Big Tree Short Cut Loop and Needles Eye

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Sipsey Wilderness

Big Tree Short Cut Loop and Needles Eye is a 8.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Haleyville, Alabama that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length8.5 miElevation gain823 ftRoute typeLoop
dog friendlyBackpackingCampingHikingNature tripsBird watchingForestRiverViewsWaterfallWildflowersRockyScrambleOff trail
Description
Waypoints (12)

Note: Users have reported that this is a challenging route that is not marked well. It's easy to get off course and there is no cell phone service here, so downloading the map ahead of time is advised. Also, tell family and friends where exactly you plan to be and create a contingency plan. Users have reported that this route may cross through private property. This hike takes the shortest route to the Big Tree and then a slightly longer but easier route looping back. Going clockwise, the shortcut turns into Whiteoak Hollow and then crosses over the hill to Bee Branch. This route is called the Outlaw Trail by some. The ascent of the hill follows a creek up a draw, past a small waterfall, past the creeks beginnings, to the crest of the hill. At the crest the trail intersects an old road bed. Turn left on the old road bed and start looking for the trail to turn off to the right. The trail descending follows a draw that becomes a creek. The trail has several nice waterfalls. There is a technical area where you have to scramble down some ledges and cross a large rock fall. This can be accomplished with packs by experienced hikers. The trail then follows Bee Branch downstream to the mouth of Big Tree Hollow. There are many fallen trees heading up the draw to the Big Tree. There are two waterfalls close to Big Tree. After the Big Tree, the trail backtracks to Bee Branch and then follows the Bee Branch downstream to Thompson Creek. This trail gets users to the tree by the quickest though most strenuous hike while you are fresh, then it takes a longer but easier trail back while you are tired. Users can shave a little distance off by cutting through Needles Eye on the way back.

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Reviews (169)
Photos (943)
Recordings (175)
Completed (290)
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Steve H
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Hiking
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Steve H
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Hiking
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michael yielding
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Hiking
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Samuel Fields
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Running

I ran the trail. Since it’s winter the majority of the trail is just through dead forest. But once you get to the end where the big tree is it is absolutely magical. Waterfalls, rock formations, and still a decent amount of greenery.

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Brad Garner
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Hiking
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Russ Roberson
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HikingBlowdownScramble

Tough but a good trail. Lots of blow downs.

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Mary Beth Brown
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Hiking

Beautiful woods. Challenging enough with some incline and plenty of trees to climb over. As others have recommended, bring a map and GPS in order to stay on the trail.

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Kimberly Howell
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Hiking

This was an extremely tough hike. The map was easy to follow and we never lost the trail, however, make sure you have stiff shoes with lots of support. I am a beginner and hiked this loop, but I wouldn't pack heavy for this loop. Lots of boulder climbing, sloped trail next to drop offs, and slick rocks. It was an awesome experience, minus my fall off a drop off. If you plan to camp at Bee Hive Falls, there's only one small camping spot with a fire ring down across the boulders in the creek, down the hill from the big tree. There's not really anywhere to safely hang a hammock.

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Kimberly Howell
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Hiking

The waterfall just down from Needles Eye has an AWESOME campsite, especially for hammocks. Great close water source, dry firewood if you follow the give back rule and restock the supply under the rockface. It's a little bit of a climb to get there, but SO worth it.

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John Vincent
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Hiking

Download the map. You aggravatingly lose the path easily.

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Joseph Huwaldt
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Hiking

The weather was perfect and the trail conditions were as good as they get for this loop. But as always, there are a lot of downed trees that you have to navigate over, under, or around. This makes the trail a lot more challenging than you would think from the distance and elevation contours alone.

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Chris Caserta
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Backpacking
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Andrew B
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Hiking
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Terry Alldredge
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Hiking
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Kirk Hunt
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BackpackingBlowdownGreat!

Excellent route! I used this route to take my two sons out on their first backpacking trip. We traveled clockwise and camped at the confluence of the Bee Branch and the Sipsey (campsite #5 on this route). It was a very nice, spacious, soft ground, and cleared out campsite with easy access to the water. It would make for a great group camp site with how large it is. This was my first trip to the Sipsey and, as many others have reported, there are zero trail markers/blazes along the trails, so a map and a plan are essential if you're not familiar with Sipsey and its trails. I'd strongly suggest a GPS device with the route loaded into it. We got off route not far out of the gate simply because we were following the path and did not realize that we were supposed to cross the creek (White Oak Branch, maybe?) and head Southward. I happened to check our status on my GPS and saw we were off route. Fortunately, we hadn't gone that far before realizing it. Without my GPS, I don't think we would have figured that part out as the fork and trail crossing the creek was not obvious at all, mostly because it was hidden by vegetation. There was another location where the trail "disappeared" because of some bolder hopping. So, again, a GPS with loaded routes and waypoints was very nice to have. There were a large number of blowdowns along the way, but most now have worn footpaths that go around them so they weren't a problem. The Big Tree was an awesome sight (huge!). The path to it, while well worn, was somewhat overgrown but easily navigable. The Needles Eye was really cool, but it took some hunting to locate it as we couldn't locate an obvious path that led to it. There were some red blazes painted on trees and boulders that helped out. However, the "Needles Eye" waypoint marked on this route was spot on. So, if you're using a GPS, just make your way through the woods towards that waypoint and you'll find it. We sat in the Needles Eye for lunch and really enjoyed the view. Located a number of excellent campsites along the southern portion of the trail that followed the Sipsey. Thanks for the great route!

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Mickala Trousdale
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HikingGreat!MuddyRocky

More like a 10.5, well over 3 hours. If you take the trail counter clockwise it’s pretty easy to loose the trail toward the end. Downloaded map is a must. Tons of downed trees. Great day, excellent weather and very few bugs! Dog friendly.

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Wynn Knowles
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Backpacking

Overall, a beautiful trail! Especially the parts past Needles Eye and along the water. The portion between the Big Tree and the trailhead can be a little confusing at times. As others have said, bring a map! I got turned around a few times during that part, but made it out with the help of some friendly day hikers.

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Houston McCaleb
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Hiking

Great hike and perfect weather. But it was definitely more like 10 miles. Offline map is a must.

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Mark Dreifuss
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HikingBlowdownBugsGreat!Over grownRocky

It was an amazingly beautiful hike. Like some of the others have posted, you should buy the pro version of this app so you can download the map. If you don’t, you WILL stray from the loop - guaranteed! This trail is definitely worth it. I look forward to going back.

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Hillary Williams
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HikingBlowdownOver grownWashed out

I would recommend against trying this trail without pro or proficiency with a paper map. There's no cell service once you get there. The trail is clear for most parts but it's unmarked and there are lots of little wander paths that you can get lost on. Did the small loop this time, go clockwise to get the tougher parts of the trail over with first. The creeks and waterfalls were just trickles but it's still a beautiful walk in the woods. Lots of big blown down trees and the wander paths to get around them are very slippery. It's still one of my favorite trails in Alabama, but it could be epic with some trail maintenance.

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