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Alabama's Talladega National Forest

A high point offering a year-round getaway for lovers of southern wildlife, lush forests, and redeye bass.

by: Scott Reaver

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Little Known Fact: The Creek and Cherokee tribes fought a war over the area that is now Talladega National Forest.

After spending the day exploring a section of Alabama's 102-mile Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, I understood why two Native American tribes shed blood over this beautiful land. Creek and Cherokee tribes supposedly fought a war over these mountains ~ the southernmost thrust of the Appalachian chain ~ to establish a territorial border between their two nations.

Located in the 217,000-acre Talladega National Forest between the southern metropolises of Birmingham and Atlanta, the Pinhoti (meaning "turkey home" in the Creek language) Trail stretches from Dugger Mountain on the north to the hospitable community of Friendship on the south. In between lies some of the most beautiful, least-trodden backpacking country in the Southeast.

White turkey tracks painted on trailside trees guide hikers through the entire Pinhoti system. Overall, the hills of the Talladega are more gently rolling than those of the rugged Blue Ridge chain to the north. The hiking is a little easier, but still challenging. The highest point on the trail is Cheaha Mountain, a mere 2,407 feet, located in Cheaha State Park. The mountain is also the geographic center of the Talladega Forest and the highest point in Alabama. But the lack of altitude doesn't mean this place is short on beauty.

The mountains are graced with several small creeks that twist and tumble through the valleys. Stream crossings are particularly common on the section of the Pinhoti north of Cheaha State Park.

The 8 to 10 miles of trail through the state park south into the Cheaha Wilderness Area offers a bird's-eye view of the mountains and is one the most popular sections of the Pinhoti. Off the Pinhoti, the Odum Scout Trail leads to beautiful, ever-flowing High Falls.

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