Long Leaf Trace Trail, Mississippi
Length: 41 miles
Suitable For: Walking, Running, Cycling, Skating, Horseback Riding (Horses allowed in specified areas)
- No petroleum-propelled vehicles are permitted on the trail except emergency, maintenance, and patrol vehicles authorized by the district.
- No person under 12 years of age is allowed on the trail unless accompanied by an adult.
- Fires are allowed only in grills and fire pits provided in designated areas.
- Vandalism of any building, structure, plants, signs, or property of the district is prohibited.
- No person shall litter or dispose of litter except in waste containers provided by the district.
- Horseback riding is permitted only on the equestrian trail and shall cross the paved trail only at designated places.
- All users of the trail shall yield to all horse traffic at equestrian crossings.
- Firearms of any kind are prohibited on the trail except for authorized personnel, law enforcement officers, or by permit.
- Hunting is prohibited on the trail or on any property of the district.
- Shooting a firearm on, over, across, or down the trail is prohibited.
- Explosives or fireworks are prohibited on the trail.
- Disorderly conduct is prohibited including, but not limited to: abusive language, intoxication, disturbance of other persons using the trail, or breach of peace.
- Possession or use of alcoholic beverages on the trail is prohibited.
- Any and all advertising, exhibitions, solicitation, and contributions are prohibited except by special permit authorized and issued by the district.
- Entrance to the trail is authorized only at public roads and other designated points of entrance.
- No glass containers permitted on the trail.
- No dogs shall be allowed on the trail or other property of the district unless on a leash and accompanied by the owner of said dog or dogs.
- Any violations of these rules and regulations shall be punishable as provided by state law.
- Any person or group desiring a special permit, for reasons of being handicapped or otherwise, may apply to the director of the district for such a permit. Such request shall be made not less than 15 days prior to the date said permit is to be used.
- Parking facilities are provided at some public entrances to the trail. Parking should be as designated by posted signs.EQUESTRIAN TRAIL RULES
- All horses must have proof of a negative Coggins Test in possession of the rider of the horse while on the trail.
- Kicking horses or stallions should have a ribbon (red) tied in their tail.
- Horses should be tied in a manner that will not allow damage to trees or other vegetation.
- Horses must remain under control at all times.
- Horses should not be ridden on muddy trail if doing so would result in trail rutting.
- Moving, removing, or re
- arranging any signs or trail marker is prohibited.
- Do not leave trail and enter private property without consent of property owner.
The Longleaf Trace operates under the Pearl & Leaf Rivers Rails-to-Trails Recreational District, a governing authority, and its “Longleaf Trace” is a joint venture Forrest, Jefferson Davis, and Lamar Counties and the municipalities of Bassfield, Hattiesburg, Prentiss, and Sumrall.
History of Trail:
Originally, the railroad operated a freight train over this area carrying timber.
The Longleaf Trace Trail dates back to 1995 when a citizen named Stone Barefield had an idea for a Trail and group of people donated money to support the project and to obtain matching funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Added information from TrailLink:
Trail of the Month: February 2004
Longleaf Trace, Mississippi
At 41 miles, the Longleaf Trace is the longest rail-trail in the south central United States, connecting Mississippi’s third-largest city, Hattiesburg, with the timber town of Prentiss to the northwest. Most of the trail – more than 39 miles beginning just west of Hattiesburg – opened on Labor Day 2000 along with a 26-mile equestrian trail paralleling the Trace. Recently, a two-mile stretch was constructed that brings the trail to the University of Southern Mississippi campus in Hattiesburg.
Surfaced with asphalt, the trail cuts through the heart of Piney Woods country, named for the vast forests of longleaf and slash pine that once crowned the low hills between Jackson, Miss., and the Gulf Coast. As trail users pedal along, evergreens dominate the scenery. Flanking the straight-aways and sweeping turns, their top branches reach 50 feet or more above the ground. At rhythmic intervals the trees recede, revealing a savannah of deep-green rye grass dotted with tan hay bales, a cow or two and an occasional long gravel driveway ending at the carport of a well-tended brick farmhouse.
The Trace winds through small farm towns such as Bassfield, where a general store stocks washboards and canning supplies and sells eggs and produce from nearby truck gardens. The scenery changes subtly in Prentiss. The trail drapes across the broad, sandy Jaybird Creek hugged by a dense forest of hardwood trees. Climbing from the creek bottom into Prentiss may leave bicyclists huffing and puffing, just as freight trains running this route years ago struggled to make the grade.
Even before it opened, the Trace was a hit. Jim Moore, a Hattiesburg bicycle shop owner who helped mobilize support for the trail, notes, “We couldn’t keep people off of it while we were building it.”
Trail manager Herlon Pierce confirms the trail’s appeal. “One morning I counted nearly 100 people on the trail in just a few hours. And the trail wasn’t even open yet.” One of the charms of the Trace, says Pierce, is how little this Mississippi territory has changed over the years. While Biloxi to the south was founded 300 years ago and Natchez to the east had more millionaires per capita than any southern city in the early 19th century, the Piney Woods remained wild and sparsely settled well after the Civil War.
The development of the Trace was assisted immeasurably by the railbanking provision that was added to the National Trails System Act in 1983, which allows for interim trails use on railroad corridors and preserves the corridor for possible rail use in the future. In addition, the Trace also benefited immensely from the creation in 1994 of the Pearl to Leaf Rivers Rails-to-Trails Recreational District, which is managed by a local board of directors and is responsible today for managing and maintaining the trail.
As the Longleaf Trace continues to grow – work is underway to extend the trail into downtown Hattiesburg – local residents’ enthusiasm for the trail remains high. As Moore says, “When I see families using the trail, teaching younger children to bicycle or just strolling along looking at the trees.”