Mississippi is the perfect place for all those who love to explore the great outdoors. We’re one of America’s most densely forested states (about 60 percent of the state covered by tree canopies) with numerous national and state forests offering hiking trails and other outdoor recreation opportunities. There are plentiful lakes, rivers, and Gulf Coast barrier islands to explore, too!
Merit Water Park is located on Rials Creek, a tributary of the Strong River. The park features a small, but surprisingly mighty, waterfall and an old-fashioned swimming hole. Since the creek is spring-fed, you’ll find the water to be refreshing even in the summer months. Be sure to visit D’Lo Water Park, while you’re there, too. It’s just a few miles away.
Located in the heart of Jackson, Mynelle Gardens features seven acres of beautifully landscaped gardens with shaded trails bounded by plants and flowers including azalea, camellias, daylilies, and other Southern favorites. The garden’s trails cross over an idyllic bridge and past bronze sculptures, with several sitting areas for admiring the view.
At the top of Dunn’s Falls, you can see what remains of a 19th-century grist mill that was once powered by a wheel built over the site’s 65-foot waterfall. You can walk through the old mill and even see some of the tools that were used by workers at the historic mill. A shallow stretch of the Chunky River lies at the bottom of the falls, offering opportunities for wading or tubing.
At milepost 122 on the Natchez Trace, you’ll find the Cypress Swamp Loop Trail. The boardwalk trail passes through a half mile of cypress swamp wetlands shadowed by a canopy of bald cypress and water tupelo trees. The swamp is a trailhead for two longer trails – you can hike 14 miles south to the West Florida Boundary or nine miles north to the Yockanookany Trailhead.
Coastal Ridge Farms is a small family flower farm that grows sunflowers and zinnias that can be picked for purchase by the bucket. The farm is a popular spot for photographers who are welcome with paid admission. Because the farm is only open seasonally (twice a year when flowers are at their peak) and advance ticket are required, be sure to check their website before you travel.
Coastal Mississippi offers excellent kayaking and canoeing opportunities along numerous scenic blueways (specially designated waterways that are protected and maintained for paddling, fishing, and related water activities). Bayou Bernard is a popular choice near Gulfport thanks to its natural beauty, excellent marina, and ADA-compliant boat ramps.
The Sunken Trace, located at milepost 41.5 near Port Gibson, is one of the most often photographed stops on the Natchez Trace. Visitors can walk along a deeply eroded portion of the old Trace that follows a path first carved out of the wilderness by migrating animals, then members of Native tribes, European colonists, and early Americans.
Mississippi has six barrier islands, including four that are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Horn Island, a local favorite, can be reached via private charters that operate along the coast. The undeveloped island is a local favorite that offers a “wild” island experience. Camping is permitted, but be aware that Horn Island is a wilderness area – there are no facilities or park staff on the island.