Sipsey Wilderness
Big Tree Loop from Thompson Trailhead

Date: Saturday, 18 Oct 2014

Location: Sipsey Wilderness, Bankhead National Forest, Alabama

Trails: 208 - Northwest 224 - Bunyan Hill 204a - East Bee Branch 209 - Sipsey River 206 - Thompson Creek

Members: Betty, Charlie, Gary, Jane, Larry, Mimi, Wayne

Guests: Duane; Luke (dog)

SWHC at the Big Tree

The weather was about perfect with a slightly cool 60 degrees Fahrenheit at the outset rising to nearly 80 by midday – the kind of weather where you can justify wearing a long sleeve shirt (protection against insects and briers) and not sweat up a storm by leaving it on all day.

We all met at the Thompson Trailhead. This was a loop hike in a clockwise direction. After crossing the bridge over Thompson Creek, we veered left up the hill on 208. About a quarter mile after passing the junction with 223, we headed south on 224. After something less than a mile, we turned right on 204.

Trail 204 forks after about a mile with both paths taking you to the river. The right fork, currently labeled as trail 204a (though not "official" and hence not maintained by anyone), took us to the Big Tree. Other than a group of boy scouts at first and a father and two sons later on, we had the place to ourselves.

Overnight backpackers Jane, Wayne, and Charlie - the rest of us being day hikers for this outing - opted for a nice campsite on top of the hill with easy access to water and firewood, the latter being less plentiful at the riverside campsites.


While this large poplar in the midst of this beautiful canyon is definitely one of the highlights of the Sipsey Wilderness, if you want to hike down to the river, the trail along East Bee Branch poses some difficulties. Fallen trees required either climbing over, under, or through. Sometimes there would be a detour around a rock or tree and some of these were pretty worn-in. It took us 45 minutes to cover three quarters of a mile. This was tolerable but we were not carrying much weight or large objects on our backs.

No problems on the rest of it. Trail 206 is in much better shape than when we last hiked it. The river trail (209) has a few downed trees to get over but nothing too serious. A bigger concern might be the erosion in those areas where the trail is close to the river.

We took the time to admire the scenery and enjoy the walk, arriving back at the Thompson Trailhead shortly after 4 PM. We had walked 11 or 12 miles in about eight hours which ain't too speedy but the Sipsey in early autumn is just too lovely to rush through.

Purple Haze/Rain/whatever - the Roman emperors wore purple you know

Submitted 30 Oct 2014

Text: Larry

Photos: Mimi