Big Hill Pond State Park lies in the southwestern part of McNairy County and encompasses approximately 5,000 acres of magnificent timberland and hardwood bottom land. Cypress Creek and Tuscumbia River border the property. Several oxbow lakes and sloughs add to the waterway. The flood plain adjacent to both the Tuscumbia River and Cypress Creek contains small oxbow lakes and swamp areas which are desirable habitat for waterfowl, wildlife and fishing.
Plenty of Trails, but marking was confusing at times. Upon arrival, I stopped and got a map (they keep them in the mailbox at the Visitor's Center), then set up camp at Campsite 17, which it just so happened is right next to the entrance to the Rocky Knob trail, so I used this as my jump-off point. Within a couple minutes progress down the trail, you'll forget civilization is anywhere nearby. Serene and a fairly nice, thick canopy. As this was a cool, damp morning at around 8:30 a.m., I must add this: mosquitoes! Thousands of them. Luckily, I was covered in DEET and my clothes in permethrin...and as the morning progressed, the mosquitoes left to do whatever mosquitoes do during the day.
The Rocky Knob portion of trail doesn't look as traveled/used the rest, but markings were frequent. I soon left from the Rocky Knob section (leaving off the top loop of it) to join on the red (horse) trail. After a while, heading S/SW, I came to an intersection where there was both a giant white and black blaze. Since I was on the red trail, I didn't know which to take. Gut told me to go right, but, knowing left would at worst take me closer to the lake...I went left. Turns out, going right (probably) would have stayed on the horse trail. The trail I took to the left is NOT on the map, but if you find yourself on it, basically cuts through from the horse trail to the Grassy Point Shelter.
After a brief break at the Grassy Point Shelter, I headed around the edge of the lake on the Dry Ridge Trail, which re-joined the horse trail. Another intersection w/a large rock that appeared to be for sitting & taking breaks, and then l progressed to the tower (which, I obviously had to climb).
Now, if you're going this way (counterclockwise around the lake), and you come to the tower from the direction I did, things get a bit confusing at this point because the route to the boardwalk from the tower, as it's shown on the map, is not the most obvious/visible place to jump back on the trail. The place that IS most obvious isn't on the map at all. Basically, here's what you need to do. If you want to leave the tower and go to the boardwalk, you'll be entering a trail that's at your approximate 9 o'clock position from where you walked in to the tower area from the other trail. You'll know its correct if you find yourself walking down a long, steep descent (trekking poles help here). Once at the bottom, you'll reach a T in the trail. Go right and you'll be on your way to the boardwalk. (If you take a left, you'll ultimately end up back at the tower from the opposite side...which is how I found out what the map was trying to tell me to do...which was to exit on the far opposite side of the tower area, past where you can see some logs and fire remnants).
Beyond that, no other real confusion. The boardwalk seemed longer than I thought it would, but it was nice. I took the left once I got to the end of it and made my way around the rest of the lake. A while later, and I eventually crossed the smaller boardwalk that's close to the boat ramp, I took an immediate right to go back towards the campground. This section was not very well maintained and is RIGHT next to the water, but the trail was at least visible. Back to the campground by mid-afternoon. 10.46 miles in about 4.5 hours, with only around 18 minutes stop time.
I'd say the main thing that kept me from being too confused at times was comparing the track on my GPS to the trail geometry on the hard copy map I was carrying to determine where I was and whether/not I was on the right track. So yes, the map you get isn't perfect, but if you have a GPS to compare it too, no real problems. Or, if no GPS, just stay on established trails and "you'll come out somewhere". :-)
As for critters, I was in cutoff Army pants and hiking shoes w/no-show socks and didn't get any ticks or bites, but I know others who did because you ARE going to be brushing against vegetation. Chalking it up to DEET and permethrin because bugs love me. Also came one snake on the trail. I just went around and luckily didn't get chased. Oh, and I did see another snakeskin...so be careful because they're out there.
Lastly, the ONLY people I met on the trail was a family at the tower and a guy & his sons fishing on the small boardwalk, so if seclusion is your thing, this is probably a decent place to go. I figure I'll be back. Nice trip. Also, while the campground isn't "backcountry", it gets real quiet, dark, and peaceful once everybody shuts down for the night. Almost forgot I wasn't alone in the wilderness.
First of all, the map that you get at the ranger station is very outdated and not very helpful. We assumed the whole trail was 8 miles, when, in fact, the 8 mile loop is just a section of a much bigger 30 mile loop. We started hiking at 10am and gave up at about 5pm. The swamp area's bridges were out so we had to jump across creaks. If you were to go on the yellow trail in summer, you would probably find a buttload of Cotton Mouths there. We did reach the boardwalk (we like to call it the boardwalk of death because the boards are severely unreliable) and the tower that had an awesome view. Despite the 20+ miles we hiked, it was an adventure and very beautiful. Totally worth it. A good day trip if you like extreme hiking.
Surprisingly challenging trail for this part of the country. Would have given it another star but the board walk that crosses a swampy area had sunk into the lake and I stepped in a nest of cottonmouths. Not very well maintained. Scenery varies from swamps to hilltops. Would like to do it again in cooler non-snake weather but have to avoid the hunters that are allowed in one corner of the park.
We parked at the trailhead parking lot and headed towards the Dogwood Point shelter. It was raining the entire time so it was pretty miserable. The trails were a bit overgrown and definitely need some maintenance. We stumbled over several pieces of rebar that had been stuck in the trail and were exposed about 6 inches. Very dangerous. Made it to the shelter and decided to hammock camp closet to the Tuscumbia River. Night went well and we awoke to more rain, boo. Headed out a different trail and were met with the same overgrown type trails we encountered on the way in. I will go back to see the fire tower.
Second Trip to Big Hill, had a much better time. Although we didn't go very far about 3.5 miles. I took my Gold Retievers, one of which is pretty old. 3.5 miles was all he could go. Check out my pictures to see him cooling in the swamp.The beginning of the trail looks like, on the map, the beginning of the Azalea Trail, and we did spot many azaleas blooming (see my pic of the map). This time we left from the trail head by the levee. Crossed the boardwalk through the swamp which is nearly 1/2 mile long. We ended up going to the fire tower and then just turned back.
Biggest issue with the trail we hiked was lack of marking for crossing/forks in the trails. The trails were marked but when you reach a fork you basically had to guess. We hiked the Big Hill Pond trail it had some scenic rocks but mainly just wooded area. Also the map provided wasn't very helpful.
This is great intro to hiking park in West TN.
Stop by the ranger station for a nice waterproof trail map. Also just let them know how long you will be out.
Trails are well marked except for one section of trail on the south side of the park. There are multiple shelters along the trail, but some a ridden with waste. I always try to hike out the garbage in them.
The fire tower provides a nice view of the area.
Absolutely beautiful park. Get the full park map to get best view of the trails. Almost reminiscent of East TN in places. The fire tower is a gorgeous view & great lunch spot. If you go in spring, BE VERY SURE you've doused yourself with deet for ticks & your dog is on preventative as well. Even with the ticks, it's totally worth it. You'll love it, I guarantee.