Big Tree in the Sipsey Wilderness is the largest known tree in the state at 150′ tall and 26.8′ circumference at breast height. Plus, it’s got a waterfall right behind it!
Hiking to East Bee Branch Falls – Trip Details
East Bee Branch Falls and the Big Tree are located several miles from any trailhead. The most popular trail starts at the Thompson Creek Trailhead and follows it south to the Sipsey River and Needle’s Eye before turning east along the river and then climbing back north to the canyon that Big Tree is in.
From there, the loop continues more directly back to the trailhead over a steeper path. The entire loop is a little over 8 miles. If you prefer to stick to the easier route along the water both ways, the total distance will be closer to 10 miles.
This could be done as a day trip when the days get longer if you get an early start, but we chose to make it an overnight to have plenty of time to enjoy the hike and the destination. Along the river trail, there are several cool stops and overlooks, including Needle’s Eye. So, you can choose your own pace.
When leaving the Sipsey River and heading north to Big Tree, there are two trails you can take. One joins much further east and hikes up and out of the canyon with the river before dropping back down to East Bee Branch. An alternate route follows Bee Branch to the tree and East Bee Branch Falls along the water and is a little flatter. The map below shows the former route.
Destination: Big Tree and East Bee Branch Falls
Once you’re there, Big Tree is a huge specimen which would have been much higher, but it looks like the top of the poplar was broken out at some point in the distant past, causing the top of the tree to fork and be much shorter than it would have been otherwise.
The canyon is littered with large boulders, and the waterfall makes a nice backdrop for enjoying Big Tree and the canyon.
More Waterfalls around Bankhead National Forest
Here in the middle of the Sipsey Wilderness, you’re practically surrounded by waterfalls. In the wetter months, you’re likely to see multiple small falls if you explore the places where branches and creeks cross the trail. Just use your ears!
If you’re looking for a quick visit on the way to the Thompson Creek Trailhead, Kinlock Falls is a scenic stop just off of the road. Or visit the other scenic falls in the area like Mize Mill Falls and Turkey Foot Falls.