have one vehicle so you don't have to hike the road after the trail to get back to your vehicle. Trail was nice and different than most hikes in Louisiana. Very primitive in spots and rocky. The southern part by the creek areas and Turpentine Trail is more scenic and more hilly. We packed enough water for the first day and filtered water for the last day at the creek crossing. We will be back for sure.
Nice hike. Fairly easy. Variation in terrain but nothing unmanageable at all.
Except for a portion of trail about 2.5-3 miles in from Caroline Dorman TH entrance where big trees have fallen across it and it's easy to get off trail. Which we did. We came in from backBone TH. It may not have been an issue coming in from Caroline Dorman TH.
The only way we found the trail again was luckily we ran into a ultra marathon runner who also missed it on his way back and was able to show us once he got his bearings back. He came in from that way so he had an idea of what he was looking for.
How is this trail for backpack camping? Are there defined camping spots or do you just pick a spot where you want? Planning a trip mid November but wanted to get some info before going.
Just hiked the backbone trail this past weekend (Sept. 2-3). Was anticipating there to be water at the bathrooms at the Caroline Dorman trailhead where we started, but there was not, so be prepared for that and bring water before you go. Wore shorts as it was beginning of September in Louisiana, but I would STRONGLY recommend wearing hiking pants-had to do a bit of bushwhacking and ended up with many cuts after. As stated, your biggest challenge will be water, so be prepared. We got a late start and only hiked about 1.5 miles in the first night before finishing the rest the next day. Trail was a bit sandy and provided a good workout and escape from reality. Did not get any views as we did not have time to hike the highridge trail, bummer. All in all, I would probably go back and hike this again, but I would wear hiking pants and bring more water. Also, I mapped the hike along the road and it was just over 3 miles. Next time, I would knock this out in the beginning of the hike because hiking 3 miles in the brutal heat at the end of the hike was rough
Great trail that was really enjoyable to hike. The bad part is you have to park on end and you will come out 2.5 miles from your vehicle. We had to hitchhike standing on a truck bumper to get back. Thank you for stopping whoever you are.