Even if you grew up in Alabama, there’s a good chance you’ve never visited the small towns of Rockford and Weogufka in Coosa County. Located southeast of Birmingham and northeast of Montgomery, the towns are located in a remote, rural patch of Alabama that flies far under the radar for many.
But despite its low profile, the area boasts a wealth of outdoor adventures in store for those who take a closer look. Coosa County offers excellent trails for hiking and superb creeks for kayaking and canoeing. Just west of Weogufka, the southern terminus of the Pinhoti Trail begins near Flagg Mountain and continues through Alabama for more than 100 miles. And a relatively new trail system allows you to do a four-mile hike through the rugged hardwood forest surrounding Flagg Mountain.
If you like to paddle, Rockford is just a few miles from Hatchet Creek and Weogufka Creek, which wind through secluded forests and include a wide range of whitewater levels for all ability levels. And for those who want to turn a day trek into an overnight adventure, Rockford is home to the Coosa Hiker Hostel, which provides affordable accommodations as well as shuttles for hikers and paddlers.
When you visit this area, it’s important to remember that you’re venturing to a remote place with few restaurants or other amenities. But, just 20 to 30 minutes away you’ll find creature comforts like craft beers, artsy coffee drinks, and tasty barbecue in the towns of Alexander City and Sylacauga.
To help you get off the beaten path and explore some of the hidden treasures in the southeast corner of Alabama, we’ve compiled suggestions for a two- or three-day adventure, complete with where to hike, grab a bite afterward, and crash for the night.
Hike the Pinhoti Trail and Flagg Mountain
From Rockford, you’ll drive about 30 minutes to reach the southern terminus of the Pinhoti Trail, which lies off CC Camp Road, a rough dirt road. After you’ve walked about 300 feet on the trail you’ll reach a registry where thru-hikers leave messages as they begin treks that will stretch for hundreds (or thousands) of miles.
From this point, there’s no sign of civilization as you rollercoaster through rugged woods. Just before the 1-mile mark, the Pinhoti intersects a dirt road that will lead you to the summit of 1,152-foot Flagg Mountain. As you approach the summit, you’ll encounter refurbished cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. If you contact local volunteers with the Alabama Hiking Trail Society, you can arrange to stay in the cabins overnight. While they include electricity and fireplaces, the cabins are not fully furnished and there is no water available, so you’ll be roughing it.
From the cabins, continue climbing to reach the summit to enjoy a panoramic view and an old 52-foot fire tower made of stone. From here, retrace your steps to the trailhead.
Tackle the Flagg Mountain Trail
If you’re looking for a longer hike, explore the new Flagg Mountain trail system, which you can access from two trailheads on the dirt CC Camp Road. For a 3.3-mile trek, begin at the trailhead where the Yellow and White trails connect. A series of short drops and steep climbs carry you through a rich hardwood forest that glows red and gold in the fall and brims with wildflowers in spring. At 1.2 miles, the Yellow and White trails intersect, and you can continue on the Yellow Trail for another 0.8 miles to reach the point where it ends at the CC Camp Road. From the road, retrace your steps, turn left onto the White Trail and walk a half-mile to reach your original trailhead.
Toast Your Trek Afterward
After tackling Flagg Mountain’s hilly terrain, you might be in the mood to cool off with a tasty beverage. At Fermenters Market in Sylacauga, you can relax with friendly locals in a laid-back environment and choose from dozens of beers on tap. For something local, try an IPA from Red Clay Brewing, which is located in nearby Opelika. Also, Fermenters has a nice wine selection, and you can buy bottles to go.
Sleep at the Coosa Hiker Hostel
Catering to thru-hikers, paddlers, vacationing families and all sorts of adventurers, the Coosa Hiker Hostel is a welcome and important resource in this part of Alabama. For about $25 a night, you can stay in a comfortable RV that includes has one bedroom with a queen bed, another bedroom with four bunks, a bathroom (with a shower), and a kitchen. The owners, Callie and Craig, are experts on recreation in the area, and they can provide you expert tips on exploring the area. Plus, they provide a shuttle service for area trails and creeks.
Fuel Up with Coffee and a Breakfast Burrito
Get an early start to your morning and make the 25-minute drive from Rockford to The Coffee Corner in downtown Alexander City. At this easygoing café, you can order from a full slate of hot and iced coffee drinks and enjoy hearty breakfast sandwiches. If you’re feeling daring (and you need a shot of energy), try the Southern Latte, made with sweet tea. Both modern and rustic, The Coffee Corner has a comfy couch and chairs where you can relax, plus long wooden tables where you can settle in with your chow and map out the day’s adventure.
Paddle Hatchet Creek
In the 1900s, dams on Hatchet Creek supplied power for mills that processed corn,
cotton, lumber, and textiles. But the dams disappeared decades ago, and the creek flows freely now, with a nice mix of rapids and calm waters. While you might see the occasional house or cabin, much of Hatchet Creek runs through large tracts of wild forest. Along a 35-mile stretch of the creek, there are six places to access the river, so you have the flexibility to do a short float trip, or a multi-day journey.
Depending on recent rainfall and water flow, the creek’s rapids generally range from Class I to Class III. The westernmost section, from King’s Bridge to Double Bridges, is the easiest, with Class I and Class II water. On this part of the creek you’ll encounter rock gardens and modest drops that require a bit of paddling skill. If you visit the creek in spring, you might see rare stands of brilliant white Cahaba lilies that grow in the shoals.
Wander the Magnolia Trail
For a quick trail run or short bike ride, hit the new Magnolia trail located near the main road intersection in Rockford. Winding for two miles, this singletrack path begins in a grove of tall magnolia trees and climbs moderately through oaks and pines. Perfect for beginner bikers, the trail doesn’t really have any technical sections, but you’ll get some exercise climbing the occasional hill. As you move deeper into the forest, you’ll cruise past a small creek, meadows, and more radiant green magnolias, which make this a great place to simply relax and enjoy nature.
Sample the Local Barbecue
Wherever you travel in Alabama, it seems you’re never too far from a great barbecue place. In this neck of the woods, locals will steer you to August’s BBQ in Sylacauga. Recommended picks at this beloved spot: pulled pork, which is topped with a tasty, tangy sauce, baby back ribs, and mac and cheese.
If You Go:
You’ll have limited cell reception in portions of Coosa County, so you shouldn’t rely solely on phone apps to navigate. Come prepared with additional navigation tools, such as paper maps and/or a GPS.
Pinhoti Trail directions: From the 4-way stop sign in Weogufka, travel 5.2 miles on County Road 29, and turn right onto CR 16. Go 0.6 miles and turn right onto Weogufka Forest Road (also called CC Camp Road). Go 1.7 miles and the trailhead pavilion is on the right.
Flagg Mountain Trailhead directions: From the 4-way stop sign in Weogufka, travel 5.2 miles on County Road 29, and turn right onto CR 16. Go 0.6 miles and turn right onto Weogufka Forest Road (CC Camp Road). Travel four miles, and look for a trail marker on the right. Here, you can park on the shoulder of the road.
To stay overnight in a Flagg Mountain cabin, text the resident caretaker at 417-543-3801.
Before you paddle Hatchet Creek, check the water flow. If it’s 300 cfs or lower, you’ll be dragging your boat. Between 600 and 700 cfs, the section from King’s Bridge to Double Bridges is a fun, comfortable ride for a beginner.
Rockford has few food options. If you want to avoid driving to Alexander City or Sylacauga, bring groceries to cook at the Coosa Hiker Hostel.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.