Thursday, May 24, 2012

Spend a day at Alabama’s Highest Point

The view from Bald Rock, an easy
hike on a wooded walkway.

From several points in Randolph County, Mt. Cheaha looms in the distance. It may not seem like much from here, but as you make your way closer its size may become a bit overwhelming. Cheaha State Park is atop the mountain which is the highest point in Alabama at 2,407 feet.  Located in the Talladega National Forest, Cheaha is the Indian word for "high,” and is a foothill of the Appalachian Mountain system

Cheaha State Park has been in operation since 1933, however, the official opening date was June 7, 1939. The ground work was installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and included roads, cabins, Bald Rock Lodge, the observation tower, picnic shelters, hiking trails, lake, beach, bathhouses and other recreational facilities. In 1973, a restaurant, hotel and chalets were added to the park. Since that time there have been numerous changes and the park will be getting several more significant enhancements later this year.

“We are about to repave the campground roads, level out some of the camp sites and update the areas in the campground,” Assistant Park Superintendent Justin Howard said.

There are many activities for the whole family to enjoy during a trip to Cheaha.

Duey & Roger Hammock, of Delta, hike 14 miles to the top
of Cheaha prepping for a hike at the Grand Canyon later this year.

Justin Howard points out the best
 hiking trails for the park.

One of the more popular is hiking. The Pinhoti Trail is a 104-mile trail that will take you through the Talladega National Forest. It connects with the Appalachian Trail, which leads all the way up to Maine. The Pinhoti Trail is a secluded, mountainous trail that is best for those who are experienced hikers. You must bring along any supplies you need, although there is a side trail at the halfway mark that will lead you to a supply shop. There are places for hikers to set up camp along the trail. Aside from the Pinhoti, there are several other hiking trails ranging from moderate to steep grade. Bald Rock is another hiking trail that is very popular at the park. It is handicap accessible with a long walkway to the point that overlooks Oxford and Anniston.  There are several steps that lead down to the woods throughout the walkway for great photo opportunities as well as large boulders for climbing.

Cycling and Mountain Biking would seem to be one of the next most popular.

“This is the best place in the world to ride because there are no cars.” Susan Ankrom of Oxford said.
Bobby Phillips, Susan Ankrom, and Marie Barnes of Calhoun County
cycle up and down the mountain once or twice a month.

 “There are a lot of areas to challenge you here. “added Bobby Phillips of Anniston.

They park at the ranger station near the bottom of the road and cycle up to the top of the mountain and back down again. Many cycling and mountain biking events go on at the park.

“We have about 6 and a half miles of trails on our mountain bike trail,” Howard said. “I don’t ride mountain bikes, so I don’t know from experience. But, I have been told that our trail is one of the most technical trails in Alabama.
Bunker Tower is located at the highest
point on Cheaha Mountain; with an
observation area giving visitors an
amazing view of the forest below.

“We have three events going on here so far this year, but they are all hosted by outside organizations.” he said.

Cheaha Lake is also a popular park attraction with its sandy swimming area and diving dock. There are locker rooms and picnic areas around the area as well.

“We also have been making some much needed repairs to Cheaha Lake. We have drained the lake and were in the process of cleaning up the swimming area when we found some other issues that needed addressing,” Howard said. “We have corrected those issues and are finishing up the swimming area now. We hope to have the lake ready to open Memorial Day weekend.”

There are day use picnic and pavilion areas that can be reserved ahead of time, or if not in use are on a first come first serve basis. Cabins and chalets can be reserved as well.
Fall view of Cheaha Lake.

The hotel that sits at the park’s entrance has a swimming pool and an amazing view of the north side of the mountain. The Bald Rock Lodge has overnight accommodations for large groups, such as weddings or business meetings. Camping is available to individuals with semi primitive campsites and full hook-up sites with free Wi-Fi. Group camping is also available.

From March through December there are also church services provided at the park’s chapel.

To get more information about Cheaha Park, and to see the calendar of events, please visit www.alapark.com or call  256-488-5111.


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