Many moons ago, nearly all of Mississippi was a shallow sea, as evidenced by the shells and fossilized crabs and other sea creatures found throughout the state. The result of this geological history is that most of Mississippi is low and relatively flat – the receding waters dragged soil with them and generally smoothed the landscape.
There are two major exceptions – the first being extreme northeast Mississippi, which is actually the very southwest end of the Appalachians and which rises to over 800 feet above sea level. The second exception to this low and flat rule of thumb is that spread throughout the state there are small areas that have been carved by creeks and rivers to form hills and ridges – sometimes surprisingly steep.
While Mississippi is not generally known as a haven for hikers or mountaineers, there are several regions where you can get some great hill hiking.
Red Hills Area
The Red Hills area in southeast Mississippi is now part of DeSoto National Forest, and the terrain ranges from about 100 feet to about 250 feet above sea level. The best hiking access to the Red Hills area is to start at Fairley Bridge Landing near Wiggins, MS. This is the Southeastern terminus of the 41-mile long Black Creek National Trail. Walking northward, the trail runs through the Red Hills area for about 6 miles, which can be fairly strenuous, particularly if you are carrying a loaded pack.
The Red Hills area was actually home to a 1800’s community that died out or moved on sometime around the turn of the 20th century – (an honest-to-goodness lost civilization!) All that is left of the Red Hills Community is a small graveyard on a Forest Service road in the middle of this 6-mile stretch of trail.
For more info, call the Desoto National Forest Wiggins office at (601) 528-6160.
Clark Creek Natural Area
Clark Creek Natural area is nestled away in the farthest southwest corner of the state near the communities of Fort Adams and Pond. The trails are probably the steepest in Mississippi, ranging from about 120 to about 320 feet above sea level. Many of the steepest trails have been improved with stairs and gravel but the only amenities at the site are restrooms and a water fountain. There is no camping at Clark Creek.
The real showcase that Clark Creek is famous for is waterfalls – perhaps as many as 50 falls ranging between 10 and 30 feet in height!
For more information on Clark Creek Natural Area, call (601) 888-6040.
Vicksburg Battlefield Park
Vicksburg National Battlefield Park is a 14-mile paved trail that commemorates the participation of both Union and Confederate units at the Siege of Vicksburg – a fascinating battle that took place in the unthinkably miserable heat and humidity of Southwest Mississippi in July!
The parkway is perfect for cycling or hiking, or if you want a more remote hike there is the Al Scheller compass trail through the interior of the park. The terrain for both the road hike and the compass hike ranges from about 260 feet to about 390 feet – so you can get some good exercise!
It is highly recommended that you only hike these trails (especially the Al Scheller trail) from late fall to early spring – otherwise you’ll be courting snakes and heat injuries
For more information about hiking at Vicksburg Battlefield, call (601) 636-0583.
Clear Springs Recreation Area
A great, hilly hike is nestled into Homochitto National Forest at the Clear Springs Recreation Area. Clear Springs has one of its two hiking loops (Richardson Creek) open and provides maps for it, but last time we were there we saw plenty of hikers on the other loop (Tally Creek), which is ostensibly closed for some unknown reason.
Both trails are 10-11 miles long, and the terrain at Clear Creek ranges from about 300 feet to about 415 feet above sea level.
For more information about hiking at Clear Springs, call the Meadville office of the Homochitto Ranger District at (601) 384-5876.
Tishomingo State Park
Tishomingo State Park is truly a marvel because of the immense outcroppings of rock that look as if a giant toddler left his building blocks behind. The Park features seven trails ranging from 3/4 mile to three miles. The terrain, which ranges from about 440 feet to 660 feet above sea level, is considered easy to moderate hiking difficulty.