Ship Rock, Bankhead

Ship Rock/Eye of the Needle is a popular landmark in Bankhead Forest, with multiple campsites along the short, easy route.  I have yet to track the hike, but it’s about 3 miles one way and great for younger kids due to it being an easy trail with no hard climbs.  There are several, as many as half a dozen, stream crossings.  Most are trickles that would be totally dry in warm weather.
As can be seen in the above pic, the Eye is IN the rock, many people assume they are two different places and even on our most recent hike, we helped a small group down from a seemingly random cliff off trail and back to the very easy-to-find ACTUAL ship rock.  It’s on the left, it looks like a SHIP and it’s a huge rock.  It can be seen from the trail.

The hardest part of the whole hike is climbing up to go through the hole in the rock.  If this is not a personal bucket list item, just stay on the trail.  It loops the cliff and comes back around to the other side.  This is useful for people hauling packs, too.


The rush of the stream can be heard from the other side of the rock, following the loudest sound downhill from the hole, hikers arrive at this spot, a sandy stretch along a short series of rapids.  This is ideal for hanging out for the afternoon, enjoying lunch and having a chat with other hikers.  It’s an active spot and you won’t have it all to yourself on pretty weekends.

The water here and in Thompson Creek below is a beautiful blue.  Neither photo has been enhanced, the water is just THAT pretty.


In early spring, the trail is lined with bluebells!

To get here, head to the Thompson Creek trailhead, park and take the 206 trail that’s across the bridge and to the right.  It veers to the right twice, once at a creek crossing and once at the only other fork on the trail.  Both are usually marked, though the signs are not EXACTLY at the trail junctions.  The trail is not blazed anywhere other than the path down from the Eye of the Needle is marked with red paint in a few spots.

At the widest creek crossings, the ones that have heavier water flow and the creekbed is pebble and sand instead of rock and clay, look for springs to get water.  Treat it, of course, but that water is sweet and COLD, which is nice on any hike. Springs will come out from under trees in the bank, once discovered, they are easier to spot each time.

Camping is free and requires no permit or permission.  As with any backpacking trip, stick to those LNT ethics.  This is making a huge change in the wilderness, much less trash in fire rings and it’s been a while since I have spotted a Charmin flower along the trail anywhere.  Even on the AT ridgerunner chats, 2016 was a record year for the least trash and impact.  Sounds like 2017 is going to actually be even better!  That’s what we want to hear!  Keep it up, fellow backpackers.  I am so proud of everyone taking an extra minute or two to lessen their impact.  It’s not always easy but it is always worth it.  My last several hikes I have not seen a SINGLE piece of trash, it’s wonderful!



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