Trails of The Talladega National Forest:
Odum Scout Trail (moderate)
The trailhead for this is located off FR 650 near Pyriton, near the southern edge of the Cheaha Wilderness. After crossing the creek near the trailhead sign, bear right. You will ascend the ridge via hand rails and concrete stairs, with High Falls on your right. The stairs and hand rails were built by the Boy Scout organization when they built the 10 mile trail across Talladega Mountain. After passing High Falls, the trail makes a long gradual ascent up Cedar Mountain. At approximately 3.3 miles, reach the crest of the ridge with views of Shinbone Ridge to the east and the long ridge of Talladega Mountain on the west. Reach a junction with the Nubbin Creek Trail at approximately 3.7 miles.
Nubbin Creek Trail (moderate)
Due to its location, this trail doesn't receive as much traffic as the nearby trails; but in conjunction with one of the other trails nearby, it would make for a very nice hike. The trailhead is located on Nubbin Creek road approximately 2 miles after turning off County Road 31 south of Mannings Chapel. Country Road 31 can be reached by turning off Alabama Highway 49 just south of its junction with Alabama 281 near Cheaha State Park.
The trail starts in an overgrown area just off the road. It soon ascends along the south bank of Mill Shoal Creek. After crossing a small creek, bear left and back to the right before entering the Cheaha Wilderness. Ascend moderately and reach a series of cascading waterfalls on Mill Shoal Creek at approximately 1 mile. The trail follows the ridge before ascending again to cross a small creek. Continue northeast along the ridge, ascending gradually. The trail then swings around the ridge and soon heads in a southwest direction.
At approximately 3 miles, the trail swings left (south). The Cave Creek Trail will intersect the Nubbin Creek Trail at this point (The Cave Creek Trail will ascend to your right back along the ridge). This area was not marked when I hiked the two trails. Hikers can hike the Cave Creek Trail to the parking area on Al. Highway 281 near the entrance to Cheaha State Park.
At approximately 3.5 miles, the trail crosses Mill Shoal Creek near its beginning at Little Caney Head. The trail will continue to ascend, reaching Parker High Point, elevation 2,232! This area is dominated by large boulders and rock formations. At 4 miles, reach the junction with the Odum Scout Trail. To the right 1 mile is Caney Head Shelter and the junction with the Pinhoti and Chinnabee Silent Trails. To the left 3.7 miles is the southern terminus of the Odum Scout Trail and High Falls.
Cave Creek Trail (easy)
This new trail originates within Cheaha State Park and intersects the Nubbin Creek Trail within the Cheaha Wilderness area. It basically parallels the Pinhoti Trail, but provides views of the Talladega Forest east of Talladega Mountain. I have included the trail within the Cheaha Wilderness, since the major part of the trail lies within the Wilderness area.
Parking is available where the Talladega Scenic Drive curves sharply to the right just below Cheaha State Park. A short path at the end of the parking area leads to the trailhead sign. Another short trail leads to the Pinhoti trail.
The Cave Creek Trail heads south along Talladega Mountain. The trail crosses numerous small watersheds as it winds its way through a mixed hardwood and pine forest. Reach a sign at the Cheaha Wilderness boundary at approximately 1.3 mile. Continue south until the trail turns sharply back to the right at approximately 2 miles. A large rock outcrop on your left provides a nice place to rest and affords very good views of the surrounding area.
The trail will ascend approximately 75 yards and cross an old trail. Continue straight (To the right and approximately 100 yards uphill is a very small and secluded campsite). The trail gradually descends and reaches Cave Creek at approximately 2.3 miles. Cross the creek by way of large rocks and bear left as the trail ascends along the ridge. After a brief descent, the trail will gradually ascend. Reach a sign at approximately 3.2 miles. A short 150 yard connector trail leads right to intersect the Pinhoti Trail (A 3.5 mile hike north on the Pinhoti Trail will complete a loop back to Cheaha State Park). Continue south on the Cave Creek Trail, gradually descending. At 4 miles, intersect the Nubbin Creek trailhead. Continuing straight, the Nubbin Creek Trail continues south along the ridge before intersecting the Odum Scout Trail.
Placing alternate transportation at either the Nubbin Creek trailhead or the Odum Scout trailhead will allow for a "one-way" hike rather than backtracking on the Cave Creek Trail. Parking at the Turnipseed Hunter Camp on the Chinnabee Silent Trail offers yet another optional hike. Hiking the Cave Creek and Nubbin Creek Trails allow the hiker a more secluded walk, as the Pinhoti Trail is more heavily traveled.
The Pinhoti Trail
This is Alabama's longest trail, stretching over 80 miles through the Talladega National Forest in east central Alabama. It was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1977 and is still being extended, to eventually reach from near Sylacauga to Piedmont and the Georgia state line. The trail "travels" through a variety of terrain, through hardwood forests, along small streams, through hollows, below rock bluffs and along mountain ridges. The northern sections of the trail include terrain with gentle grades with few steep grades that cover short distances. The southern area around Horseblock Mountain and Cheaha State Park is more rugged, with steep terrain covering longer distances.
This trail review has been divided into 10 sections due to its length:
Section 1 (8.5 miles) CR 55 to FR 500 (Coleman Lake)
This is the northernmost section of the trail that has been completed and marked. However, there are no trailhead signs with distances to locations. The Alabama Trails Association, National Forest Service and other groups have obtained land north of CR 55 and are in the process of expanding the Pinhoti Trail, hopefully to the Georgia state line.
From the trail sign on CR 55, walk south through thick overgrowth before crossing an old forest road at approximately .5 mile. Continue walking south for a short distance before reaching Choccolocco Lake. The trail will head southwest along the ridge as it parallels the lake. Cross the earthen dam at approximately 1 mile. The trail will continue southeast along the ridge, reaching the south end of the lake at approximately 1.5 miles.
The trail will continue along this ridge for the next 1.5 miles, gradually swinging to the south. At approximately 2.9 miles, the trail will turn east and cross a saddle. The next .6 mile will wind along a narrow trail around the ridge. At approximately 3.5 miles, the trail will descend moderately to steep, as it makes its way between two ridges. The trail will then bear right and descend, with a creek on your left. At 4 miles, the trail will turn southeast and parallel Choccolocco Creek on your left. At 4.5 miles, the trail will cross the creek and pick up again on the opposite side.
This crossing can be confusing, since there are no markers to rely on. The hiker will have to wade the stream and head southeast to pick up the trail parallel to the stream.
Cross a small creek at approximately 4.8 miles. The trail will continue on an old roadbed and pass through thick overgrowth. The trail picks up Choccolocco Creek again at approximately 5.5 miles and continues south, parallel to the creek. Cross Choccolocco Creek and a smaller creek before heading southeast with the creek on your left. At 6 miles, cross Choccolocco Creek again. The trail will parallel the creek before crossing a third time at approximately 6.2 miles. After crossing another small creek, the trail makes its way through an area dominated by many ferns and hardwood trees. Hike along a ridge with a small creek on your left. Gradually ascend and continue hiking southeast before reaching FR 540 at approximately 7 miles.
The trail will make its way along a ridge, heading east and then south. Cross a horse trail at approximately 7.5 miles and bear left. Cross a firebreak at approximately 7.8 miles and another firebreak at 8.2 miles. Reach FR 500 50 yards east of the Coleman Lake parking area.
The trail sign of the Pinhoti Trail on CR 55 can be reached by driving north on Al. Highway 9 west of Heflin for 12 miles from its junction with US Highway 78. Turn right at the blinking traffic light on to CR 262. Drive 4.5 miles and park on the side of the road. CR 55 merges with CR 262 shortly after you turn off of Hwy. 9.
The Coleman Lake parking area and trailhead can be reached by turning north onto FR 500 just west of Heflin, where the sign of the Talladega Forest Work Center and Talladega Scenic Drive is located. Continue north on FR 500 for 8 miles to Pine Glen Campground and another 5 miles to the Coleman Lake parking area. FR 500 also intersects CR 55 north of Coleman Lake and east of the trailhead on CR 55. A Talladega National Forest map will help to locate these roads.
Section 2 (6.8 miles) FR 500 (Coleman Lake) to FR 500 (Pine Glen Campground)
This section of the Pinhoti is popular because it has a shelter along the trail as well as developed campgrounds at both ends. Sweetwater Lake is also a good camping site between Laurel Shelter and Pine Glen Campground.
The northern trailhead for this section is actually located on FR 500 west of the Coleman Lake Campground and Lake. From the small parking area, the trail leads south and passes west of Coleman Lake at approximately 1 mile. Continue walking south and cross FR 553D. Reach Shoal Creek Church at approximately 1.6 miles. This hand-hewn log church was built between 1885 and 1890 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A small cemetery with graves of early settlers lies close by.
From the church, the trail swings westward and crosses FR 553 at approximately 2 miles. The trail soon turns southward and reaches Laurel Shelter at 3.2 miles. This is one of only two trail shelters on the northern half of the Pinhoti. A third shelter is located south of Cheaha State Park. The National Forest Service plans on constructing more trail shelters whenever funds permit.
From the shelter, the trail continues southward and passes by the western side of Sweetwater Lake, an 86 acre man-made reservoir, at approximately 4.3 miles. A good campsite area is located on the southern part of the lake. The trail continues past the earthen dam on the south end of the lake and heads westward, crossing a field. After crossing the field, the trail will parallel Shoal Creek for approximately 2 miles as it flows southward. Reach FR 500 and Pine Glen Campground area at approximately 6.8 miles (the sign at Coleman Lake parking area lists this section as 8 miles distance while the sign at Pine Glen Campground lists the distance as 6 miles. The actual distance is close to the trail map's 6.8 miles).
Coleman Lake trailhead and Pine Glen Campground can be reached by driving north on FR 500 located west on Heflin. Turn at the sign for the Talladega National Forest work center and Talladega Scenic Drive.
Section 3 (13 miles) FR 500 (Pine Glen Campground) to US Hwy 78
This section of the Pinhoti Trail runs from Pine Glen Campground on FR 500 to the Talladega National Forest work center near US Hwy 78 west of Heflin.
The trail starts just south of the campground entrance and heads southwest, with the campground on your right. You will soon cross a forest road and a small creek. Ascend at approximately 1 mile, the trail will swing northwest and then southeast as it follows the ridge. Good views of Shoal Creek can be seen on your right. Descend southwest with a forest road on your left and Shoal Creek on your right. Reach a forest road at approximately 1.3 miles. Walk to your right 50 yards on the road. The trail will continue on your left, heading east, then south. The trail soon bears southeast along a ridge, with Highrock Lake on your right. You will soon bear left (east), cross a small creek and ascend. Cross FR 531 at approximately 1.6 miles. Cross a small creek and ascend. Continue south along a side of a ridge. Descend and reach a stream at approximately 2.3 miles.
Cross the stream and pick up the trail again to the right of the small rock dam, heading west. The trail will swing south along the side of a ridge with the stream on your right. Cross a small creek and bear west through a "low lying area" with the stream still on your right. After the trail becomes wider, you will be heading south. Cross a small creek and ascend at approximately 3 miles. You will soon pass a large area on your right (downhill) suitable for camping. Continue south along the west side of a ridge. Cross an old forest road above the creek and descend. The trail continues west along the creek before crossing at approximately 3.5 miles (a suitable campsite). Continue south, as the trail follows the ridge, and cross a forest road that will parallel the trail for a short distance. Continue south along the eastside of the ridge and cross the forest road again at approximately 4.2 miles. The trail continues south then west, then south again before descending on an old forest road. Continue descending along the hillside and reach two creeks that merge at 5 miles.
Walk to your right (west) and cross the creek. The Lower Shoal Shelter will be on your left, next to the stream. The trail continues southward, gradually ascending. Make several switchbacks before crossing an old forest road at approximately 5.3 miles. Follow the ridgeline, crossing FR 531 at 6 miles. The trail will continue to follow a ridge for the next 2 miles, as it heads southward. Reach an area at approximately 8.3 miles with good views to the west. The trail soon makes two switchbacks, swings around the ridge and descends.
Cross FR 523 at 9 miles. Ascend and head southeast. Nice views to the southwest can soon be seen before the trail descends and swings around another ridge. Descend along the ridge. At 10 miles, the trail will swing around another ridge with good views to the west. Pass through a "cut" area of forest as the trail makes several switchbacks. Ascend along the ridge and reach a rocky outcrop area with a small campsite nearby at approximately 11 miles. The trail will make two switchbacks as it continues to follow the ridgeline. Ascend and swing around the ridge at approximately 11.4 miles. Good views of Choccolocco Mountain to the west can be seen before reaching another rocky outcrop area. The trail then makes several switchbacks before heading west along the ridge at approximately 11.8 miles.
Descend, cross a watershed and ascend. FR 500 will soon be on your left. At 12.2 miles, the trail heads west and follows the ridge before descending. Cross FR 500 and continue south. Pass through a small pine growth area, descend and cross a small creek. Reach the trailhead sign at 13 miles. FR 500 on your right leads 8 miles to the Pine Glen Campground. The Pinhoti Trail continues southward after crossing the railroad tracks and walking across the bridge over US Hwy 78.
There is available parking at the Pine Glen Campground area and near the Talladega National Forest work center just off US Hwy 78.
Section 4 (4.4 miles) US Hwy 78 to Al. Hwy 281
This section, like section 5, is short enough for a day hike and may be included in a weekend backpacking trip. The trail is easy to walk and can be hiked in 2.5 to 3 hours. The trail picks up at the south end of the bridge over US Hwy 78 at the northern terminus of the Talladega Scenic Drive. From the bridge, the trail heads west along the side of a hill with US Hwy 78 on your right. Pass under power lines and cross a forest road. The trail will parallel the highway for a short distance at approximately .4 mile. Descend along the forest ridge and cross an old forest road. The trail will make several switchbacks as it descends. Cross a creek and continue west. Cross another forest road and ascend south from the ridge at approximately .9 mile. The trail will turn west along a ridge before descending and becoming narrow. Reach a clearing with good views to the west. The trail will continue across the clearing and descend. Reach another ridge at approximately 1.4 miles.
The trail will descend steeply via switchbacks. Cross over a ridge and descend southeast along the ridge. Bear right (west), cross a creek with unique rock formations and ascend along the ridge at approximately 2 miles. Continue south along the ridge before bearing to your right (west) around the ridge. The trail will head southeast and reach Al. Hwy 281 at approximately 2.4 miles. Cross the highway and descend. Walk southwest before turning east around the ridge. The trail turns south before crossing a forest road at 3 miles. The trail winds its way east, then south. Cross a fire break and descend at approximately 3.4 miles.
Cross a creek and ascend. Switchbacks to the northwest and south around the ridge precede another descent. Cross another creek and ascend. The trail then swings around a ridge and reaches a creek on your right with a good camp site, at 4 miles, cross an "open area". The trail then turns west and north before swinging around to the southwest. Reach the north end of the bridge over I-20 at 4.4 miles.
Al. Hwy 281 leads north to its terminus with US Hwy 78 and south to Cheaha State Park. Section 5 of the Pinhoti Trail continues south of the bridge.
Section 5 (4.2 miles) Al. Hwy 281 to US Hwy 431
This section of the trail can be walked by itself or with section 4 to make an 8.6 mile hike. The terrain is easy to moderate and can be walked in 4.5 to 5 hours.
From the southern end of the bridge over I-20, the trail will head south. Cross over a ridge and descend via switchbacks. At .2 mile, cross a small creek and ascend. Bear right (west) before crossing a logging road. At .6 mile, cross a forest road near its junction with a gravel road. Descend southwest before crossing a watershed. The trail then heads north and swings around the ridge heading southwest again. Bear left and cross an old forest road. Descend and cross a creek at 1.2 miles.
Ascend and cross over the ridge via switchbacks. Continue west and descend. Hike north before crossing a creek via a footbridge at 1.6 miles (a suitable campsite). Continue west along a ridge and cross an old forest road. The trail will continue to head west, then south. Reach FR 518 at 2.2 miles. Pick up the trail again 30' to your right. After crossing the road, the trail will make a semi-circle around the ridge. Descend from the ridge at approximately 2.7 miles. Reach a small creek at approximately 3.2 miles. Hike along the creek, then west through a hollow and south along a ridge for a short distance. Descend southwest from the ridge at approximately 3.8 miles.
Reach a trailhead sign and US Hwy 431 at 4.2 miles. The trail will continue across the highway and 50 yards north. The gravel road leads to the next trailhead.
Al. Hwy 281 is also known as the Talladega Scenic Drive. It connects US Hwy 78 just west of Heflin with Cheaha State park and runs along the crest of Talladega Mountain. The drive is particularly beautiful in the fall with a number of overlooks providing panoramic views of the Talladega National Forest area.
Section 6 (5.3 miles) US Hwy 431 to CR 24
The length of this section, like several others, enables one to day hike or backpack when hiked along with the next one or two sections of the trail.
The trail continues approximately 50 yards north on Hwy 431 where the gravel road on the west intersects the highway. Walk up the road for 250 yards before reaching a parking area and trailhead sign.
The trail heads southwest, reaching a "thick brush" area at .2 mile. Descend and cross a creek at .4 mile. The trail will head south with the creek on your right. The trail will then turn east before crossing a creek and turning back to the south. Cross a smaller creek at .7 mile, where it merges with a larger creek. Cross the larger creek four times before reaching a suitable campsite at .9 mile. The trail will ascend and become narrow along the ridge. Continue south and cross a forest road at approximately 1.2 miles. At 1.6 miles, the trail will descend southwest.
When the trail turns to the west, you will come to another suitable camping area. Cross several watersheds at approximately 2.2 miles as the trail heads south. Descend and hike west, then south before crossing two small creeks. The trail will then head southwest and wind around a ridge. Cross a creek four times before ascending; continue south, cross the creek and ascend before making a switchback to your right. You will hear a small waterfall on your right as the trail winds north around the ridge at approximately 2.8 miles.
The trail will turn to the west before descending on your right. Cross a creek at approximately 3.2 miles and hike south along the creek. Cross the creek again and ascend. Continue south along the creek before crossing a smaller creek. Hike northwest along the hill and cross a forest road at 3.7 miles. The trail will turn west, cross another forest road and head north. After a short distance, the trail will turn west and intersect a forest road on top of the ridge at approximately 4 miles. Walk along this road for 60 yards.
The trail will descend on your left (south) down a ridge to a creek. Cross the creek twice by way of rocks and a short distance further, on old log. Continue southwest with the creek on your left. Morgan Lake will soon be on your left. Cross an old forest road at approximately 4.6 miles. Descend southwest and bear right near the bottom of the ridge (a well worn path will wind around the base of the ridge to Morgan Lake). The Pinhoti will descend on your right before crossing a small creek. After crossing the creek, the trail swings south for 75 yards before intersecting CR 24 at 5.2 miles. The trial will continue across the road.
Section 7 (12.2 miles) CR 24 to Cheaha State Park
From CR 24, the trail ascends to the nearby ridge where you bear to your left along the ridge. At approximately .4 mile, descend and cross an old trail. Here you will bear south along the ridge, descend and cross a small creek. The trail will bear left and ascend to the next ridge (there are small camping sites along the creek). Reach the crest of the ridge at approximately .8 mile. Continue southwest (the old trail will continue northeast) for 75 yards, then bear left (south).
At approximately 1 mile, the trail will head southeast between two small ridges. Ascend along the ridge, heading southwest, with a small creek below on your left. At 1.4 miles, ascend southeast and walk along the ridge. The trail will bear right at 1.5 miles and ascend northwest (an old trail descends between the ridges). Look for the trail markings on the trees. Pass through a saddle and ascend to the ridge. Descend, cross another saddle and ascend again. Continue along the ridge.
At approximately 2 miles, descend. The trail will split in two directions. Bear left (southwest). Look for two marked trees (the old trail to the right will lead north). You will soon cross an unnamed creek and continue parallel to the creek. This area is a good camp site with plenty of water available. At approximately 3 miles, cross another small creek, which flows into the larger creek.
The trail will turn left where a 3rd small creek merges with the larger creek and head in a southward direction. You will cross this small creek 3 times as you gradually ascend between two ridges. There is a small camp site where you cross the creek for the 3rd time. Here the trail will turn south while the creek continues east. Ascend by way of a switchback to your right, as the trail now heads west again. Cross an old road on the ridge. A switchback to your right leads north, as you descend and then southwest by way of a second switchback between two ridges.
Reach Hillabee Creek at approximately 4 miles. This is a good site for camping, with plenty of water. Cross the large creek by way of rocks. You will soon cross under power lines through heavy brush and ascend by way of switchback on an old forest road. The trail will make an immediate switchback to your left (south) off the road (look for marked trees). Ascend and bear right (west) before descending. Ascend (southwest) again to a saddle. Bear right (west) and ascend. Continue along the ridge. Reach a "cut area" at approximately 4.5 miles with thick growth. Continue west and pass by the remains of an old van. Descend to a small creek at approximately 4.8 miles. Bear right (north) along the base of the ridge and cross a creek with good camp sites at 5 miles.
The trail will follow the edge of the ridge (trail is very narrow), then between two ridges with a small creek on your right. Cross a "flat lowland area" at approximately 5.4 miles, then continue along the ridge on tour left, heading south. Cross a watershed and bear left along the base of the ridge with a creek on your right. Cross the creek and bear left (southwest). Ascend along the ridge. The trail will swing around the ridge (northwest to south), then ascend at approximately 6 miles.
Continue southwest between two ridges and ascend, gradually heading south. Reach an old grass covered roadbed and continue south. Cross FR 589 at 7 miles. A sign lists the distances back to CR 24 and Cheaha State Park.
The trail will make a switchback to your right, heading northwest. A series of switchbacks will ascend and wander around the ridges as the trail makes its way up Blue Mountain. At 8 miles, the trail ascends steeply for a short distance, then gradually before reaching the top of the ridge. Continue south along the ridge (the trail was not well marked when I hiked this area due to a number of downed tees from storm damage). Pass by rock formations on the ridge top at approximately 9 miles. Ascend gradually along the ridge. Reach a rocky crest with large rock formations at 9.5 miles. At approximately 10 miles, reach a signpost listing Blue Mountain as 1 mile (the Blue Mountain Trail ascends for a .5 mile to Bald Rock overlook in Cheaha State Park).
Continue south, descending. Reach a rocky area, where again the trail was not well marked as other sections. Make a switch back to your left at a "marked" tree, then descend to your right (look for markings on rocks as well as trees). The trail will bear right heading west before crossing a watershed and ascending to the south and east. Cross another rocky area before ascending south (a small camp site will be on the left of the trail) and passing through an overgrown area. At approximately 11 miles, cross another rocky area and ascend steeply before the trail levels out. Good views to the north and east can be had before the trail descends (east, then southwest). Ascend southwest, then west as the trail makes its way around the ridge. Cross a watershed and rocky area and ascend. Hike southwest along the side of the ridge, cross a watershed and bear left (south). Ascend gradually along the ridge at approximate 12 miles. Reach the paved Al. highway 281 at 12.2 miles. This road leads .2 mile to Cheaha State Park entrance and .3 mile left to the parking area for the Cave Creek Trail and Odum Scout Trailheads.
Section 8 (12 Miles) Cheaha State Park to Adams Gap
This section of the Pinhoti is the most heavily traveled, due to its location atop Cheaha Mountain. A number of overlooks provide great views of the mountain. A number of overlooks provide great views of the mountain and surrounding forest. Several trails intersect atop the mountain at Caney Head Shelter, the only shelter on the southern part of the Pinhoti Trail. Cheaha State Park and nearby Lake Chinnabee provide developed campsites, from which day hikes can be taken on the Pinhoti and other nearby trails.
This section of the Pinhoti begins on Al. Highway 281, between the park entrance and the parking area where the road curves sharply before entering the park. You soon arrive at a trail junction. The Odum Scout Trail will bear left and end near the parking area on 281. The trailhead for the Cave Creek Trail is located a short distance ahead. The Pinhoti Trail will continue on your right (A trail sign lists the distances for Caney Head Shelter and Adams Gap).
At approximately .8 mile, cross an old jeep road. There is a good campsite just ahead and great views of Cheaha Lake and the Talladega Forest below. Continue along the ridge and begin ascending for a short distance. At approximately 1.4 miles, the trail makes its way through and over large rocks to the ridge top at Hernandes Peak. There is a small campsite here.
At approximately 1.9 miles, you will come to the Cheaha Wilderness boundary, marked by a dedication plaque in the rock. A short distance ahead, you will come to a trail sign listing distances back to Cheaha State Park (2 miles) and ahead to the shelter (4 miles). The trail will descend for a while via switchbacks before leveling out at approximately 2.3 miles. This is another area suitable for camping. At 2.5 miles, ascend and reach a rocky area with excellent views of the Talladega Forest below and Cheaha State Park to the north.
Reach a junction at approximately 2.9 miles, with a spur trail leading .25 mile to McDill Point. This is a very good overlook with excellent views of Talladega Mountain to the south and the Talladega Forest area below. The Pinhoti Trail will swing around the ridge, heading east, then north as it ascends and descends several times. Another camping area is located where the trail again turns to the east. The trail soon turns southward and gradually ascends.
Reach a Cheaha Wilderness sign at approximately 3.8 miles. Cross a rocky area and reach another trail junction at 4 miles. The Cave Creek and Nubbin Creek trails can be reached by ascending up the ridge (the Cave Creek Trail leads back to Cheaha State Park via the east side of the mountain while the Nubbin Creek Trail descends to Nubbin Creek road on the east side of the mountain and intersects with the Odum Scout Trail south of Caney Head Shelter). The Pinhoti Trail continues to the right. A sign lists Caney Head Shelter as 2 miles ahead. The remainder of the trail to the shelter will run along the top of the mountain.
At approximately 5 miles, a rocky cliff area affords great views of McDill Point on your right, Talladega Mountain to your left and the forest below. Reach Caney Head Shelter at 6 miles. Here, the Odum Scout Trail and the Chinnabee Silent Trail intersect the Pinhoti Trail. The Odum Scout Trail leads 4.7 miles down Cedar Mountain past High Falls, to a trailhead just off FR 650 near Pyriton. The Chinnabee Silent Trail descends and makes its way 6 miles to its terminus at Chinnabee Lake. A fairly reliable water source is located just a few yards down the Chinnabee Silent Trail on your left (during summer months, you may want to check with forest personnel or Cheaha State Park personnel as to the water availability). The shelter and nearby area are heavily used by groups of hikers. Smaller campsites are available just a short distance south.
From the shelter and trail junction, the Pinhoti continues southwest along the west side of the mountain. Reach a campsite area at approximately 6.6 miles, with a rocky cliff affording very good views of the forest below. Ascend to another overlook before continuing along the ridge. At 7.2 miles, come to a thick overgrowth area. A steep ascent leads to a rocky overlook with great views of the mountain and surrounding forest.
The trail will descend, via switchbacks, through a large boulder area at approximately 7.5 miles. This area has been recently remarked and is much easier to follow than when I first hiked the trail. This area is the hardest part of the trail if backpacking, due to walking over the large rocks and descending as steeply as it does. After passing through the large boulders, the trail continues descending gradually. Reach a sign and old forest road at approximately 8.5 miles. Turn right (northeast) onto this road and follow it for approximately 400 yards. Here a sign directs the hiker southwest while the road continues northward. The remainder of this section of the trail will wander along the base of the mountain, around several ridges, and crossing several small creeks. At approximately 11 miles, you will see FR 600 on your right, as the trail parallels the road to Adams Gap. It is 6 miles to Clairmont Gap to your left via FR 600. The Pinhoti trail continues across the road as it makes its way for another 11 miles to its southern terminus at Chandler Springs.
Section 9 (6 miles) Adams Gap to Clairmont Gap
This section of the trail picks up on the west side of FR 600. From the road, descend and cross a watershed. The Skyway Loop Trail intersects the Pinhoti Trail approximately .1 mile from FR 600. This junction was not marked by any sign when I hiked the trails (the Skyway Loop Trail leads 6 miles to intersect the Chinnabee Silent Trail near Lake Chinnabee).
The trail crosses over several very rocky areas within the first mile. At approximately 1.2 miles, you will make two switchbacks to your right after crossing two watershed areas. Descend and cross the first of two small creeks. Hike over a small hill and cross the second creek before ascending through another rocky area. After several switchbacks, reach an old road (637-R) at 1.8 miles.
Cross the road and begin ascending southeast. Make a switchback to your right and continue west along the ridge. Good views of the Talladega can be seen during winter months. The trail will come close to FR 600 on your left and cross the road at approximately 3 miles. Reach rock formations to the left of the trail at approximately 3.6 miles. Here you can get good views to the southeast and southwest. At 4 miles, cross FR 600 again. The trail continues southwest along the ridge. Reach the top of the ridge at approximately 4.7 miles and hike along the overgrown rocky terrain. Good views to the west and north can be had from this area. At 5.2 miles, begin descending. A rocky ledge provides excellent views of the mountain chain and the Talladega Forest. Switchbacks that lead back to your right, below the cliffs, and then left, will take you down to Clairmont Gap at 6 miles. The sign only notates locations to the north, since the next section of the trail leading south to Chandler Springs was completed only recently. From the Gap, FR 600 leads 6 miles back to Adams Gap and south 5 miles to Chandler Springs. County Road 103, which intersects Fr 600, leads to Al. Highway 77 and north to Munford.
Section 10 (5 miles) Clairmont Gap to Chandler Springs
This section, like section #1, has been added since publication of the present Pinhoti Trail Map. An up-to-date trail map is being assembled by the Nation Forest office in Montgomery, but no date has been set for its publication when I last talked to forest rangers.
From Clairmont Gap, the Pinhoti Trail continues on the west side of FR 600 after crossing the road junction. The trail continues its southwest direction as it passes along the north side of the ridge over very rocky terrain. At approximately 1 mile, the trail becomes easier until you again cross over rocky terrain at 1.5 miles. At approximately 1.8 miles, the trail will veer right (northwest) before swinging around the ridge and heading south. A small creek is located downhill on your right. You will ascend briefly before reaching FR 600 at approximately 2 miles.
After crossing FR 600, the trail will swing around to your right as it continues on the south side of the ridge. At 2.2 miles, a rocky overlook to the left of the trail offers very good views from east to west. At approximately 2.4 miles, the trail will bear left (east), then right (south) as it descends. Continue along the ridge before again descending. At 2.9 miles, swing around to your right (north) along the side of the ridge.
At approximately 3.3 miles, switchback to your left (west) and descend gradually. Cross a small creek at 3.5 miles and ascend southwest between two ridges. You will soon make a switchback to your left (east) before ascending south, then west along the ridge.
At 4 miles, cross FR 600 again and continue west between the road on your left and the ridge on your right. The trail will swing through a gap to the north side of the ridge and continue west. Reach a saddle at approximately 4.5 miles and ascend to the ridge. Continue along the ridge. At approximately 4.8 miles, you will begin descending and switchback to your right (north). A second switchback to your left runs through an overgrown area before reaching the road at approximately 5 miles (the trail will cut back to the right for approximately 100 yards before reaching the trail sign and road).
It is .5 mile to your left to FR 600, and another 5 miles to Clairmont Gap via FR 600.
Chinnabee Silent Trail (Moderate/Strenuous)
This trail is adequately named, since it was built from 1973-76 by the Boy Scout Troop 29 from the Alabama School For The Deaf in Talladega and connects Lake Chinnabee and the Pinhoti Trail on Talladega Mountain. The 6 mile trail begins near the southern end of Lake Chinnabee, which is located just west of Cheaha State Park.
From the trailhead sign, the trail follows Cheaha Creek. A trail sign for the Lakeshore Trail is posted 50 yards from the trailhead (this 2 mile trail follows the shoreline of Lake Chinnabee). Another 100 yards brings you to the trail sign for the Skyway Loop Trail. This 6 mile trail wanders through variable terrain before intersecting the Pinhoti Trail at Adams Gap on FS Road 600. The Chinnabee Silent Trail continues along Cheaha Creek. A small campsite is located on your right, next to the creek and not very far from where the Skyway Loop Trail splits off. Within a few minutes, the trail and creek will head NE and the trail will ascend above the creek. At .5 mile, reach the Devils Den, where a wooden ramp and steps descend before arriving at Cheaha Falls. This is a popular location for both campers and day hikers, who enjoy the Falls and pools to cool off during hot weather.
Reach another small campsite just above the Falls. At approximately .7 mile, cross a small creek on your left. Another small campsite is located just ahead on your right. The trail turns N at approximately 1.1 miles and leaves the creek. Ascend and swing around a cove at approximately 1.5 miles before ascending and crossing a ridge. The trail then descends and crosses a small creek. Bear right as the trail crosses a second ridge and swings around to cross a third ridge. Descend from this 3rd ridge (good views of Talladega Mountain) and cross Cheaha Creek at approximately 2.4 miles. Reach FS Road 600 at 3.0 mile. Cross the road and come to a trail sign just ahead. Cross a small creek before coming to the paved road, which leads to Cheaha State Park to the north and soon ends after traveling south approximately 1 mile. A parking area to your right would eliminate having to retrace your hike by having a second vehicle at this location.
Cross the road and swing S before reaching the Turnipseed Hunter Camp at 4.0 miles. This is a large area used as a hunter camp during hunting season. From here the trail turns SE and reaches the Cheaha Wilderness boundary at 4.4 miles. The last mile of the trail ascends, rather steeply, to intersect the Pinhoti Trail on top of Talladega Mountain. Caney Head Shelter is located only a few yards to your left. The Odum Scout Trail continues straight ahead while the Pinhoti Trail follows the ridgetop of Talladega Mountain.
Lake Chinnabee is easy to reach by driving to Cheaha State Park and following the signs.
Skyway Loop Trail (Moderate)
This 6 mile trail branches off from the Chinnabee Silent Trail and winds up at Adams Gap on Forest Service Road 600. From the campground at Lake Chinnabee, follow the Chinnabee Silent Trail along Cheaha Creek. The sign for the 2 miles Lakeshore Trail is located approximately 50 yards down the trail. This trail follows the shoreline of Lake Chinnabee as a 2 miles loop. Continue straight and reach the sign for the Skyway Loop Trail another 100 yards down the trail.
Bear right at the sign and cross Cheaha Creek by way of large rocks. The trail ascends and makes its way along a ridge, with Cheaha Creek below on your left. The trail will cut back to your right at approximately 1/2 mile and make its way along the ridge before switching back to your left and heading S. Cross two very small creeks, with a small campsite, and reach Forest Service Road 645 at approximately 1.1 mile. Cross the road and soon reach a very overgrown area with briars. I found two small metal signposts, which helped in navigating through the overgrowth. This is the only bad section of the trail, but a Cheaha Wilderness map and compass are needed if you are going to hike this trail. After briefly ascending from the overgrowth, across FS Road 64SF. The trail soon makes a switchback to your left; but, this is hard to find due to downed trees and bulldozer tracks, After several switchbacks, reach Hubbard Creek at approximately 2.3miles. This area near the creek is suitable for camping and the creek is large enough to provide a water source. Any water should be boiled, chemically treated or filtered before use. The trail crosses Hubbard Creek and ascends around a ridge. Upon reaching the top of the small ridge, bear left and pick up the trail again on your right. At approximately 2.7 miles, the trail reaches a FS Road but remains to the left as it continues along the ridge. This part of the trail will provide views of the Talladega Mountain ridge to the south. Cross old FS Road at approximately 3.1 miles and descend. The trail will cut back to the left at approximately 3.6 miles and then back to the right before ascending. Cross an old FS Road at 4.0 miles and descend. The trail will wind around three ridges before descending and making its way through an overgrowth area. At approximately 4.8 miles, cross two creeks where the smaller one merges with the larger. You will soon cross two more small creeks and gradually ascend (heading south). Cross another creek at approximately 5.2 miles and continue to gradually ascend. Cross an old FS Road at 5.9 miles and ascend before reaching FS Road 600 and Adams Gap at 6.0 miles. The Pinhoti Trail crosses the road here. To the right, it is 6.0 miles to Clairmont Gap and to the left, it is 5.5 miles to Caney Head Shelter and 11 miles to Cheaha State Park facilities. FS Road 600 leads north approximately 6 miles to intersect the paved CR 42 running through Cheaha State Park.
Whereas the Chinnabee Silent Trail is a favorite for those camping at Lake Chinnabee and day use folks, the Skyway Loop Trail receives very little traffic and will provide a hike with variable terrain and lots of solitude. I strongly suggest carrying map, compass, snacks and water.
Lakeshore Trail (Easy)
This 2 miles loop trail follows the shoreline of Lake Chinnabee. The trail starts approximately 50 yards from the trailhead sign for the Chinnabee Silent Trail located at the south end of the lake. Cross Cheaha Creek by way of large rocks and follow the trail as it follows the shoreline of the lake. After the trail swings around to the left at approximately 1 mile, you come to the small dam. Cross the creek just below the dam. Be careful when crossing the rocks. The trail then follows the shoreline back to the right. Cross another creek at approximately 2.0 miles and continue to follow the shoreline. The trail ends back at the camping area. There are some uphill areas and 3 creek crossings: but leisurely walked, this trail is not difficult.