A nature trail right in town? No way.
Nope, it’s really there. Twelve Oaks Walking Trail off Hanley Road in Ocean Springs, maintained by the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, is a little woodland getaway that combines several habitats, including a mixed oak and pine forest, a seepage slope forest, headwater bay swamps and tidal marsh.
To access the trail, turn north on Hanley Road from U.S. 90 in Ocean Springs. When you get to the end of the road, turn left onto the gravel driveway which takes you to a small gravel parking area outside a gate. Park outside the gate and walk in, keeping to your left.
The marker indicating the start of the trail is by some palmettos near the house, but do not go to the house or its immediate surroundings. This historic house is used as a home by the Land Trust’s Artist in Residence program, so respect the residents’ privacy. Here’s some backgroud, courtesy of the Land Trust. The property was originally bought from the U.S. Government in 1854. In 1880, the property was sold to Johanna Blount. Four years later, the property where the house now stands was deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church of Ocean Springs, who built a church on the site. Over the years, it changed hands several times. In 1955, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel James Logan bought the property, remodeling and expanding the house, portions of which date back to 1884.
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The trail, just over half a mile long, is a loop that leads back to Old Fort Bayou, where an observation deck gives the visitor a view of the marsh and the waterway. An occasional pleasure speedboat will pass in the distance, sending ripples in the water that eventually reach the deck.
On the way, you’ll see dense, lush forest, with orange, white or red mushrooms popping up after showers and large ferns enjoying the humidity. Ocean Springs is a bit hillier than other Mississippi Coast towns, so this trail isn’t flat; neither is it challenging. I went to the trail on a lark one Sunday morning after church so I didn’t have hiking or athletic shoes in my car, but I do carry cheap flip flops for downpour emergencies. Deciding they were a better option that the 3-inch heels I was wearing, I wore those on the trail and did well, although I would advise wearing something sturdier and with better sole traction.
Of course, don’t forget insect repellent. A few yellow flies tried to hang out with me until they got a sample of my spray.
You’ll notice a wealth of Live oaks, including one impressive one that spreads its limbs out like open arms. The Land Trust states that many of these oaks are believed to be at least 400 years old. Several markers point out native plants such as American beautyberry, blue mistflower, slash pine, swamp titi, yaupon, muscadine and magnolia.
This is also a Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail.
To learn more about Twelve Oaks Walking Trail, contact the Land Trust at 228-435-9191.
If you go
What: Twelve Oaks Walking Trail
Where: 1112 Hanley Road, Ocean Springs
What: A woodland walking trail, a little over a half a mile loop, that takes the visitor to an observation deck overlooking Old Fort Bayou.
Details: Land Trust of the Mississippi Coastal Plain, 228-435-9191.