Yesterday was overcast with rain forecast, so we decided to stay off the bike and close to home. We headed down the road just a little bit to Cheaha State Park.
Cheaha State Park is surrounded by Talledega National Forest. This part of Alabama is the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and Cheaha Mountain is the highest point in Alabama. The Talladega Forest is undeveloped with a few ATV trails. Cheaha is a developed oasis in the midst of the Forest.
We drove up Cheaha Mountain and stopped at the state park office where one of the rangers gave us a very helpful map and talked to us about the trails. Cheaha State Park is the starting point for the Pinhoti Trail – a 130 mile long trail that connects with the Appalachian Trail. The other trails in the park are much shorter: most of them are less than a mile.
Cheaha State Park is bordered by a one-way road, so we started following the road counter-clockwise. The first attraction was the observation tower, built on the state high point (2,407 ft) by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930’s. We climbed up the tower and enjoyed the 360 degree view, obscured only by a radio tower and power lines. We visited the adjoining CCC Museum and then climbed back into the truck to continue along the road.
We stopped two times to hike the short trails. The first was a handicapped-accessible boardwalk out to Bald Rock lookout. The second was a forest trail to Pulpit Rock and another panoramic view.
After our short hikes, we went to Cheaha Restaurant for lunch. At first we were the only people in the restaurant and we enjoyed the mountain view tremendously. About halfway through our delicious cheeseburgers some other folks came in, but the view was big enough for all of us. There is a lodge with hotel rooms across from the restaurant, a large patio looking over the valley next to the restaurant, and a pool (closed for the season) with an amazing view.
We headed down the mountain and stopped to walk around Cheaha Lake. We had been able to see the lake from the restaurant, but the ranger did not recommend the very steep trail after the heavy rain the previous night. The lake was beautiful and peaceful and we spent some time enjoying being the only people there.
We had a great visit to Cheaha State Park. There is a campground on the top of the mountain, but Tom and I agreed that the mountain road getting to it was too steep and narrow for our big rig. The park is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.