The Black Creek Trail

Trail at a Glance
Length: 41 miles
States: Mississippi
Difficulty: Moderate
Season: Early spring, fall, and winter
Use: Moderate
Condition: Good to excellent

The Black Creek Trail (BCT) is not only the apex of hiking in the Magnolia State, it is also one of the finest hiking trails in the Southeastern United States. This path makes a 41-mile trek through rich, diverse woodlands of the De Soto National Forest that veil the corridor of the Black Creek watershed. Black Creek itself is so eye appealing as to be a federally designated wild and scenic river, the only one in the state of Mississippi. It is along this creek that much of the trail travels, offering views of the tea-colored waters that contrast with burning white sandbars, banked against verdant green forests so thick as to seem impenetrable. But somehow, the Black Creek Trail works its way up the river valley, not only along the clear waterway, but also over innumerable side creeks, spanned by boardwalks and footbridges. There is still water back here, too, where cypress and gum trees emerge from the dark swamps, adding to the junglesque character of the Black Creek watershed. It's not all water and deep woods in the Gulf Coast Plain of Mississippi—there are also open pine forests that reach for the sky in the hill country that abuts the Black Creek floodplain. These forests offer a contrast to the rich woodlands along the creek.

Overnight camping opportunities are nearly limitless. Water and flat spots are frequent. Many backpackers like to camp on the sandbars for scenery, breezes, and escape from the mosquitoes, which can be troublesome in late spring, early summer, and after thunderstorms. However, the shoulder seasons are ideal for trail travel, namely the months of March, April, October, and November, and winter is a viable option. In summer, hot days, warm nights, and annoying insects keep away most sane backpackers. The BCT is moderately used and backpackers seeking solitude will have it any time of year during the week. Weekends won't be bad, and the numerous camping possibilities assure solitude for those willing to find it.

Another upside is a local shuttle service for one-way hikers. Black Creek Canoe Rental not only rents canoes and offers shuttle services for Black Creek paddlers, they also serve hikers and backpackers who want to hike a portion of the trail or tackle it from end to end. I have used their service and highly recommend them.

No instantly accessible resupply points exist along the Black Creek Trail. However, backpackers can easily carry enough food and gear for the 41-mile trip, whether they do it in 3, 4, 5, or 6 nights. Be apprised that at one point, the path does venture about a mile from the hamlet of Brooklyn, where there are a couple of small stores, selling snacks and such. Black Creek Canoe Rental, also in Brooklyn, has some camp supplies. The only real downside for hikers is Camp Shelby, a nearby military installation that occasionally explodes bombs, breaking the area's solitude. Overall, the Black Creek experience is not one to be missed. For a two-pronged adventure, consider doing what I have done in the past, canoeing a few days down Black Creek, travelling the 31 miles from Big Creek Landing to Fairley Bridge Landing, then backpacking up the Black Creek Trail, 41 miles from Fairley Bridge Landing back to Big Creek Landing.



Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »