“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by,  and that has made all the difference. ” – Robert Frost

The same can be said for the Sipsey Trail 209 in Bankhead’s Sipsey Wilderness area. Parking at the trailhead and entering the 200 which is the Borden Creek Trail leads you to a decision. The Borden, beautiful in its own right, leads you to a fork and a sign that points across a 50 foot creek. On good days, its a simple wade on others, it is deep and fast. Caution, skill set and experience should be taken into consideration for any water crossing. If your up to it and take the road less taken, your efforts will be worth the two steep hills leading into the creeks edges and the trek across. 

Borden Creek Crossing at the Sipsey River with Low Water
You certainly wont find yourself alone once making the crossing. Many people head across so they can see the beautiful waterfalls waiting on a realitively short hike of a moderate skill level. There are other trails less taken in the Sipsey Wilderness, but the fairly easy access to this trail tends to make lifetime fans of this National Forest in North Alabama.

Some may think that God giving us more time on earth for exercising (hiking in this case) is a goal, but not enjoying the minute you are in does not make it worth it. There is time for a treadmill for some, but this offers us only physical health. Good physical heath leads to better mental health, but our God created the most beautiful treadmill when He created places such as Sipsey Wilderness. The beauty of this creation, for those who can see it, will lead you to the solitude and reverence that these rock walls, waterfalls, wildlife and plants have to offer. 

Knowing that this area had an active Native American population, your mind will begin to ask questions regarding their being in the area when it was pristine. How much they must have loved living off the land and the water here. Not that it was easy or without peril, but certainly must have been regarded as a gift to them to protect and care for.

The goal for most on this trail is the walk to Fall Creek Falls. A few tenths before this fall, dont miss the beauty of the fall off the right of the trail. It is carved out like a small amphitheater. There is a campsite there, but I do not know how anyone can sleep there with the water running over the wall. It can be quite loud when the water is running high.

However, there is a hidden jewel here that I only discovered when reviewing photos from this fall. I previously wrote about pondering the lives of Native Americans only to have them looking on me in almost a 3D experience:

What do you see?

 As I walked back to look after reviewing the photo, just like Easter Islands overseers, this face was looking on me. In my mind, nature had created her own tribute to the people who were native to this area. I know, just matrixing going on in my head, but when your mind ties your thoughts to physical attributes of nature, it is all the more worth it.

       The Volunteers and Wild South Rangers along with good hikers tend to take very good care of this wilderness that is now in our possession and stewardship. The area is quite pristine, but occasionally you will come across evidence of others who do not take care of the land.  If you visit this area, be sure to leave no trace, take a bag and pack out any trash that may have been left by others. It is not a big issue by any means as noted above by those who care for the land, but if you use it, dont abuse it so others may have the same experiece.

Fall Creek Falls is the typical culmination of this hike. It is certainly worth it and you are in store for a beautiful scene when you round the trail and it opens up: 

Fall Creek Falls Sipsey Wilderness

Another beautiful angle of Fall Creek Falls

So most will eat their picnic, play, photo, journal and turn around at this point on 209. As for waterfalls, this is not the last, but the others are tiny and pale in comparison along the rest of 209 headed to Rippy/Thompson trails, but dont stop here, because there is so much more to see along the river and winding paths. 

Check your watch, have a hike plan, be prepared physically and with supplies and walk the trail. After Fall Creek Falls, the appearance of the Sipsey Trail, while familiar, takes on a different appearance. The stone cliffs and large trees still abound, but the sipsey flattens out a bit and becomes more of a woodland forest. Rolling paths open up to great campsites and rest stops for those who decided to venture further.

Low hanging pines cover the trail in sections creating an almost tunnel appearance. The views are a bit higher off the Sipsey River, but you get an opportunity to see fish, large and small, swimming without fear though the clear waters. (Note that water clarity is dependent of recent rains)

If you’re an angler, a 5wt Fly Rod and a well placed fly can produce an afternoon of fun. I typically use a barbless hook and practice CPR (Catch, Photo and Release). There are certainly fish species worthy of table fare swimming through the Sipsey, but I rather enjoy telling fish tales about how big they were without the fish being there to keep me honest. I am sure the fish appreciates this as well. Besides, a summer sausage, potatoes, and fruits/vegetables cooked over a camp fire tend to hit the spot much better for me.

The author’s 5wt Orvis posing for a Sipsey photo

In all, taking the other road opens up so much beauty for the expeditious hiker/camper that makes the exercise worth it. The 209 trail is well known because of the public parking area and if your able to jump on it at the creek crossing, you will not be disappointed regardless of where you turn back.

As always, 

  • Leave No Trace
  • Prepare and leave a plan
  • Know your Limits so you can Hike Your Hike
  • Gear Up
  • Don’t forget Permethrin and DEET for Tick/Bug Protection
  • And….  keep putting one foot in front of the other!


P.s.: added photos from this trail:


One thought on “Sipsey 209 – A Road Less Taken 

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