The Pinhoti Trail is a 335-mile path that winds from Cheaha State Park through the beautiful Talladega National Forest and east into Georgia. Ultimately, the trail connects with the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Georgia’s Springer Mountain by way of a 70-mile section of the Benton MacKaye trail. Nearly the entire trail is for foot travel only, except for a couple of new sections where horses are permitted. From the moment you step onto the Pinhoti Trail, it is like stepping into a new world, a paradise of lush foliage, wildlife fragrant flowers, the shade of trees, and silence that you can only find in the deep woods.
What Makes It Great
Here in Alabama, the Pinhoti offers 171 miles of rugged, remote, and scenic hiking. This trail is a long distance hiker’s paradise, and there are even a few options for shorter loops that would make great 2- to 3-night backpacking treks. A favorite is the 18-mile Pinhoti-Skyway loop that starts and finishes at Adam’s Gap, just south of Cheaha State Park. Waterfalls, panoramic views, unique rock outcroppings, and wildlife define this hike. There are plenty of campsites along the loop, which allows you to break the mileage up into 1, 2 or 3 nights.
The key to an enjoyable Pinhoti overnight hike is the timing. For beautiful colors and agreeable temps, spring and fall are ideal. Summer can be brutally hot, and water non-existent during the driest months (July through September). No matter when you go, water is an important consideration since streams in this area are often dry except after a recent rain. Never take this for granted. Refill at every flowing stream, and consider bringing your own supply. This hike is also not for the faint of heart. You’ll lose and gain almost 5000 feet on the 18-mile hike with some steep sections along the way. One of these gains 600 feet in half a mile, aptly nicknamed “Stairway to Heaven.” (Though your knees may think they are elsewhere.)
Heed the warnings regarding water and bring trekking poles to help get up the steepest pitches, and you’ll have a great time on this hike.
Who is Going to Love It
Although the Pinhoti Trail is geared toward experienced hikers and backpackers because of the challenging terrain and the remote nature, families are very much encouraged to experience this unique trail. Scout Troops, Trail Clubs, Backpacking Groups, couples, friends, families and more will love the intimacy of the solitude and the raw, character-building challenge that can only come from an organic experience in the woods.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There are 31 sections to the Pinhoti Trail, and some have multiple trailheads, which is why it is a good idea to plan ahead. Parking varies depending on which trailhead you choose. There are no fees.