You like trees? How about things that are Big? Then this is the hike for you. Located in the center of the Sipsey Wilderness you can find the largest tree in the southeast aptly named Big Tree. (clever right?) The big tree is a Yellow Poplar approximately 150 feet tall and takes about four grown men to encircle its circumference.
There are many trails you can use to get big tree ranging from 8 to 14 mile round trip routes which may seem daunting until you consider the fact that most of these trails are very flat. In fact this would be a great trail for anyone who is interested in good long trail run. For a complete list of the five main routes here are details for each including maps. For our trip we used the Braziel trail.
Getting to the Trail Head
From Moulton you head west on AL 24 then head south on AL 33/Market Street which takes you through downtown Moulton past the Moulton city square and an old movie theatre, it’s very small town americana. Next you take a right and head west again on Co Rd 59/Coffey Rd until you get to Co Road 7 where you take a left just before an old dilapidated general store. I point this store out for two reasons. One the road is not very well marked and it’s easily missed so this is good landmark and two if you have time you must stop in. This store is straight out of deliverance. Stay on county road 7, which can also be called Gum Pond Road, that’ll bring you right to the trail head. There are other ways to get there but the general store is a great insight into what rural Alabama looks like which is why I recommend it.
From Sipseywildeness.org; “Braziel (4 miles): Follow trail 223 - Gum Pond south until it ends at trail 208 - Northwest. Turn left (east) on 208 for about a third of a mile. Watch for trail 224 - Bunyan Hill on the right. Turn right (south) on 224 for another mile. Trail 204 - Bee Ridge is on the right. Follow 204 south for another mile until the path forks. The right fork goes to the Big Tree, about a quarter mile further and down a steep hill.” Before you head down the steep hill to the big tree on your right is a waterfall that you can explore and from the top of it you get a great view of the entire Big Tree Holler. The round trip will be about 8 miles.
There are three main attractions to explore in the holler. First of course is the tree itself.I don’t want to insult your intelligence by telling you how and where to locate it because it’s a big frigging tree and kind of hard to miss. I’m not a naturalist and have no way of knowing what specific set of environmental circumstances have allowed this Poplar tree to grow so tall. If I had to guess I would say it has something to do with the fact that it has been isolated for hundreds of years protected from humans and the elements. The second must see is the water fall mentioned earlier. It’s not a very aggressive falls but what it lacks in luster it makes up for in height. And lastly is big cavern that is almost as impressive as the tree. Long and wide this alcove would be a great place to weather a storm.
When it is Over
I don’t know about you but hiking works up my appetite and it’s a tradition or ours to patronize a local establishment after a good romp through the wilderness. I’d recommend stopping in at John’s BBQ located at 15165 Court Street in Moulton in an old log cabin. It’s some great bar-be-que but don’t get the Buffalo wings.