pinhoti national recreation trail / pinhoti millennium legacy trail
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DISTANCE ~ 17.6
CUMULATIVE ~ 75.9 ~ 93.5
ELEVATION: L 760’ ~ H 2045’
WOODS TRAIL ~ DIFFICULT FIRST THIRD, THEN MODERATE
LANDMARK ~ CHEAHA STATE PARK
LOCAL TOWN ~ OXFORD
SOUTHERN TERMINUS ~ START HIKE
CONTINUE SOUTH TALLADEGA HIGHLANDS
CONTINUE TALLADEGA MOUNTAIN
0.0 ~ CHEAHA TRAILHEAD ~ 2045'
From the trailhead parking area, the Pinhoti approach trail begins at the Arch. Go 50 yards to a trail intersection. The approach trail goes to the right, up the hill for 0.1 miles to the Pinhoti. Then the north trail turns to the right.
HISTORY ~ There is a new addition to the trailhead parking area. The Approach Trail to the Pinhoti Trail, Cave Creek Trail and the Cheaha Wilderness begins at the Arch, which is a big rock and wrought iron structure that has 36 hand fired clay tiles with actual impressions of some of the local native flora, 4 information plaques, some wrought iron Pine cones, Pine branches, a lizard compass, 2 rock benches and a VERY unusual sidewalk. It is all really cool. Some local artists and several groups of local school kids put a lot of time and energy into this first class work of art. It’s a tremendous addition to our trail, so stop by and take a look. Thanks guys !!
0.2 ~ AL 281 CROSSING ~ CHEAHA STATE PARK ~ CS, LC, RW, HS ~ 2000’
The trail goes straight across AL 281 and then follows the eastern slope for a while and has a lot good eastern views.
CS, LC, RW, HS ~ Go left 0.2 miles on AL 281 to the 2719 acre Cheaha State Park entrance, on the right. This is a big park with a convenience store, restaurant, motel, cabins, lodge, pool, several campgrounds, HOT SHOWERS, side trails, rocky overlooks and the Bunker Tower (2407'). The Park office and Country Store (256-488-5111) is the first building on the left. Stop by here to register for Park services and to get general info about where things are in the Park.
NEXT RW ~ 6.0 miles
BUNKER TOWER ~ Go just past the Country Store to the toll booth, then go 0.5 miles past the toll booth to the first paved road on the left. Turn left. Go 0.1 miles up to the 1930's Civilian Conservation Corps Fire Tower.
HISTORY ~ Be sure to say hi to Dave, Connie (don't get Connie started on yard sales !), Eva Lynn and Justin while you're at the Park office. They have been real Trail Angels to the hiking community over the years.
UPDATE ~ Well! Dave, Connie and Eva Lynn have since retired and Justin has moved up to better things. Thanks for everything you guys!
SUMMIT ~ Cheaha Mountain ~ 2407' ~ #1 on the list of 100 highest named summits in Alabama. The peak will be on your left as the trail side hills around it.
0.5 ~ WATER CROSSING ~ SW ? ~ 2000'
The Cheaha waste treatment plant is just up the hill and because of the integrity of the folks in charge, I’m sure this water is clean, but ……
0.9 ~ SPRING CROSSING ~ SW ~ 2000'
1.0 ~ HOLLY KNOB ~ 1960'
1.7 ~ CAMPSITE ~ SC ~ 1800'
The trail makes a sharp left turn here at this neat campsite.
1.9 ~ SPRING CROSSING ~ SW ~ 1700'
2.0 ~ SPRING CROSSING ~ SW ~ 1700'
This is the spring for the Blue Mountain Shelter. If this crossing is dry, then follow the spring downhill, just a little way (no, really !), and look for a small pool.
2.1 ~ BLUE MOUNTAIN SHELTER ~ LC, TS, SW ~ 1825’
The Pinhoti goes straight through this intersection.
At the shelter sign board, you can turn right and go 0.1 miles to this shelter, which was built in 1985.
LC ~ There is a large campsite on the left at the sign board.
TS ~ Go right 0.1 miles to the shelter and more campsites.
SW ~ The water source is a spring crossing 0.1 miles south on the Pinhoti.
NEXT RW ~ 4.1 miles.
HISTORY ~ This is a nice shelter with a loft and peg construction and was built in 1985 by a Park hired contractor. Yes, shelters are one of the tools used by the Forest Service to funnel hikers into one area, but hikers know that shelters are where hikers hang out and they are great places to make new friends and swap tall tales. You can always stop by for dinner and then stealth camp somewhere else if you don't like listening to people snore all night! The idea is to hopefully limit the ecological impact to a few small places rather than the 66 fire rings we have spread out over the whole trail now.
2.6 ~ BALD ROCK TRAIL ~ 1960'
The Pinhoti goes straight through at the sign board and begins the 3 mile, 685 foot descent off Blue Mountain to the CCC Road. The Bald Rock Trail marks the northern boundary of Cheaha State Park. You can go left, uphill, 0.5 miles to the Boardwalk (2326') on the Bald Rock Overlook. There is a very good northern view of the southern terminus of the Choccolocco Mountains, of our Sister Ridge, (see trail mile 7.6 in Section 8 for details) at Coldwater Mountain. The large night time light show is brought to you by the nice folks in Oxford. The sunset is brought to you by nature.
CHEAHA STATE PARK ~ Turn left on the Bald Rock Trail and go 0.5 miles to Bald Rock. From Bald Rock, go left (duh!) on the Boardwalk to the parking area. Then walk through the parking area and down the hill to the intersection at the Bunker Loop Road. Turn right. Go 0.5 miles to the Cheaha Country Store.
SUMMIT ~ Bald Rock ~ 2326' ~ #4 on the list of 100 highest named summits in Alabama. The summit is 0.5 miles to the left, up the Bald Rock Trail.
END OF TALLADEGA MOUNTAIN
BEGIN BLUE MOUNTAIN
3.8 ~ M & M GAP ~ LC ~ 1500'
This is a nice place for a small break on a cold winter day as you take in the dramatic landscape surrounding you.
SUMMIT ~ Blue Mountain ~ 1949' ~ #15 on the list of 100 highest named summits in Alabama. You are sitting in a gap along the ridge. The peak is behind you about a quarter mile, on the left.
4.0 ~ SPRING CROSSING ~ SW ~ 1420'
4.2 ~ SPRING CROSSING ~ SW ~ 1400'
4.8 ~ CAMPSITE ~ SC ~ 1420'
5.2 ~ CCC ROAD ~ CHEAHA ROAD ~ LC, SW ~ 1275'
The trail goes straight across the road.
HISTORY ~ Both ends of the road have been closed to preserve the Civilian Conservation Corps rock work through here. You can go left 0.3 miles to the CCC Road vehicle access point. It has been years since I went to the right, but it seems like it is about 1.5 miles to AL 281 - along the way there are 2 large rock retaining walls, a rock bridge over Hillabee Creek and numerous drains under the road. All of the CCC rocks were cut on site by hand. Years ago this road was the main north entrance road up to Cheaha State Park when it first opened in 1939.
END BLUE MOUNTAIN
END TALLADEGA RANGER DISTRICT
END SOUTH TALLADEGA HIGHLANDS
BEGIN TALLADEGA LOWLANDS
BEGIN HORSEBLOCK MOUNTAIN
6.2 ~ ZULU CANYON ~ 1100' ~ RW
There are 3 spring crossings in the next 0.9 miles. Zulu is Z in the military alphabet, which is a good description of this twisting canyon.
NEXT RW ~ 2.0 miles.
WILDFLOWER ~ Azalea ~ White ~ April
FLOWERING SHRUB ~ Mountain Laurel ~ White ~ May
0.0 ~ DEAD TRUCK ~ 900' ~ wannabee Trail Shelter : )
HISTORY ~ THIS LANDMARK HAS BEEN REMOVED ~ ooooh noooo!
A 1950 something Chevy Panel Truck. I had a 1963 that I lived in for a while and the body lines were a lot sharper than these older models.
HISTORY ~ Well dagnabbit, as of 1-10-12 the truck is no longer here… Maybe someone just took it out for a spin and is coming back?
8.1 ~ POWER LINE CROSSING
The trail goes straight across the clearcut.
ALTERNATIVE FLOODED CREEK CROSSING ~ You can see Hillabee Creek down the hill to your left. If the Hillabee Creek Crossing ahead is flooded out, then this looks like a good alternative crossing, though I’ve never tried to cross here or there in flood conditions. There is some room for here for floodwater to spread out a little, making it a shallower. Once you cross over, bushwhack upstream 0.1 miles to the trail.
8.2 ~ HILLABEE CREEK CROSSING ~ LC, RW ~ 780'
The trail comes straight into the campsite, then turns left and crosses the creek.
LC ~ This is a great campsite with plenty of level spots.
NEXT RW ~ 1.2 miles.
FORDING HAZARD ~ Hillabee Creek is about 15' wide and 1' deep and most of the time fording is easy (well sorta :). There is not much room for the creek to spread out after a big rain so it can easily become waist high and fast, so you may need to scout downstream for a better crossing. Use extreme caution.
HISTORY ~ Look for 3 Greenstone chairs by the fire ring (spring 2003). The Greenstone found here is particular to this area only and it is thought to have been used in trading.
The Creek Indians ~ Hillabee Indians, lived in this area many years ago and archaeologist have found Native American produced Greenstone artifacts of this particular grade in this part of the state and several other places as well.
8.5 ~ SNOWFLAKE CANYON ~ 900’
HISTORY ~ It was snowing here one cold morning in 2003 when I woke up.
WILDFLOWER ~ Bluet ~ Blue ~ Spring
Trout Lily ~ Yellow ~ Spring
8.7 ~ 9.3 ~ 6 SPRING CROSSINGS ~ 2 CREEK CROSSINGS ~ SW, RW~ 860'
9.4 ~ CAMPSITE ~ LC, RW ~ 800'
NEXT RW ~ 2.3 miles
10.4 ~ ROAD BED ~ 800'
Go left 0.8 miles on this road.
11.2 ~ ANOTHER ROAD BED ~ 800'
Go right 0.2 miles on this road.
11.4 ~ MINE SHAFT (GOLD!) ~ 820'
Look for a filled in hole on the left edge of the trail.
HISTORY ~ There were a few big gold strikes (sub par quality) in Alabama years ago and this was one of the mines. There are more mines on the east slope down by Clairmont Gap (Erin, Idaho) SECTION 5 at trail mile 8.9. You can still apply for mining and panning permits through the USFS office in Talladega.
11.4 ~ ANOTHER ROAD BED ~ 840'
Go right 0.1 miles.
11.5 ~ END OF THE ROAD ~ 900'
The trail goes right, off the road.
11.5 ~ BEGIN LAUREL GORGE ~ 900'
11.7 ~ FRIENDSHIP CAMPSITE ~ LC, RW ~ 820'
NEXT RW ~ 0.7 miles
12.2 ~ FRIENDSHIP GORGE ~ 880'
12.4 ~ CR 24 CROSSING ~ CS, TT, LC, RW ~ 750’
When you get to the road, go left 25 yards and then the trail goes back in the woods on the right.
CS ~ Go right on CR 24 for 1.4 miles to Able Mall, a small store.
TT ~ Go left 2.5 miles to the 4 way stop. Go left 4.4 miles to Oxford.
LC ~ There are some flat spots across CR 24, past the creek crossing, down on the right.
RW ~ There is a creek crossing north of CR 24, 100' up the trail.
NEXT RW ~ 0.8 and 0.9 miles
FORDING HAZARD ~ This creek is about 10' wide and 1' deep. There is no room for the water to spread out after a heavy rain, plus this crossing is on top of a 5' waterfall. Scout upstream for a better crossing. Use extreme caution.
MORGAN LAKE ~ You can go right on CR 24 for 0.1 miles and turn on the first dirt road to the left, then go 0.1 miles up to the lake access area.
UPDATE 2004 ~ Able Mall has closed and is up for sale.
UPDATE 2005 ~ Able Mall has been remodeled and reopened.
HISTORY ~ Up until 2005, the creek crossing just north of CR 24 was the lowest elevation on the Alabama side of the Pinhoti at 750'. With the addition of Section 4, below Talladega, the lowest elevation on the AL. Pinhoti has now become 14.5 ~ Scott's Cascade at 720'.
12.6 ~ MORGAN LAKE SWITCHBACK ~ CASCADE ~ RW ~ 750’
The Pinhoti crosses a spring and turns to the right up the first switchback. Go 100' and the second switchback turns to the left.
MORGAN LAKE ~ CASCADE ~ There is also a trail that turns right at the second switchback and goes to the Cascade and Morgan Lake. Go down hill to the creek, then follow the creek a short distance upstream to the Cascade. The Cascade acts as the Dam ~ Spillway for the lake. Climb up the right side of the Cascade to access the developed area of the lake. Would I camp here? Hmmm... used to be LOTS of beer trash in the parking area...
13.2 ~ CREEK CROSSING ~ RW ~ 900'
13.3 ~ CREEK CROSSING ~ SC, RW ~ 900'
NEXT RW ~ 1.6 miles
13.5 ~ FS 515 ~ 900'
When you get to the road, turn right and go 30 yards. The trail goes back in the woods on the right (yes, that sounds a little strange...).
14.2 ~ FS 515 CROSSING ~ 900'
The trail goes straight across the road.
14.6 ~ MOONSHINE GORGE ~ SW ~ 900'
Make 3 spring crossings in the next 0.2 miles. Look for a couple of old 55 gallon drums on the left after the first spring crossing.
14.8 ~ SMALL CASCADE ~ CS, SW ~ 800'
The trail follows this spring for about 100 yards before veering off to the right. After following the spring for about 50 yards, there is a trail that turns left and doubles back into the cascades. After you pass by this trail, look for a fire ring on the left down by the spring, which is next to an underground still complete with an underground air intake pipe for the fire.
14.9 ~ LITTLE HILLABEE FALLS ~ LC, RW
The trail goes straight up to the cascade and makes a sharp left turn, then curves to the right and crosses the creek twice. The cascade tumbles at least 50' and there is usually plenty of water. Plan to stop for a long break.
LC ~ After the second creek crossing, go about 20 yards and turn left off the trail. Bushwhack about 50 yards downhill to the creek. There is a fire ring here and plenty of flat spots.
POISON OAK ~ In the spring, summer and fall, this whole camp area is completely covered in poison.
RW ~ The campsite is at the intersection of the small cascade and large cascade creeks.
NEXT RW ~ 0.3 miles
15.2 ~ HILLABEE CREEK BRIDGE ~ RW
HISTORY ~ A BOY SCOUT TROOP paid for and built this great bridge. Sorry, I don't know the Troop number. Thanks guys!
NEXT RW ~ 0.2 miles
15.4 ~ HORSEBLOCK MOUNTAIN FIRE TOWER VIEW ~ LC, RW
Between here and Horseblock Canyon, there are a couple of small winter views of the old Horseblock Fire Tower way up to the right on the main ridge.
HISTORY ~ The tower area is a Civilian Conservation Corps project in the 1930's and at one time there was a (standing :) Picnic Shelter here that was identical to the restored one on Horn Mountain in Section 4. I would guess that it's about a 1 mile bushwhack up the side of Horseblock Mountain to the tower, but I just wave at it when I go by : )
LC, RW ~ Just past the tower view, there is a fire ring on the right, down the hill by the creek (no trail).
NEXT RW ~ 1.2 miles
16.0 ~ HORSEBLOCK CANYON
16.6 ~ HORSEBLOCK FLATS CROSSING ~ RW ~ 760'
NEXT RW ~ 1.0 miles
FORDING HAZARD ~ This creek is about 10' wide, 1' deep and has room to spread out after a heavy rain. Use caution.
16.8 ~ CO~OP BRIDGE ~ SW
HISTORY ~ This is another great bridge that was paid for by the BellSouth Pioneers and built with the Appalachian Trail Club of Alabama.
17.6 ~ US 431 TRAILHEAD ~ CS, SW, RW ~ 860'
The trail comes out at the trailhead parking area. This is the end of Section 7.
NORTHERN TERMINUS ~ FINISH HIKE
CS ~ Convenience Store ~ Mom and Pop stores
TT ~ Trail Town ~ Large enough for grocery stores
SC ~ Small Campsite ~ At least one tent site
LC ~ Large Campsite ~ At least three tent sites
TS ~ Trail Shelter ~ Three sided, open front
SW ~ Seasonal Water ~ Dry a few days after rain
RW ~ Reliable Water ~ Always available
HS ~ Hot Shower ~ On Trail ~ Off Trail
USE ODOMETER OR TRIP METER (NO REALLY :)
NORTHERN TERMINUS ~ FINISH HIKE
PARK FINISH HIKE VEHICLE FIRST
17.6 ~ US 431 TRAILHEAD
Exit I-20 at Exit 191, US 431S, east of Oxford, AL.
Go south 2.8 miles to a dirt road, FS 585, on the right just past a Highway Dept. “Adopt a Mile” sigh (if you pass a green house, you’ve gone too far). Turn right.
Go up the dirt road 0.1 miles to the US 431 Trailhead parking area, on the left.
ALTERNATIVE PARKING ~ Sometimes this gate is locked and may be an unreliable place to park at times. Continue on US 431 past the Trailhead for 1 mile to the Cheaha Country Store, on the right. In the past they have allowed hikers to leave a vehicle there. Just go inside and ask permission and they will tell you where to park.
Cheaha Country Store
3412 Hwy. 431
SOUTHERN TERMINUS ~ START HIKE
PARK START HIKE VEHICLE
0.0 ~ CHEAHA TRAILHEAD
From the US 431 Trailhead parking area, go back down the dirt road to US 431. Turn right.
Go the second right turn past the overhead bridge at the top of the ridge. Turn right (there is a brown Cheaha State Park sign here).
Go 0.4 miles to the stop sign at AL 281. Turn left.
Go 11.5 miles to the Cheaha Trailhead parking area, on the left.