200 - Borden Creek Trail Map
Moderate. This must be the most heavily accessed trail in the Wilderness. It is convenient to two trailheads, not too long, and the scenery can be spectacular - Borden Creek on one side, bluffs and hemlock forest on the other, and a number of waterfalls thrown in for good measure. The only drawback is this little tunnel towards the northern end.
Please note that as of summer 2013, rappelling and rock climbing are no longer allowed along this trail; here is the Official Notice. But please contact the USFS for the most current information (205.489.5111).
The southern end of the trail is at the Sipsey Trailhead and the northern end at the Borden Trailhead. The Sipsey end imposes a $3 day use fee but it is easier to park; a comfort station (more like a high tech outhouse) is provided. In favor of the northern end is the proximity to campsites but the parking can get crowded, especially on weekends.
The trail has a fair amount of ups and downs though none particularly steep. A feeder stream needs to be crossed about half way. This usually can be jumped and there is a tree log bridge for when it cannot be.
When approaching from the south, about a half mile from the northern end the trail appears to vanish into a cleft in the bluff. Though generally referred to as the "Fat Man Squeeze" or as the "cave", this is actually a small L-shaped tunnel and not quite as scary as it may appear. It is only about ten yards long and once you turn the "L", you see the light at the other end.
When approaching from the northern side, the cave is that dark hole in the rocks after you cross under the waterfall.
A more serious consideration is that this squeeze is only about half a yard wide. All but the smallest will need to walk sideways and packs will generally have to be removed and carried. It is also dark and tends to be wet.
For those who would rather not deal with the tunnel (or those who simply are too large to fit, don't laugh), there are two options, neither very good. You can possibly just go around it by walking in the creek. The banks are kind of steep and the water may be high so that may not work. Alternatively, you could climb over the rock that forms the roof. There are some roots to hold on to but this is pretty dangerous, especially for going down when you cannot see where your feet are. The best bet is to just squeeze through.
As a curiosity and probably as a result of its popularity, in the southern section the trail splits in numerous places into little mini-loops with one path heading down by the water and the other heading up the bluff. So you can take the high road or take the low road. In most cases, these alternative routes rejoin after a short distance though once in awhile, you will find yourself stranded - but always in a delightfully scenic spot.
There are numerous campsites of various sizes. In the nice weather, the trail is popular for sunbathing on the rocks in and by the creek. In general, the water is too shallow for swimming but certainly deep enough to splash around and cool off. In the springtime particularly, the wildflowers are quite attractive with some unusual varieties if you look hard enough.
West Borden Creek Trail Map
Easy - Moderate. This is not one of the officially numbered Forest Service trails but is well-trodden to say the least. It provides a pleasant walk, campsites, and access to trail 209 - Sipsey River without having to get your feet wet.
From the north, start from the Borden Trailhead, cross the bridge, turn left, and follow the creek. After about two miles, the trail ends at the eastern terminus of trail 209 at the Sipsey. In fact, one of the main uses of this trail is to connect with 209 when the fording of Borden Creek is not an option.
As does its eastern cousin, this side provides ample opportunities for camping, viewing wildflowers in season, sunbathing and splashing in the creek. The hiking is easier on this side but expect some downed trees and other such obstacles, the consequence of the trail not being "official" and hence not maintained. The path can be muddy in spots too depending on the rain.
Perhaps an interesting difference between the two sides of the trail is that the route on the eastern side was consciously laid out whereas the western side just sort of happened as people walked along next to the creek. The eastern route is constantly resetting your focus; you have the creek in front of you, then are directed up into the forest, to the bluff, and then back down again. Both sides feature the same scenery of course, but it is presented more interestingly to the east side hiker.