After hiking all but just a few miles of official trails in the Sipsey Wilderness, most of my time is now spent far from any road (or official trail) exploring the many sights the area has to offer. I generally enjoy being off the beaten path for the solitude and it seems the best scenery or sights are “off trail.” There are several locations that have been on my list for some time to visit, but because they are short hikes (1-2 miles) that I just haven’t made the time for up to this point.
Caney Creek Falls in Bankhead Forest is one such location. Once you find the spot to park just off the road (a quick Google search will pull up multiple sets of directions), it is nearly impossible to not find the upper falls as you just follow the old roadbed straight ahead. Following the well worn path, one will arrive at the upper falls just under a mile from the parking area and it is well worth the walk. As a note, there is a footpath trail on the right (with your back to the road) that I assume takes you toward the lower falls, but more on that in a minute….
After parking the car, I was greeting by “Red” – the friendly four legged welcoming committee that lives across the road. My yellow lab and “Red” got along great as he (I think “Red” is a male) joined us on the hike. I gathered my gear, locked the car, and headed down toward the falls. The very beginning of the trail has several spots where the path has been eroded by rainfall, but the rest of the trail is great condition.
The trail intersects Caney Creek just above the Upper Falls and I went upstream just a bit to take a picture down toward the falls. Climbing down to the water below the falls is a little tricky but just go downstream a little bit and you will find a way down. Be careful and don’t slip here! I went down to the water and took several pictures.
After enjoying a quick snack I decided to venture down to Lower Caney Creek Falls. My research informed me the far side of the creek was the preferred route so I crossed and downstream I went. As with most unofficial trails, the creek was crossed several times to stay on the easiest route. While there were a few areas where trees were down from storms, enough people have been this way to easily see the way around.
After about 3/4 mile or so Lower Caney Creek Falls was within sight. It is a little more tricky to find your way down and around, but several ways are available. More pictures were taken and this part of my trip was over. (Besides wondering just how far this trail followed Caney Creek which may turn into a multi night trip.).
Now I had a decision to make. I could retrace my steps all the way back to the Upper Falls and out to my car, but my map and compass told me it was shorter to go out following a creek and I thought I remember seeing a trail branch off in that direction. If the trail followed the drainage all the way out, it appeared that it would bring me out on the footpath I referred to earlier in this post and be a little shorter.
To spare you the details, I missed it. Looking at my GPS track, I think I turned one creek too early but I followed what I suspect to be an old logging road then bushwhacked the last 100 yards to the road. I came out about 0.1 miles east of my car, so I just walked down the road – no big deal. Total distance covered was just over 3 miles.
Except now I want to know where the mystery footpath leads – that may be one of my next trips!