EXPEDITION PLANNER: Conecuh National Forest, AL
DRIVE TIME: The 84,000-acre Conecuh National Forest is in southwestern Alabama, 210 miles
(4 hours) south of Birmingham and 149 miles
(3 hours) northeast of Mobile.
THE WAY: From Andalusia in southeastern Alabama, drive 9.5 miles south on US 29 and turn left (south) onto AL 137. Proceed 5.5 miles to the “Open Pond Recreation Area” sign and turn left onto County Road 24. Go a quarter-mile and turn right onto County Road 28. Follow the signs 1.2 miles to the Open Pond campground and trailhead.
TRAILS: The 22.5-mile Conecuh Trail consists of a 5-mile South Loop and a 13.5-mile North Loop, connected by a 4-mile link trail. Hike an extra loop around Open Pond to log 26.5 miles. Alternative trailheads allow for hikes of various lengths. The North Loop is multi-use, though bikes and horses are rare.
ELEVATION: Conecuh National Forest averages about 200 feet above sea level, with little elevation change.
CAN’T MISS: A refreshing swim at Blue Lake, for a good break between the South and North Loops.
CROWD CONTROL: The trail is rarely crowded, even during peak seasons (fall and winter). However, you should call ahead to make sure your trip doesn’t coincide with the forest’s infrequent hunting days, when backcountry camping is restricted.
GUIDES: Conecuh Trail map, Conecuh National Forest ($3, see Contact below). Alabama trail hound M. Lee Van Horn maintains an informative Conecuh Trail Web site at http://public.surfree.
WALK SOFTLY: In bogs, tread on grass clumps to minimize damage to the fragile environment.
CONTACT: Conecuh National Forest, (334) 222-2555; www.r8web.com/alabama.