This four-trail system crisscrosses over two mountain ridges and the shoreline of Lake Martin’s eastern side. Don’t let the trails’ low mileage fool you. With side activities like bouldering and swimming you can easily enjoy the whole day here. The exposed hillsides, remote islands, and lookout tower make this one of central Alabama’s most scenic hiking spots.
What Makes It Great
Smith Mountain is covered in the filtered light and soft pine needles of a mature long-leaf canopy. A quick half mile climb takes hikers to the top, where a newly rehabbed fire tower sits next to the remnant stacked-stone walls of a long-gone forest service building. Make time to explore the grounds, play on the gneiss boulders, and scale the fire tower stairs.
On nearby Little Smith Mountain, pine-beetle damaged areas have left a balding hillside dotted with the stubby scrub bushes of a regenerating forest. The exposed trail makes for a scorching midday hike in the summer, but it also opens up year-round panorama lake views at every step. A word of caution: the steep, scrambling switchbacks on this trail are for experienced hikers only.
For a mellow hot-weather retreat, pack your bathing suit and drop down into the Lake Shore and Island Hop trails. Island Hop is only walkable in the winter, when low water levels expose a connecting bridge of land, but adventurous swimmers can paddle out for a day of exploring on the uninhabited islands anytime. And don’t forget to pack a lunch – both Lake Shore and Island Hop feature gorgeous lakeside clearings tailor-made for picnics.
Who is Going to Love It
There’s something for everyone on the Smith Mountain trails. Beginners and families can enjoy a day of playing along the Smith Mountain Tower, Lake Shore, and Island Hop trails. More advanced hikers will love the challenging terrain and stunning views on Little Smith Mountain. And the truly brave – those who climb all the way to the top of the fire tower – are rewarded with one of the best sunset views in Alabama.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Follow brown "Historic Smith Mountain" signs from Young's Ferry Road to a large dirt parking lot at the trailhead.
Stay on marked trails only; the forest roads are private property of Alabama Power Company. Alcohol, drugs, firearms and camping are prohibited. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed at all times. And, as always, remember to practice Leave No Trace principles: take only pictures and leave only footprints.
Written by Skye Borden for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.