Trail: Little Mountain Trail
Hike Location: Natchez Trace Parkway, Jeff Busby ParkGeographic Location: northwest of Ackerman, MS (33.41363,-89.26080)Length: 2 milesDifficulty: 4/10 (Easy/Moderate)Last Hiked: March 2019Overview: An out-and-back from the summit of Little Mountain.Parkway Information: Route Map:
Directions to the trailhead: Jeff Busby Park is located at milepost 193.1 on the Natchez Trace Parkway. This milepost is located 1.9 miles south of the Parkway’s intersection with Mississippi SR 9.
The hike: Similar in construction and purpose to the more famous Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia and North Carolina, the Natchez Trace Parkway extends for 444 miles from Natchez, MS in the south to Nashville, TN in the north. The Natchez Trace Parkway (henceforth called “the Parkway”) was established in 1938 as one of many projects undertaken by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and it roughly follows the route of the historic Old Natchez Trace, a major travel corridor for American Indians and European settlers in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Several segments of the old trace are preserved as hiking trails within the boundaries of the Parkway, which is owned and maintained by the National Park Service. Just south of the Parkway’s midpoint lie Jeff Busby Park and Little Mountain. The park is named for Thomas Jefferson Busby, a U.S. Representative from Mississippi who was instrumental in the national park’s establishment. In addition to Little Mountain, the park features a cozy 18-site developed campground, some picnic areas, and a restroom building appreciated by many travelers along the Parkway.

View from summit of Little Mountain

Although Little Mountain is only 584 feet in elevation, it stands almost 200 feet above the surrounding area. Therefore, Little Mountain provides one of the best views along Mississippi’s section of the Parkway. For people willing to leave the summit views behind, a 0.8 mile one-way trail connects the summit area with the campground, and a short loop extending from the main trail takes you past a nice spring. While these trails may not seem like a compelling hike, the well-constructed and well-graded trail combined with the summit view made this hike my favorite hike from my Spring Break hiking trip to east-central Mississippi.

Little Mountain Trail's upper trailhead

After enjoying the view from the summit, follow the concrete sidewalk to the left (north) to find the signed upper trailhead for the Little Mountain Trail. Intersections along the Little Mountain Trail are marked by numbered posts bearing small trail maps; this trailhead is post #1. The trail leaves the summit by descending a pair of steep switchbacks over some wooden waterbars. This hike stays in broadleaf forest for most of its distance, and the relatively high relief and nice forest make Little Mountain an above average leaf peeping destination for this part of the country.At 0.2 miles, you reach post #2 and the intersection that forms this trail’s short loop. I continued straight to hike the loop’s longer and lower arm first. After descending some wooden steps, you cross a boardwalk that gives a nice view of a small spring. This spring was putting out a decent volume of water when I hiked here in mid-March.

Spring on Little Mountain

The trail curves left and climbs slightly to reach post #3 and another intersection. If you only wanted to hike the 0.5 mile nature trail loop, you could turn left here and quickly return to the summit. To extend your hike, turn right and continue heading for the park’s campground at Little Mountain’s base. After a short gradual climb, you pass post #4 and a small picnic area. Summit road access is also available here.

Small picnic area at post #4

The rest of the Little Mountain Trail is a winding, steady, gradual-to-moderate descent, parts of which use some excellent wooden step construction. Some sections of this trail seem to follow an old road that may be a spur of the Old Natchez Trace. At 0.8 miles, you cross a creek on a wooden footbridge that looked quite new on my visit.

Wooden steps on Little Mountain Trail

Soon the campground comes into view uphill and to the left, and 1 mile into the hike you reach the Little Mountain Trail’s lower end at post #5, which marks the campground trailhead. A drinking fountain and restroom building lie just to the left if they are needed. The trail ends at the campground, so your only option is to head back toward the summit of Little Mountain via the same trail you descended. For a little variety, you could use the shorter upper arm of the loop, which takes a sidehill route above the spring you hiked below on your way down.