With eight national parks, 25 state parks, and half a dozen national forests, Mississippi is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Hikers can find thousands of trails to suit all fitness levels, many of which run next to the low-lying state's majestic bodies of water. If you are going on a road trip through Mississippi or simply want to build a bucket list of cool things to do in the Magnolia State, consider these 10 awe-inspiring hiking destinations.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore, located along the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi and Florida, offers several hiking trails on Mississippi’s barrier islands. The Mississippi section offers visitors the chance to hike trails and stroll down the wide open spaces of white sand beaches. The 1-mile David Bayou Trail will get you to a picnic area, while the half-mile Nature’s Way Trail and the quarter-mile Civilian Conservation Corps Spur are fairly easy and provide beautiful views of the bayou.
No list of great hiking in Mississippi would be complete without including the Clark Creek State Park. Spanning over 700 acres, it offers some of the most stunning fall foliage in the state as well as dozens of waterfalls that range from 10 to 30 feet tall. The trails of the park also give visitors the chance to spot uncommon trees like umbrella trees and pyramid magnolias.
Nearly 100 miles east of Jackson, the Bonita Lakes Park easily lives up to its name ("bonita" means "pretty" in Spanish). Spanning 3,330 acres, the park's nature trails run through primitive areas. The 7.6-mile Bonita Lake Trail, which takes you around the lovely lake, offers a fairly easy hike with stunning scenery. Dogs are welcome, but they should be kept on a leash at all times on the trail.
In Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley, you can experience both the city's history and natural beauty on the Blackland Prairie Trail. Part of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail—which runs more than 60 miles through multiple states—this 6-mile stretch is easy and open to hikers year-round. Be sure to stop at the Chickasaw Village Site, where you can take a half-mile interpretive trail and visit the Old Town Overlook and Visitor Center.
Located in the gorgeous Holly Spring National Forest in the hills of North Central Mississippi, the Baker’s Pond Hiking Trail is only one mile long. While it's rated easy, many may find the trail challenging because it navigates hilly terrain via a graveled stairway trail. As its name suggests, the trail leads to the spring-fed Baker’s Pond, a source for the Wolf River. Be sure to notice the distinctive purple sands on the stairway section.
Located just east of Hernando, the 1-mile Swinging Bridge Nature Trail is part of the South Outlet Channel Recreation Area. A section of the Coldwater River used to flow over the land where the trail is now; if you want to learn along the way, informational signs can be found throughout the trail to teach you about the history of the area and help you identify what’s growing here.
Situated at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the Tishomingo State Park offers visitors the chance to wander among pristine forests, vivid wildflowers, serene creeks, and moss-covered boulders. Nearly 50 miles northeast of Tupelo, the park boasts 13 trails ranging from easy to moderately difficult. The Flat Rock Trail gives hikers the chance to see dog wood, red oak, and hickory trees, whereas the Outcropping Trail features a swinging bridge and small waterfall. Other trails include the Natchez Trace Trail and Bear Creek Trail.
The 395-acre Shepard State Park in Gautier has 8 miles of nature trails to explore. Ranging from easy to only moderately difficult, these trails can be found in five different locations around the park. Hike among stately oak trees and wildflowers as you try to spot deer, raccoons, and a wide variety of birds. If you want to stay overnight, 30 primitive campsites are available within the park.
The Longleaf Trace Trail is a 44-mile, ADA-accessible paved hiking and multi-use trail. Created as part of the Rails-to-Trails conservancy, the trail goes along the long-abandoned Mississippi Central Railroad line's train track. As you hike by dogwood and magnolia trees, wildflowers, and songbirds, informative signs will educate you about the trail and things to see in the area. With a gradual slope, rest areas are offered every 2 miles if you need a break along the way. You may spot wildlife like raccoons, deer, and wild hares.
With the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reporting that there only around 100 Mississippi Sandhill Cranes still in existence, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge may offer the best opportunity to spot this unique bird. Of course, you can’t be guaranteed a sighting, but the nature trails are still worth hiking. The C.L. Dees Nature Trail is a 0.8-mile trail that is accessible for hikers of all skill levels, while the Fontainebleau Nature Trail is a pretty, 1.6-mile trail that goes partly along a river.