Top Ten Campsites Near Nashville and Memphis

Sipsey Wilderness

Directions: From Memphis, head east on US 78 for 145 miles to Hamilton, Alabama. From Hamilton, take US 278 east for 38 miles to Double Springs. In Double Springs, turn left on Alabama 33 north, passing the Double Springs Ranger Station before coming to Lawrence County Road 60 after 13 miles. Turn left on 60 and follow it a short distance to Forest Road 224, Bunyan Hill Road. Turn right on FR 224 and drive 2.5 miles to the dead end at the Borden Creek Trailhead.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fees & Permits: There is a $3 parking fee at the trailhead. No hiking permits are required.                                                                                                                                                            

Information: (205) 489-5111.

Maps: Contact Carto-Craft for a Sipsey Wilderness trail map at (205) 822-2103.


I've been lost on every backpacking trip into the Sipsey Wilderness. Minimally marked trails add to the untamed setting of this area. While trying to find my way along high wooded ridges and deep hollows, I kept running into surprising scenery: cabin-sized boulders, steep rock bluffs, clear streams forming waterfalls, even a few pockets of old growth. This last time I actually brought a map to help me navigate these 25,000 acres of wilderness set in the Bankhead National Forest of northwestern Alabama.

The Sipsey Wilderness protects the upper watershed of the Sipsey Fork, a federally designated Wild and Scenic river. Small caves and sinkholes add variation to the sandstone bluffs that the Sipsey and its tributaries have cut over time through the western end of the Appalachian Plateau.

Pine-oak woodlands dominate the ridgetops, and moisture-loving species such as umbrella magnolia, beech, and sycamore thrive in the wetter canyons, along with ferns. In recent years, added trails in Syspey have brought the total to 47 miles. One rewarding hike starts at the end of Bunyan Hill Road and heads down Borden Creek on Forest Trail 200 for 2.7 to the Sipsey and FT 209. Head up the Sipsey River on FT 209, eventually looping around via FT 224, Bunyan Hill Trail, after heading up either Bee Branch or Thompson Creek. There are enough routes and variations here for several days of backpacking, just bring a good map.


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