Sipsey Trail 206 to Needles Eye

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Sipsey Wilderness

Sipsey Trail 206 to Needles Eye is a 9.5 kilometer moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Mount Hope, Alabama that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 9.5 km Elevation Gain: 134 m Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly



nature trips

bird watching




wild flowers


This is a good hike for beginners along Thompson Creek. The short trail has minor ups and downs around creek crossings, but does not cross over any hills. You begin at the Thompson Creek Trailhead. Parking is just before an old wooden decked steel truss bridge. You then cross the bridge and turn right to the beginning of TR 206. The trail then follows along Thompson Creek south to Needles Eye. There are many beautiful views of the creek. There are several side trails that follow rocky creeks if you turn right (heading in). These can be confusing but always go left for the main trail when heading in. TR 206 continues past Needles Eye so you to look for it on the left. When you see the rock bluffs on the left you need to look for an unmarked trail to the left. There is a well used camping area on the left on a short rise where the trail splits. The trail to Needles Eye goes through this campsite. There are several paths leading up to Needles Eye. Just wonder on one of the paths leading up. Needles Eye is formed from a narrow area of a hill making a peninsula with cliffs facing out on each side. Long ago the cliffs on each side narrowed together so much they collapsed. Part of the rock fall created an Eye that can be crossed through to get to the other side of the hill. Also in this area next to Needles Eye is what is known as Ship Rock. If, from a distance, you look at the non broken cliff end next to Needles Eye it will look like the bow of a ship. Once you cross over, the other side of the hill is very well worn between the cliffs and the creek. There are many paths covering the area. This side is a great place to rest, listen to the creek rapids, and play on the giant boulders. Great place for kids to play.

13 hours ago

Easy hike. Enjoyed thoroughly. Only drawback was hard to access water in places. Definately do this hike again.

Routed a 15ish mile loop. Made a wrong turn in beginning that added about a Mile, but a great trip and great trip

Really nice day hike. Old growth pine and hemlock forests, beautiful stream with beautiful rock formations along the way. Several nice camping spots along the river/stream.

nature trips
Tue Oct 09 2018

4 1/2 stars? To me it seems a little over rated. Good for camping but if you are wondering about a 1 day trip.. Think twice! You may regret it, we really do:/ We found 1 rattlesnake a pretty good size right on the trail just sitting there waiting for the next victim, I'm glad she made a noise other wise i probably would to have step on it. (Perfect camuflaje). I think.. if one of those snakes get you, does it you are done. Because you are not going to see any rangers or people near you, to at least help you kill the snake., • Not a single waterfall in 206. •No cell phone signal. So don't even think about calling 911.. In that place you are on your own be careful! Now that you know the truth.. Go out there!, have some fun! And don't ask for help! Personally, I'm not going back to this place since I'm not a camping person, but we do like trails., And the reason we took this one was because of the reviews. Not really what we were expecting to see. Ps. At least leave a corn trail so you won't get lost on your way back Raza si pasaron como yo, esto simplemente les traerá malas memorias no vayan

Sat Oct 06 2018

I just finished a 3 day camp from Sipsey Trailhead down 209 and finished at the end of 206 at Thompson Trailhead. 206 is a great camping trail and pretty easy to navigate. 209 was pretty rough with 50 lbs of camping and camera gear. Lots of down trees! Only saw one waterfall (Falls Creek) so go after a good rain if that’s one thing you’re looking for. Watch out for snakes, saw a rattler 3 feet from the trail....

Mon Sep 03 2018

GREAT place to go camping!! Lots of cleared places near the water with a very short hike from parking to campsites. Plenty of privacy and trails to hike. One of our favorite places to take the kids and dogs and spend the night. Directions are a bit difficult. We seem to get lost at least twice every time we go.

Sun Apr 01 2018

I recommend only hiking to the big tree then turning around if you want to stay by water

Sun Mar 18 2018

Beautiful and runnable for the most part. I did miss a turn at one point and had to backtrack. I would rank this trail as easy. The access road has some rough patches, but I made it fine in my camper van. I will definitely return to explore some more.

Mon Mar 05 2018

Took a Boy Scout Troop to hike and camp on 206. Beautiful scenery and lots to explore near Needle's Eye and Ships Rock. Look forward to returning to continue the exploration.

Sun Jan 28 2018

Took 206 in on Friday night. Went ahead and hiked down 209 towards Bee Branch. Lot of trees down along the way but the trail is well defined. We were going to go to the big tree on Saturday morning and finish out on the Outlaw trail back to Thompson trail head but managed to get extremely lost at the 209 end junction and hiked a mile or so to know where. Never could locate a defined trail or the outlaw trail. The area we wound up in was very hard and a ton of downed trees. This was our first time so I’m sure we just missed something. Ended up doubling back and going back out the same way we came in but skipping going through the eye of the needle. 13 miles total but enjoyed it.

Sat Jan 27 2018

great trail fairly easy to follow enjoyed it waterfall along the way.. plus you can climb up and pass to trough the needle. beautiful trip... we traveled lots of people on this trail.

Sun Dec 31 2017

It’s a good, very flat hike. There are some great campsites along this trail. Easy for kids or adults of all ages to do. Needles Eye is cool but a little underwhelming.

Tue Nov 07 2017

On this map, it shows the trail crossing the creek about 3-3.5 miles in, but the trail turns and follows the creek instead. The creek at this point is impassible without fording. I hiked another mile or so along 206, but with no creek crossing in sight, and running out of time, I turned back after resting in a well-used rock shelter just off the trail. Even though I didn't make it to the Needle's Eye, the scenery was top notch along this trail.

Wed Sep 06 2017

Hike to Needles Eye is good and easy. Beware that wild hogs are in the area and carry a virus that is fatal to dogs, so keep them on a leash. Area around the eye is amazing with great camping sites by the creeks, especially on the backside of the eye. The marked trail on this map crosses the creek near needles eye, but we found it hugs the creek looping around to other side of needles eye. For the couple asking where needles eye is... it's up the bluff behind the big boulders where you told us the great camping sites were.

Mon Jul 10 2017

Don't try to get to the trail via 7. The road ends and is actually an old horse trail. we ended up hiking for three miles out and three back on the horse trail because of the directions not being accurate.

Thu Dec 10 2015

Very Scenic...Follows the river. Lots of bluffs and rock formations.

Tue Oct 13 2015

very easy very nice trail and good campsites.

Sat Nov 29 2014

This one want disappoint. Good hike along the creek, not hard to navigate, and well maintained. Will be back.

Mon May 19 2014

Very easy trail (3 miles in 1.5 hours with scouts) in spite of 12 hours of rain during 2 nights. Great rock formations such as Shiprock and Eye of Needle. Plenty of campsites on the trail especially along the creek. See map of area for variety of trails, scenery, and terrain.

Tue Jan 07 2014

Wow water side camping galore. Rock formations everywhere. Cliffs and caves surrounding you in a narrow lush valley with a rolling river below your campsite. Easy easy trekking.

Fri Jul 12 2013

Much work has been completed by volunteer groups along the Thompson Creek trail in the Sipsey Wilderness Area of Bankhead National Forest. Wild South has done an amazing job clearing the privet hedge and downed trees along this trail. In the Spring you will see the most beautiful wildflowers. Some species are quite rare. As you hike along the beautiful Thompson Creek you will go through a gorgeous Hemlock forest. The shade is so cool and the area is beautiful. After you follow the big bend to the right you will come to Ship Rock. There is a wonderful camping area at the base of the rock formation. Up in the rock is the Eye of the Needle. It is fun to go through the Eye and visit Trail 209 and the rapids along the Sipsey River on the other side of the Eye.

Sun Mar 17 2013

Hiked this trail on March 17, 2013. Trail was in great shape. Walked near to the junction with 201 - 209.

Wed Sep 14 2011

ONE Star right now. Backpacked the trail with the family in August. Large groupings of trees down. Trail is impractical. We went 1 1/2 miles in 4 1/2 hours. After camping, we hiked out via Thompson Creek, 1 hour. I recommend against using this trail until it is cleared. Check with Rangers for updates. Mike

Fri Aug 19 2011

Love Thompson Creek Trail 206! We have camped many times at Ship Rock/Eye of the Needle. If you go through the Eye of the Needle you can drop down to a truly beautiful section of the Sipsey River Trail 209 on the other side. I heard that the trail was blocked by trees from the April 2011 tornadoes in this area. I haven't been in the forest to find out. If you do an out and back, your gonna walk at least 6 miles.

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