Holly Springs National Forest, established in 1936, was saved by government intervention in a potentially disastrous situation. At the time, the land was abandoned due to agricultural soils being washed away by rains. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reestablished the hilly land’s stability by reforesting with loblolly and shortleaf pine. Much of the 155,000-acre Holly Springs National Forest is dotted by private farmlands still working today, creating a situation where small communities exist inside the forest’s borders. The forest is more than rolling hills of trees. Streams that run through the land and the crystal blue lakes full of fish attract anglers and hunters to local communities like Holly Springs from Tupelo, MS, and Memphis, TN.
There are two trails inside Holly Springs National Forest that give visitors an idea of the region. Baker’s Pond Trail begins among one of the forests planted by the CCC. The in-and-out path travels from the forest to Baker’s Pond, surrounded by a shallow, swampy area. A bonus to the trail is the fact that Baker’s Pond is the source of Wolf River.
Length: 1.0 miles
Another trail that runs through Holly Springs National Forest is the Chewalla Lake Recreation Area Trail. The path begins in a forested area and moves through a shallow valley to 260-acre Chewalla Lake. Once there, visitors are welcome to fish, swim, or paddleboard in the lake.
Length: 4.1 miles
Intensity: Easy to Intermediate
Another excellent trail within easy driving distance of Holly Springs National Forest is the Ballard Park Loop. Located within the city limits of Tupelo, MS, this loop increases in elevation by only 42 feet, making it one of the more level trails in the region. The pathway runs around a lake in a peaceful park setting and is a favorite exercise trail for locals.
Length: 1.4 miles
Located across the road from the Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center in Tupelo, MS, this trail takes you through the prairie landscape that surrounds Tupelo. Along the way, hikers get to visit a Chickasaw Village Site and the Old Town Overlook. This is one of the few places outside of a national forest where hikers experience the prairies as they were when settlers arrived.
Length: 6.3 miles
For avid hikers, there is a trail 15 miles outside the Holly Springs National Forest that wanders through the Appalachian Mountains in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area called the Tanglefoot Trail. Established by Native Americans, this pathway has seen use by many explorers like Hernando de Soto and Meriwether Lewis. Hikers experience a bit of history while observing beautiful views along this pathway.
Length: 43.6 miles
Intensity: Moderate to Difficult
Holly Springs National Forest is a beautiful place to distinguish between native and invasive plants and animals. An effort is made in this forest to limit invasive plants such as kudzu while re-establishing the woods and grasses that once dominated the area. The reinforcement of marshy environments is drawing migratory birds like osprey back to the site.
Streams, many of which are reconstructions of those lost when the land’s primary use was agricultural due to small farm dams, crisscross the region. These streams often feed lakes that were once dry and carry an abundance of fish. Anglers are returning to this area to fish for bluegill, sauger, crappie, and reemerging trout, some of which are stocked, and most of which are recovering populations of native fish.
Every Mississippi National Forest allows geocaching on its lands. However, you must be aware that these forests are mixed with private lands. For instance, the 155,000 acres that make up Holly Springs National Forest are dispersed among 550,000 acres of private land. Be aware of your location; to place a geocache on private land in Mississippi, you must get consent from the landowner.
There are several communities within the boundaries of Holly Springs National Park. No matter how small these communities may be, they contribute toward light pollution. Combined with the low elevation, the light pollution factor limits stargazing quality compared to high elevation, unpopulated areas.
Address: 636 Highway 178 E, Holly Springs, MS 38635
Fee: Entry fee $0
Holly Springs National Forest provides enough attractions to complete a two-week family vacation. The challenge comes with its dispersal among private lands, which requires considerable driving to see the forest's entirety. An RV is the perfect vehicle to take a family on vacation here.