This article is written and contributed by Chase Maser.

If you love the outdoors, then you couldn’t have picked a better place than Lafayette. Whether you are a hunting and fishing type, or a hiking and bird-watching type, there are several worthwhile destinations close by.

1. Acadiana Park Nature Station

On the northeast side of the city is the Acadiana Park Nature Station, located on 150-acres of wooded land. The park features six miles of trails, which are easily accessible for a variety of skill levels. The nature station itself plays host to a number of programs including guided tours, night hikes, kayaking events, and nature talks. The park is home to a wide range of wildlife species and is a favorite of bird watchers who flock here to see birds such as the broad-winged and red-tailed hawks, pileated woodpeckers and the elusive Swainson Warbler.

2. Cypress Island Preserve Visitor Center

Located just under 20 minutes from the city center, the Cypress Island Preserve is located on Lake Martin, one of Louisiana’s many protected swamplands. The Cypress Island Preserve is operated by the Nature Conservancy and is a nesting ground for a variety of coastal birds including Great Egrets and Little Blue Herons. The park itself features 9,500 acres cypress-tupelo swamp and bottomland hardwood forest. The Nature Conservancy goal is to restore 20,000 acres of habitat.

3. Chicot State Park

Located near Villa Platte, LA, Chicot State Park spans over 6,400 acres of beautiful landscape and a majestic body of water. A hotspot for professional and amateur fishing, one of the park’s most beloved sites, Lake Chicot, produces some of the largest freshwater fish caught on record. Plus, visitors can take advantage of multiple access points and rental facilities for a variety of fun activities. Surrounding the water lies a vast hiking trail replete with many campsites to enjoy nature in its purest form. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors will appreciate the lush forests, picnic areas, and even the Louisiana State Arboretum, which serves as the perfect opportunity to learn more about the historic site.

4. Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge

Resting on the edge of Grand Lake along Louisiana Highway 384, the Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge serves as a safe haven for migratory birds with a particular emphasis on wintering waterfowl. With nearly 35,000 acres, the freshwater marsh consists of several natural ridges and levees, but the main attraction, the Lacassine Pool, attracts various kinds of birds who use the area as a respite and feeding ground throughout the year. Other wildlife in the refuge include armadillos, alligators, foxes, rodents, and various kinds of freshwater fish. From March 15th to October 15th, the Lacassine Pool permits boat and bank fishing, and the refuge waters become a wellspring of a substantial game for fisherman of all levels. Despite a history of declining fish populations, repairs have been to accommodate a better fishing habitat in deeper water areas.

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