Sipsey Wilderness Area in the Bankhead National Forest

Iron bacteria in the Sipsey Wilderness Area in the Bankhead National Forest
Photo by: Ke4ropMike Henshaw, Creative Commons

The Decatur Sipsey Wilderness Area is the largest national wilderness area east of the Mississippi River and the first of its kind in Alabama. As part of Bankhead National Forest, its span of 25,906 acres offers 54.2 miles’ worth of trails for hiking and horseback riding. It also contains the Sipsey Wild and Scenic River, a river system that is 61.4 miles long.

The William B. Bankhead National Forest is located in northwestern Alabama. With a span of 180,581 acres, occupying portions of Winston and Lawrence Counties, the forest offers lots of opportunities for camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and swimming. It was first known as the Alabama National Forest when President Woodrow Wilson designated the area on January 15, 1918; then had its name changed to Black Warrior National Forest by proclamation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 19, 1936, in honor of the Native Americans who settled in the forest; and finally got its current name by an Act of Congress on June 17, 1942, in honor of one of Alabama’s most distinguished native sons, William B. Bankhead, who served in the U.S. Congress from 1917 to 1940 and was Speaker of the House from 1936 until his death in 1940.

Together, these two places offer opportunities for natural beauty and primitive recreation, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The Sipsey Wilderness Trails offer varied scenic views along its paths, from cliffs to waterfalls to foliage and trees. Along the way, you can also hear the sounds of animals native to their habitats. Experiencing all the trails can take you a few days.

The Bankhead National Forest has six recreation areas, each offering various facilities for forest lovers, from beginners to experts. As the seasons change, the experiences in the recreation areas also change, giving visitors greater comprehension of those seasons.

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