Cheaha is a Creek Indian word meaning “high place.” What an appropriate name, considering the mountains in this area are the highest in the state, topping out at the observation point in Cheaha State Park at 2,407 ft. above sea level. Camping and hiking in this park is a unique experience since you'll find yourself a couple thousand feet above the surrounding terrain, and the incredible 360-degree views are unlike any other in the state. Located in the Talladega National Forest, Cheaha State Park covers 2,799 acres with majestic views, endless trails, waterfalls, a gem mine, rock climbing opportunities and much more.
What Makes It Great
Most of the structures in the park were constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp, whose masonry, craftsmanship, and ingenuity are evident throughout; the stone lodge, cabins, pavilions, and observation tower are all still in use today. Visitors to the park can enjoy rock climbing and repelling, particularly at the sought-after Rock Gardens and Pulpit Rock Trail. Swimming is a blast in the 6-acre man-made lake. The beach includes a playground, diving platform and paddle boats. Cheaha State Park also offers Geocaching for a unique outdoor experience. There are many places to hike with varying levels of difficulty from wheelchair and stroller accessible trails, to moderate trails for a little bit of a challenge, to difficult multi-directional trails for the experienced hiker. Just outside the park are more hiking opportunities at Kentuck Trail, Cheaha Trailhead, Odum Scout Trail, Chinnabee Silent Trail and more. The Pinhoti Trail, a 335-mile connector to the Appalachian Trail, begins in the park, and there are several other scenic waterfall trails to explore. Mountain biking at Cheaha State Park offers a different experience for each ride. Some prefer to start a specific trail head and follow colored blazes from one trail to the next. There are hard climbs, easy sections for a breather, fast single tracks, laurel thickets, rocky in some places and smooth in others. Every biking experience will be refreshing and different depending on which start the rider chooses. However, these bike trails are for experienced mountain bikers, and not necessarily a good fit for beginners.
A new addition to the park is the Pinhoti Mineral and Gem Mining Co. Any visitor can purchase a gem bag at the Country Store which includes a brochure to help identify gems, fossils or minerals found. Use the bag to store the treasures uncovered for a fun experience. Or visit the Indian Artifacts Museum for fascinating history.
For one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the area, visit Cheaha Falls on the Chinnabee Silent Trail. This is a gentle 1.5 mile round-trip hike that will deposit you at a beautiful section of stream with a cascade and waterfall. With a total of 8 miles of trail, Cheaha doesn’t have the variety like some of the other destinations around, but during the spring and fall, the panoramic views in the park can’t be beat.
Who is Going to Love It
Cheaha State Park is perfect for families of all sizes and ages, as well as the solo campers. Mountain bikers of all experience levels have many trials to ride with varying degrees of difficulty. Hikers won’t be disappointed with so many trails to choose from and scenic jewels along the way such as waterfalls and lush forests. Anglers will enjoy fishing the six-acre lake packed with bass and bluegill. And with such a rich past, history buffs will enjoy the Indian Relic Museum and gem mine. Backpackers and tent campers can check out the primitive camping sites which include a fire ring and community water faucet. RV’s will love the amenities such as water, sewer and electrical hookups, a picnic table and grill. Improved camping provide showers as well.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From I-20, take the exit to AL-77. Turn right onto AL-77 and drive about 13 miles. Take a left onto AL-21 (Haynes Street) and drive less than a mile. Take a right onto AL-21 (North Street East) and continue about 5 miles. Bear right onto McElderry Road (CR-398) and continue for less than a mile. Take a right onto Cheaha Road (CR-385) and continue for about 8 miles. Continue onto AL-281 and drive about 2 miles to the park entrance.
Primitive camping (starting at $14/night), semi-primitive camping (starting at $16/night), improved campgrounds (starting at $22/night), pet-friendly facilities and a group primitive campground (starting at $1/person for scouts and $5/person for non-profit groups).
Day use fee for ages 12 and up: $4 per person per day. Seniors (ages 62 and over) and Children (ages 6-11): $1 per person per day. Children 5 and under: free.