The 6 most rewarding hikes in Mississippi

Mississippi has so many fabulous places to go for a walk that this was not an easy list to come up with at all!  I guess it depends on what benefits you get out of the hiking experience – everyone gets something different out of hiking.

Some of the most common benefits that I’ve heard people talk about include exercise, peace of mind, fresh air, return to nature, and sense of accomplishment.

Here is a handful of hikes in Mississippi that I think best exemplify those five traits.

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Black Creek National Hiking Trail

This Nationally-designated walking trail starts in Brooklyn, Mississippi and passes southeastward along the west bank of Black Creek through DeSoto National Forest, Black Creek wilderness, and the Red Hills area to end at Fairley Bridge Landing near Wiggins Mississippi.

Black Creek trail is perfect for day treks, section hikes, or several days of backpacking.  Each section – particularly the wilderness section- feels remote enough to satisfy your need for peace, fresh air, and nature and Black Creek’s hilly 41-mile trail can live up to your need for exercise and accomplishment.

The only thing that might wreck your vibe when hiking Black Creek might be heat and mosquitoes – Black Creek is so far South in the United States that it is usually unbearable in the summer but perfect for a midwinter trek.  Our best trip to Black Creek was the week after Christmas a couple of years ago, when the temps ranged from about 35 at night to 75 during the day and there were no mosquitoes.

  • exercise – 5/5 – for hills and overall length
  • peace of mind – 4/5 – for frequent road crossings, mosquitoes
  • fresh air – 5/5
  • return to nature – 5/5 – especially the Designated Wilderness Area
  • sense of accomplishment – 5/5

TOTAL SCORE 24/25 – Highly recommended midwinter hike

LeFleurs-BluffLeFleur’s Bluff – Mayes Lake to the Museum

LeFleur’s Bluff is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  Right in the heart of Metropolitan Jackson Mississippi, flanked on two sides by busy highways, Lefleur’s bluff is a haven from the hustle and bustle of the city.  In fact, once you get onto the trail I think you’ll be hard-pressed to tell that you are anywhere near a city.

One downside is that it is frequently scattered with trash washed into the Pearl river from the city and deposited here – but there are volunteer organizations working on that problem.

LeFleur’s Bluff is only 2-3 miles long from the Lake to the Museum, and that makes it perfect for a nature walk or day hike – but it might cut down on the more hardcore hikers’ sense of accomplishment and exercise.

  • exercise – 3/5 – short, but some elevation
  • peace of mind – 4/5 – it really is remarkable that you cannot hear traffic noise from here
  • fresh air – 3/5 – not because of the air, but the litter
  • return to nature – 5/5 – good flora and fauna
  • sense of accomplishment – 3/5 – elevation can make up for the short distance

TOTAL SCORE 18/25 – Recommended day hike close to anywhere in central Mississippi

Tishomingo_State_Park_2017_4Tishomingo State Park – Saddleback Ridge

Nestled into the northeast corner of the state, Tishomingo is a complete departure from the geology and terrain we are used to seeing in Mississippi.  Most of Mississippi lies at the bottom of what used to be a shallow prehistoric sea, so the state is mostly very low elevations and mostly flat – but not Tishomingo!

The farthest northeast corner of Mississippi is actually the southernmost tip of the Appalachian mountains and was never inundated by that prehistoric sea, so at Tishomingo you start to see the beginnings of some real elevations (in the neighborhood of 500-700 feet).  At least, that is the beginnings of real elevation for people that live all their lives at sea level.

The rock formations at Tishomingo are stunning.  Driving through the park you see huge boulders that give the impression that a giant infant left his building blocks lying about.  The Saddleback ridge trail features some of these rock formations as well as caves and waterfalls.

  • exercise – 3/5 – very short but there is some elevation and even some rock climbing
  • peace of mind – 4/5 – great vistas
  • fresh air – 5/5
  • return to nature – 5/5 – remarkable geology – unusual for Mississippi
  • sense of accomplishment – 4/5 – minus for the extremely short distance, plus for the elevation and geology

TOTAL SCORE 21/25 – Highly recommended

Clark Creek Natural Area

2018-06-22 08_50_35-GreenshotIn the opposite corner from Tishomingo, lies another remarkable phenomenon – the loess bluffs and waterfalls at Clark Creek.  Clark Creek features what are probably the steepest climbs in Mississippi and it is easily the best place in Mississippi to see waterfalls – real waterfalls!

  • exercise – 5/5 – enough elevation to satisfy anyone.  If the distance is too short, do the trail 2-3 times in a day.
  • peace of mind – 4/5 – unbearable heat and mosquitoes in midsummer
  • fresh air – 5/5
  • return to nature – 4/5 – developed steps make this less natural but make the elevation more survivable
  • sense of accomplishment – 5/5

TOTAL SCORE 23/25 – Highly recommended for Spring or late Autumn

singing a walking songPercy Quin State Park – Nature Trail

Percy Quin State Park’s Nature trail has got it all – parkway, boardwalk, upland pines, lowland hardwoods, swamp, and lakefront hiking!  If you are alert you can see many species of plants, birds, and insects, including bald eagles, Mississippi kites, and ospreys.  At Percy Quin it is easy to find a new species of plant every time you go even if you’ve been going there for years.  Parts of the back side of the lake are also remote enough that you can fool yourself into thinking that you are walking in a really wild place.

The official trail documentation says that the trail is an 8-mile walk around the lake, but if that is too short for you, you can stretch it to 10 miles by starting at nearby Quail Hollow golf course parking lot, walking in to either trailhead and around the lake, then back out to the parking lot.

Because of the perfect length and the natural diversity, Percy Quin has become my favorite regular hiking destination.

  • exercise – 4/5
  • peace of mind – 4/5
  • fresh air – 5/5
  • return to nature – 3/5 – boardwalks, pipelines, fencelines
  • sense of accomplishment – 5/5

TOTAL SCORE 23/25 – Highly recommended

20180519_075220_HDRPotkopinu

Potkopinu, an Indian name meaning “Little Valley,” is the longest remaining hikeable segment of the old sunken Natchez Trace road.  Just east of the new Natchez Trace Parkway, Potkopinu runs from near mile marker 20 to near mile marker 17 – about 3.5 miles.  You can do this as a 7 mile there-and-back or you can stretch it into an 11-mile triangle by walking SOBO down the sunken trace then NOBO along the new Parkway and back to the trailhead along State road 553.

  • exercise – 3/5 – short with few hills
  • peace of mind – 4/5 – you can hear Parkway traffic
  • fresh air – 5/5
  • return to nature – 5/5
  • sense of accomplishment – 3/5

TOTAL SCORE 20/25 – Recommended day-hike steeped in history

 

I’m sure I could come up with 5-10 more trails in Mississippi that exemplify some of the above criteria but these are the few that I think are average-or-better in all of the above benefits – exercise, peace of mind, fresh air, return to nature, and sense of accomplishment.

Did I leave your favorite hiking spot off the list.  If so, what trail would you add to the list?