Hiking & Camping

Hiking in the Sipsey Wilderness

Wild-flowing creeks in northwestern Alabama converge to become the Sipsey River, 61 miles of which has been designated Wild and Scenic. Running below sandstone bluffs that rise 30 to 100 feet above the water, through a forest of often imposing second-growth trees and occasional small stands of virgin timber (some of the last virgin timber in the state), the Sipsey and its tributaries slice neatly through the Wilderness. Sinkholes, small caves, and scenic overlooks are plentiful. Less plentiful is the rare flattened musk turtle, an inhabitant of the Sipsey.

Six established trails, all rated easy to moderate, crisscross the area. Several depart from the Sipsey River Recreation Site on the southern boundary, which has sanitary facilities, drinkable water, no developed campsites, and no fee. From here, Trail 209 follows the river north and joins Trail 206 after about eight miles, ending after about 2.5 more miles at a parking lot on the northern boundary. Trail 200 runs north along Borden Creek to meet an old wagon road that gives access to the heart of Sipsey Wilderness; it, too, ends at a parking lot on the northern boundary. A 13-mile loop is possible by taking Trail 204 from the old wagon road and following Trail 209 for the return to the recreation site. Sipsey trails receive moderate to heavy human use year-round. Wilderness camping, building campfires, hunting, and fishing are permitted. Horsepackers are allowed on designated trails.

Birdwatching

The 25,000-acre Sipsey Wilderness in the Bankhead National Forest is the second largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi. About 150 species have been documented in the vicinity, including the sharp-shinned hawk, American redstart, and black-throated green, cerulean, and black-and-white warbler. Kinlock Falls and Thompson Creek Bridge yield a spectacular landscape of cliffs, gorges, and hardwoods, with excellent birding opportunities.