As the tallest point in Alabama, Cheaha Mountain is one of the state’s most popular outdoor destinations. Standing 2,413 feet above sea level in the Talladega National Forest, Cheaha Mountain and the surrounding area hold a vast network of trails that lead to inspiring views and unique campsites. Alabama’s highest point also attracts Highpointers from across the country who are looking to cross another peak off the list.
Highpointing is reaching the point with the highest altitude in an area. The most common goal is to reach the high point of a state or county or ascend the highest elevations of a specific region. The most ambitious highpointers strive to summit the top peaks of all lower 48 states.
Highpoints come in various forms. Some peaks, like Washington’s Mount Rainier (14,411 feet), require grueling hikes to reach the summit. Others, like Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, can be reached during a scenic drive. When you reach the highest elevation in Florida, you’re standing only 345 feet above sea level. But, you have to ascend to 14,505 feet to reach the summit of California’s highest peak, Mount Whitney.
Whether you’re heading to Cheaha as part of a larger highpointing goal, or you’re just escaping briefly to enjoy the outdoors, you should take a weekend to explore Cheaha State Park and the Talladega National Forest. You’ll be able to summit five of Alabama’s highest peaks and maybe even begin your own quest to conquer highpoints throughout the country.
While it is possible to reach the top of Cheaha Mountain by driving up the Talladega Scenic Byway and Bunker Loop, that takes much of the adventure out of it. If you’re able, make the hike to the summit.
More than one path leads to the top of the mountain, but one of the more challenging routes is a loop that’s nearly 6 miles long and begins at Cheaha Lake. Following the Lake Trail, you’ll start a one-mile climb on steep and rocky terrain. Along the way, you’ll encounter rock outcrops that provide views of the foothills and opportunities to catch your breath.
You’ll reach flat terrain at Cheaha State Park. Take a right onto Park Road, pass the Cheaha State Park Hotel and take the Cheaha Express Trail on the left. The Cheaha Express was made for mountain bikes, but hikers can also use it. Walk 2.2 miles and take the Express Connector Trail. You follow it for a tenth of a mile to reach the Bunker Observation Tower and the stairway to Alabama’s highest point. A panoramic view at the top is the perfect place to rest weary legs.
To head back, look for the Leave No Trace Bigfoot Trail. Follow the trail for a half-mile until you reach Park Road, and then turn right. Descend the Park Road for half a mile to the Pulpit Rock Trail. This steep, rocky trail stretches a quarter-mile and leads to Pulpit Rock, which offers one of the best sunset views in the state. Backtrack to the main road and take a right, the end of the parking area will mark the descent back to Cheaha Lake.
Bald Rock Boardwalk
Before heading back to Cheaha Lake, you can view another of Alabama’s highpoints with an easy walk to Bald Rock. After leaving the trail from Pulpit Rock, walk a quarter-mile and take a left onto Bunker Loop. Continue a little more than half a mile to reach Bald Rock Lodge. Go a little past the lodge to follow the Doug Gee Bald Rock Boardwalk. The hike on the boardwalk is a bit more than a half-mile out-and-back, and an adjacent nature trail leads another stunning view of the forest below. For another excellent vantage point, go to the end of the boardwalk and descend the stairs to reach the extreme edge of the rock outcrop. From here, retrace your steps to the Lake Trail.
Don’t leave Cheaha State Park without making the 6.2-mile out-and-back hike to McDill Point. Sitting at an elevation of 2,126 feet, it’s one of the most impressive overlooks in the state. To reach McDill Point, begin at the Cheaha Trailhead on the Talladega Scenic Byway. Follow the Cave Creek Trail, climbing steadily to the Pinhoti Connector Trail atop Talladega Mountain. Take the Pinhoti Connector to the Pinhoti Trail and at 2.9 miles take the short connector trail to continue a quarter-mile to McDill Point. About 100 yards from the overlook you’ll find campsites around 100 yards from the overlook. Keep in mind that water is sparse, so bring enough for drinking and cooking, and pack bug repellent in the summer. From McDill Point, retrace your steps to return to Cheaha Trailhead.
Odum Point and Parker High Point
Some of Alabama’s highpoints are difficult to reach and require hikers to traverse steep, rugged terrain on paths that aren’t marked clearly. That’s the case with Odum Point (2,342 feet) of and Parker High Point (2,188 feet) in the Talladega National Forest.
To reach Odum Point, you’ll hike 3.7 miles on a path that’s not marked well and offers plenty of challenges like downed trees, tall grass, and steep, rocky ground. The trek begins at the Odum Trail trailhead, which is located off of High Falls Drive in the Talladega National Forest. Follow the Odum Trail for about 3.5 miles to reach the junction with the Nubbin Creek Trail. Keep left to stay on Odum Trail and continue a half-mile to the massive boulders that mark Odum Point. From this overlook, you’ll have a breathtaking view of the Cheaha Wilderness.
From Odum Point, backtrack to the Nubbin Creek Trail. Turn left and follow Nubbin Creek Trail 1.5 miles to Parker High Point. As you reach Parker High Point, you will find an overlook with a wooden platform that provides a view of the surrounding mountains. Backtrack to Odum Trail and descend for 3.5 miles to return to the trailhead.
Be aware that the Odum Trail and Nubbin Creek Trail are lightly traveled, and be prepared to deal with downed trees, rock gardens, thorns, tall grass, ticks, and the occasional wildlife encounter. Bring water, proper clothing, and safety gear.
Written by Hap Pruitt for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.