The Magnolia State is where B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Jim Henson, and Oprah Winfrey were born. Root beer was invented here, and the first heart transplant was performed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1964.
Mississippi is located in the Appalachian foothills, nestled between Louisiana and Alabama. The state’s western border is defined by the Mississippi River that flows more than 2,300 miles south from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Its natural beauty includes savannas and prairies, coastal bogs, and six barrier islands.
From the northern border with Tennessee to where the land meets the Gulf in the south, these are the most scenic hikes in Mississippi.
1. Tishomingo State Park
Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, about 45 miles northeast of Elvis’s birthplace in Tupelo, Tishomingo State Park is named for the chief of the Chickasaw Nation.
One of the most popular hikes in Tishomingo State Park is the CCC Camp Trail. This 0.5-mile loop begins at the pioneer cabin, encircles a pond, and includes a lovely waterfall. The path is relatively flat, making this a good hike for trekkers of all skill levels.
For a longer, more challenging hike, explore the 1.8-mile Bear Creek Outcropping Trail. This loop starts and ends just northeast of the Tishomingo State Park Lodge at the swinging bridge, where it follows the creek before turning north to a waterfall.
2. Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
Natchez To Mingo
Winding more than 450 miles through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail connects Natchez, Mississippi, with Nashville, Tennessee. The forested footpath was used by Native Americans to hunt for bison and deer and by frontiersmen and settlers to connect developing cities and expand westward. In 1809, Meriwether Lewis (one-half of the team that explored the Louisiana Purchase territory) perished on the Natchez Trace while on his way to Washington, D.C. Today, sections of the historic road are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and much of the trail is open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.
Several popular hikes dot the Mississippi portion of Natchez Trace. Stretching more than 20 miles from Tavern Hill to Ridgeland, the Natchez Trace Trail is a paved hiking and biking trail. It’s not uncommon to spot deer, snakes, and other creatures along the path.
The Tupelo Trail offers hikers a variety of scenic paths. Beginning just across the street from the Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center, the Parkway Visitor Center Trailhead at milepost 266 is a 6-mile out-and-back trail along the outskirts of Tupelo. And at milepost 261.8, hikers can explore the Chickasaw Village Site. This 0.5-mile interpretive trail identifies native plants, describes how they were used by the Chickasaw people, and details the Chickasaw way of life before settlers arrived.
3. Tanglefoot Trail
New Albany To Houston
The 45-mile-long Tanglefoot Trail connects the Mississippi towns of New Albany and Houston west of the Tombigbee National Forest via an abandoned railroad line-turned-mixed-use trail. This well-maintained, paved route is relatively flat and good for hikers of all skill levels. As it links seven communities across three counties, the Tanglefoot Trail runs through old-growth forests, cotton fields, cow pastures, and freshwater wetlands.
Pro Tip: Rest stops along the way offer restroom facilities, picnic areas, and fresh drinking water.
4. Vicksburg National Military Park
The Vicksburg National Military Park preserves a Civil War battlefield that was a turning point in the war. Steeped in history, the 1,730-acre park includes some of the best walking and hiking trails in Mississippi.
A 16-mile tour road loops through the park, winding past monuments, a memorial arch, cannons, and other remnants of America’s bloodiest conflict. It’s easy to hike as much (or as little) of the tour road as you’d like, selecting the sights that interest you most.
While the road is open to pedestrians from sunrise to sunset, vehicles are only permitted between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., which gives hikers plenty of traffic-free time in the park.
Pro Tip: If you’re visiting Vicksburg in early March, participate in the Vicksburg Run Thru History, held the first Saturday of the month, rain or shine. The 10-kilometer run, 5-kilometer walk, and 1-mile fun run wind past battlefield relics and through beautiful woodlands and have become some of the Magnolia State’s most popular races.
5. Bonita Lakes Park
Anchored by the Bonita Reservoir in the north and the Long Creek Reservoir in the south, Bonita Lakes Park is a city-owned green space in eastern Mississippi, less than 30 minutes from the Alabama border.
One of its most popular hikes is the Bonita Lakes Trail, which encircles the park’s northernmost lake. Its ample hills make this 7.6-mile loop a moderately challenging hike.
6. Dunn’s Falls Park
Named for the Irish immigrant who created the park’s signature 65-foot waterfall in the mid 1850s, Dunn’s Falls Park is just east of the Chunky River in Enterprise. A steep staircase leads to a plateau at the bottom of the waterfall that provides a unique perspective of Dunn’s Falls. As you wander the wooded trail that follows the cool, clear lake, watch for wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, squirrels, and a variety of birds.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the park’s rustic homestead or 160-year-old grist mill powered by the waterfall when you visit Dunn’s Falls Park.
7. Longleaf Trace
Hattiesburg To Prentiss
Like the Tanglefoot Trail recommended above, Longleaf Trace is the product of a rails-to-trails project that repurposed a section of the abandoned Mississippi Central Railroad line into a 44-mile multiuse trail. The ADA-accessible path is the longest rail trail in the state of Mississippi and links several quaint Mississippi towns.
As you wander beneath white oak, southern magnolia, sassafras, and longleaf pine trees, watch for informative signs about the plants and animals in the area. The shaded path is lined with native perennials and peppered with unique stops. Near the Jackson Road Station is an off-leash dog park (in case you’re visiting Mississippi with your four-legged best friend). And west of the Clyde Depot is a large beaver dam.
Pro Tip: If you want to hang up your hiking boots for a few hours and hit the trail on two wheels instead, here’s where you can rent bikes along Longleaf Trace, including bicycles built for two. Just remember to follow the rules of the road when exploring by bike.
8. De Soto National Forest
Roughly halfway between Hattiesburg and Biloxi, this forest of southern pines is named after 16th-century Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. With more than 60 miles of hiking trails, De Soto National Forest is sure to have the perfect path for you!
One of the most popular treks here is the 7-mile Tuxachanie Trail that begins just north of Bethel Road, about 2.5 miles north of Saucier. With an elevation gain of less than 260 feet, this well-maintained trail with ample shade is rated an easy hike.
Pro Tip: There are more than 50 species of mosquitoes in Mississippi, and they are all attracted to the calm waters of freshwater lakes. Be sure to spritz on plenty of bug repellent before you hit any of these trails in the Magnolia State!
9. Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
This is my pick for the best hike in Mississippi. Check out TravelAwaits’ picks for the best hikes in all 50 states here. Mississippi sandhill cranes are tall, wading birds with a scarlet, mask-like stripe and a long, lean profile. Due to the conversion of much of their wet pine savanna habitat to pine plantations after World War II, these magnificent birds are critically endangered. To protect the Mississippi sandhill crane from extinction, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1975.
There are less than 100 Mississippi sandhill cranes left in the wild, and, while there is no guarantee that you’ll see one when you visit the refuge, one of your best chances is to hike a nature trail. The 0.75-mile C. L. Dees Nature Trail begins near the visitor center and loops past pitcher plants and sundews as it traverses the wet pine savanna. Or follow the 1-mile-long Fontainebleau Nature Trail through pine forests.
10. Gulf Islands National Seashore
Spreading across the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Florida, the Gulf Islands National Seashore preserves the natural beauty and historic sites along the Gulf of Mexico, including several barrier islands. Soak up the sun and breathe in the salty air by hiking the Davis Bayou area or one of Mississippi’s six barrier islands, all of which can only be accessed by boat.
Pro Tip: Ship Island is the only Mississippi barrier island with ferry service. The other barrier islands can only be reached by private boat.
This article is presented by KEEN Footwear. For my hikes, I wore the KEEN SOLR Sandal in Light Gray/Ocean Wave. The acronym stands for Sea Ocean Lake River, and the SOLR was the perfect shoe to splash around in when visiting waterfalls and trekking along creeks and rivers. Shop KEEN’s SOLR and other hiking shoes here.