203 - Lookout Trail Map Note: the map is outdated but is still useful (see below)
As of autumn, 2009: The northern part of the trail has been rerouted so as not to cross Borden Creek. Instead it veers to the northeast, connecting with FS Road 208 about 1.6 miles from highway AL 33. We will update the map someday (maybe). But the southern 90% is accurate.
Moderate. The difficulty here is finding the trail. It starts out okay from the trailheads but deteriorates after awhile. As a result, 203 is not hiked very much (and thus is hard to find and thus ...). But if one perseveres, there is some nice hiking here, particularly at the southern end. Note that Wild South has taken up maintenance of the trail and greatly improved the situation. So things are not as bad as they once were. In general, don't trust any colored tape flagging you see to be an indication of the actual path since the source or purpose of the flagging is generally unknown.
The trail runs between the Borden Trailhead in the south where it conjoins trail 207 near the trailhead. The northern end is at the relocated Flannagin Trailhead about 1.6 miles from AL 33 on FS Road 208. A small trail marker sign indicates the spot. (This point is about a half a mile southeast of where the trail used to terminate and where some sort of sign persists.)
From the south, the trail snakes up and down hills and hollers at least half a dozen times. You are routed up to the bluff and down again to the valley. The views of the forest can be outstanding, with the large beech trees of particular interest.
The trail then straightens out in a northerly direction through pine woods and here is where it is most difficult to follow though not impossible.
When you get near Borden Creek, the trail turns off to the east. You do not cross Borden Creek but there is a (usually) small feeder stream to ford. The trail takes a 90 degree turn to the left just before that crossing. There is another 90 degree turn, this time to the right, as you approach the road. If you miss it, you won't come out too far from where you need to be. And if you are worried about the warning signs, the shooting range has not been a "danger" since it closed some decade or so back.
Waterfalls are minimal but geologists may enjoy the outcrops of both the ubiquitous sandstone and the less common limestone. The route passes next to a number of sinkholes as well.
Given the underutilization of the trail, it is not surprising that there are few obviously ready-for-use campsites. And the southern end tends to emphasize the steepness of the terrain, not its flat spots. Yet water is available and one could make a go of it.
Trail 203 could be combined with trail 207 - Braziel Creek to make a loop by hiking along the unpaved FS 208 road between the Gum Pond Trailhead and the Flannagin Trailhead. The distance would be a little less than 3 miles and scenery is actually quite good. It is probably easier to walk east and south from the Gum Pond Trailhead rather than the other way since the road tends to descend more than ascend in that direction.