Sipsey Wilderness

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Sipsey Wilderness Area is located in the William B. Bankhead National Forest of northwestern Alabama. It is the third largest wilderness east of the Mississippi River, with 24,922-acres. Sipsey is the largest and most frequently visited Wilderness area in Alabama and contains dozens of waterfalls.

Waterfall in Sipsey Wilderness Area, Alabama
The wilderness was first designated in 1975 (with 12,000 acres) and expanded in 1988.

Sipsey Wilderness Area

Established: 1975
State: Alabama
Management:
U.S. Forest Service
Acres: 25,770 acres
Nearest Towns:
Double Springs, AL
80 miles northwest of Birmingham

A large part of the wilderness is composed of Brindlee Mountain, a cut-off section of the Appalachian Plateau. The plateau has been heavily eroded into a rough landscape built on layers of sandstone and limestone. It’s this geology that makes waterfalls so common in the area.

Sipsey Wilderness in FallThe wilderness is named for the Sipsey River, 61 miles of which are a designated Wild and Scenic River. Rising above the river and its tributaries you’ll find scenic overlooks and small caves. With the limestone/sandstone geology, sinkholes are pretty common, too. The elevation ranges from a low of 580′ to a high of 1,001′.

There are still some pockets of virgin timber in the wilderness but at one time, nearly the whole place was clear-cut. New growth has taken hold and the forest is making a comeback.

Most of the hiking trails in the area are along the old logging roads. There are twelve established and maintained trails, all rated easy to moderate. There are several trail heads on the southern boundary of the wilderness at the Sipsey River Recreation Area (which has toilet facilities and a $3 day-use fee but no campsites).

Sipsey Wilderness in FallA couple of these trails cross the wilderness and end at a parking lot on the northern boundary. Camping and campfires are allowed in the wilderness, so are hunting and fishing in season with the appropriate licenses.

Horseback riding is allowed only on designated trails. The trails see moderate to heavy use all year round.

Sipsey Wilderness is administered by the National Forest Service as part of William Bankhead National Forest.