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The 17.6-mile Pinhoti Trail loop follows a well-worn path as it crisscrosses numerous creeks and rivers (some of which can be tricky at high water). White quartz outcroppings offer hikers an opportunity to peer beyond dense tree cover, but the large diversity of plant life along this route allows for plenty to discover underneath the canopy as well. Red and white oak, long and short needle pine, sourwood, and sassafras trees (among others) accompany blueberry shrubs, sumac, and hydrangeas to make for a rich botanical experience.
Caution: Poison ivy is a common leaf as well, especially in the trail’s wetter and cooler areas. Campsites abound on this loop, but there are only so many near a viable water source—many of the trail’s streams are seasonal, drying out in high summer.
-Mapped by Scott Sanders
PRINT & GO: To download a PDF of this route, go to backpacker.com/printandgo.
MAP USGS topographic quads: Ironaton, Cheaha Mountain ($8, store.usgs.gov)
GUIDEBOOK The Pinhoti Trail Guide, by M. Lee Van Horn. (free, alabamatrail.org/hikingAL)
CONTACT Talladega National Forest, Talladega Ranger District: (256) 362-2909; fs.usda.gov/alabama
SEASON Target mid-to-late April to see dogwoods and wild azaleas blooming and to find reliable water sources, but be careful during and after large storms—creeks and streams can swell to dangerous levels for crossings and fords. Caution: Poison ivy abounds, especially in wet, cool areas.
CONTACT Pinhoti Trail Alliance: pinhotitrailalliance.org/sitemap.html
PUBLIX SUPER MARKET
411 Green Springs Highway
Homewood, AL 35209
22ND STREET SHELL
2236 Highland Ave. South
Birmingham, AL 35205
TOP O’ THE RIVER
3330 McClellan Blvd
Anniston, AL 36201
MELLOW MUSHROOM PIZZA
33 Industrial Dr.
Oxford, AL 362031
GOLDEN RULE BBQ
1700 Martin St. N
Pell City, AL 35125
3054 Independence Dr.
Homewood, AL 35209
Multiday gear list
Down bag (15° to 40°F) and sleeping pad
Compass, map, GPS unit
Gas stove and fuel bottles
Lighter and matches
Cookset, bowl, insulated mug, eating utensils
32 oz. water bottle (2)
Headlamp with extra batteries
Waterproof/breathable jacket and pants
Fleece and down jackets
Synthetic pants andshorts
Synthetic T-shirt (2)
Hat and gloves
Wool/synthetic socks (3)
Bug repellent and sunscreen (SPF 15+)
Toilet paper and trowel
- Distance: 28.4
Location: 33.4042358, -85.8744354
From trailhead parking lot, cross the street and look for the dirt trail to the left of Adams Gap Road. The signed Pinhoti Trail starts heading uphill about 20 feet from the road intersection. The trail’s first 3 miles cross numerous seasonal streams and small campsites (perfect for those getting a late start on this long loop).
Location: 33.418602, -85.8464661
Right before a small campsite, the trail makes a 90-degree turn to the right and heads uphill. From here, the trail gains 900 feet of elevation in the next 1.4 miles–one of the only sustained stretches of climbing on this hike.
Location: 33.4158554, -85.8473129
Follow the trail as it makes a hard switchback to the left. This point is marked by a weathered, old trail sign.
Location: 33.4151878, -85.8443069
Take a break from the switchbacks in the rock field found along this uphill stretch.
Location: 33.4147263, -85.8443146
Go left @ Y-junction. Optional: In 50 feet, bear right to reach a scenic overlook with views of the surrounding mountains.
Location: 33.4145584, -85.8432159
Drop your pack and climb the rocks to an overlook to the south of Cedar and Robinson Mountains.
Location: 33.4163322, -85.836853
The trail makes a 90-degree turn to the left. To the right is a small campsite, but no water source is nearby.
Location: 33.4179955, -85.8346786
The trail passes a large campsite with views of the mountains to the west.
Location: 33.4207726, -85.8317413
The trail passes a good water source. Whether you’re camping nearby or not, it’s a good idea to top off here. When the small, seasonal streams dry up, this is a very dry trail with only so many opportunities to refill your water. The best route across this creek is near Waypoint 10.
Location: 33.4207802, -85.831749
The opposite side of the creek.
Location: 33.4229546, -85.831543
The trail passes a medium-sized campsite (there is a good water source just east of this spot).
Location: 33.4235649, -85.8303223
Go left @ 4-way intersection (in the middle of a large campsite) onto the Chinnabee Silent Trail. Descend to the northwest. The Pinhoti Trail continues straight here, while the Odum Trail shoots off to the right.
Location: 33.4397049, -85.8387985
Pass a large year-round stream which flows to the east of a medium-sized campsite.
Location: 33.4409103, -85.8405914
Pass a trail marker with a map next to a medium-sized campsite.
Location: 33.4419289, -85.8411255
To use a public restroom, turn right @ T-intersection and walk a short distance to the outhouse. To continue on the loop, turn left @ T-intersection and then make an immediate right back off the road at the next T-junction (about 100 feet from the first).
Location: 33.4444122, -85.8413086
Continue straight across paved road to the dirt trail directly ahead.
Location: 33.4496498, -85.8425064
Continue straight across another paved road crossing.
Location: 33.4516602, -85.8495636
Go right @ Y-junction, heading down toward the creek.
Location: 33.452198, -85.8499298
Ford the Cheaha Creek, the most difficult river ford of the trip. Caution: This crossing may be dangerous in high water.
Location: 33.4524002, -85.8522263
Uphill from the creek there is a heavily-used shelter. From here, the trail meanders west passing several small campsites and stream crossings.
Location: 33.4572067, -85.8686066
Take a break to enjoy views of the river and a small waterfall from a wooden deck overlook.
Location: 33.4568825, -85.8712616
Take the sharp left turn @ the 3-way junction.
Location: 33.4564857, -85.8711014
Here the trail fords the river at another spot that can be tricky at high water. After fording, bear right and follow the Skyway Trail sign. From here, it’s another 6 miles back to Adams Gap.
Location: 33.4512405, -85.87323
The trail crosses an old dirt forest road and continues straight ahead.
Location: 33.4482079, -85.8783569
Cross another dirt road and continue straight on the trail.
Location: 33.4438629, -85.8805313
Make a 90-degree right turn into a campsite area, cross the river, and then turn left upstream. Red blazes on trees mark your path.
Location: 33.4356537, -85.8816986
Turn left on the gravel dirt road. In 10 feet, turn right and continue on trail.
Location: 33.4279556, -85.8851089
Continue straight across the dirt forest road.
Location: 33.4224281, -85.8804169
Trail descends into a campsite and crosses a creek. On the other side, bear left to continue on the trail.
Location: 33.4223099, -85.8807297
Other side of the creek crossing. Head south.
Location: 33.4061737, -85.8760681
Go straight @ 3-way junction, leaving the Skyway Trail and picking up the Pinhoti Trail as it continues back towards Adams Gap and the trailhead.
Location: 33.4064407, -85.8730774
Scramble to the Overlook
Location: 33.4145584, -85.8432236
Climb this rock outcropping for a fantastic overlook.
Location: 33.4143715, -85.8431625
Location: 33.4164696, -85.836792
Location: 33.4192657, -85.8333817
Location: 33.4565926, -85.867775
Location: 33.4238663, -85.8839798
Location: 33.4143639, -85.8800354