We left Sunday after church to hike the loop trail around Cub Creek Lake at Natchez Trace State Park. The park is only 1 1/2 hours from our home in the Memphis area east on I-40, so it’s a pretty quick drive. This trail is part of a longer trail called the Red Leaves backpacking trail that is approximately 26 miles long and contains 3 back-country shelters at which you can camp. This should be enough to keep us busy for a while!
We were surprised to find out that for now the park office is open 7 days a week till 4:30. Most of the Tennessee state parks offices close on weekends and evenings, which seems like the very time they would be needed, when people come and visit the park and camp! I guess it’s due to lack of funding. But apparently they have funding for now to be open on the weekends. There was also a lot of recent work done on new trail bridges, shelters and trail signs as well, which maybe also come from new funding.
So we first first headed to the park office to get the free trail map, which showed us where the back-country shelters were. There was also a nicer color map available for donation that I also found on the internet. This map was easier to read, and showed all the back roads in addition to the trails, but did not show the shelters. I’m not sure why they can’t put both on one map. But anyway, at least they have them available on some map. We registered to camp in the back-country with the man in the office, who was very friendly and helpful. Then we headed off on our adventure!
We didn’t have much time to hike, so we decided to do a small portion of the Red Leaves Trail, hiking it from the park office until it joins with the Cub Creek Trail, and starting by following it around the southern end of Cub Creek lake. On this end the trail continues for a while, but eventually ends briefly. From there, you follow the lake edge, walking past the Recreation Building and the Picnic shelter to the double bridges on the southeast end of the lake. Then you pass through the cabin area, which was somewhat tricky. We just ended up walking up the stairs from the lake, turning left onto the road, and then noticed the orange trail marker along the road which marks the Cub Creek Trail. It had us turn left down the driveway of a cabin, which we felt a little funny about because a large group of people were grilling in the front yard of this cabin! There were several markers down this driveway, which led us to the right into the woods and back to the Cub Creek Trail at the end of the cabin driveway. We followed the trail around the east end of the lake to just before the levee.
Fake eyes on caterpillar to scare predators
Boy Scouts built new boardwalks to keep us dry through the swampy area.
Red leaves on the Red Leaves Trail
Some clear-cutting on the southern end of the Cub Creek Lake Trail make an interesting change on the trail
Almost stepped on this bees nest in the middle of the trail!
The first part of the double bridge, closer to the picnic shelter
The second half of the double bridge, leading up to the cabins
We were told by the man in the office to look for a side trail to the shelter. In fact, we did see an approximately three foot high post with a very prominent white marker that marks the Red Leaves Trail, and a trail leading off away from the main trail. There was also a big nail but no sign attached. So we assumed this could possibly be the side trail to the shelter. My husband followed it for a bit and found the shelter. It was just a tenth of a mile or two off the main trail, but you have to keep a lookout for that little post, just south of the levee.
We were very pleasantly surprised to see an almost brand-new shelter that had been build by Boy Scouts recently. It was very clean. It had four bunks, two on each side of the shelter and a nice big porch roof overhang at the front. There was an opening in the eves at the back of the shelter that nicely let in a lot of light, but could be a problem in a storm. You may need a tarp to prevent water coming in that way.
We hung our two hammocks from the porch posts, and since it was cool, the fire my husband made in the fire-pit felt wonderful. There were also lots of nice areas for tent camping here. It was a really pretty site. The temperature was also cool this weekend, so no bugs! No mosquitoes, no ticks. And we hope no chiggers. We won’t find that out for a couple of days, whether we got them or not.
The four bunks and the open eve at the back of the shelter
Our hammocks hung on the posts from the porch
Nice cleared area for camping and a firepit
Coffee and snuggled in my sleeping bag in the cool morning!
We had to be back home by midday the next day, so we had planned this hike to have done the longer southern portion (we’re guessing 3 1/2 miles) around the lake the first day, and then we only had 2 1/2 miles to finish up in the morning. We made good time and enjoyed the northern end of the lake hike. Back at our car at the park office, we noticed a rehabilitating owl in an enclosure who was quite cute, blinking at us randomly with different eyes. We headed home and were glad we had another quick hiking getaway! Hope you enjoy the pictures and that you can get out and hike it soon! Happy Trails!
View of the levee from near the side trail to the shelter
The levee at the east end of Cub Creek Lake is both the trail and access road for hunting
Flowers along levee
Red Leaves on the Red Leaves Trail
We found this little guy hanging out in mid-air
There was a cool cable bridge over a shallow stream. (There also a traditional bridge alternative!)
This rehabilitating owl at the park office randomly blinked at us with different eyes! Very cute.
The view of Cub Creek Lake from the levee.
We got to see the Mr. Peanut car on the ride home on I-40!