Sometimes, in the sweltering heat of an Alabama summer, just seeing a waterfall is enough to help you feel cooler. And the waterfalls at Chewacla State Park, a 696-acre outdoor playground that's a short drive from Auburn University, beckon visitors from far and wide. Another highlight of the park is its 26-acre lake, as well as its extensive mountain biking and hiking trails, all of which make a dip even more rewarding and are another reason to visit this gem in Alabama's state park system.
Don't be put off, however, by the entrance to the park, which is surrounded by what appears to be residential areas not far from downtown Auburn. The entrance opens up to the park's nearly 700 acres almost immediately and transports visitors into a world of natural wonder. Here, we explore what awaits, including magnificent waterfalls, mountain biking trails, and camping spots to make your visit to this pleasant state park an overnight adventure.
Exploring the Waterfalls
Chewacla State Park is home to both natural and manmade waterfalls. The most popular falls is manmade and is located on the backside of the lake. Water cascades over the unique masonry found here year-round and serves as a photo-friendly destination. This same masonry dam originally created the lake and was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC is also responsible for many of the unique man-made features throughout the park, including an iconic arched masonry bridge and renovated stone cottages that are still available for rental.
Waterfalls of the naturally occurring variety may also be found throughout the park. One of those naturally formed waterfalls is more impressive than the rest, at least in terms of volume, and can be found about a mile's hike away from the parking areas near Creek View Trail. This trail, like many others within Chewacla, is accessible to able-bodied visitors of all ages and offers a unique, family-friendly slice of Alabama outdoors.
Another very popular hiking trail is known as the CCC Trail, which is named after the same group of conservationists responsible for many of the previously mentioned man-made features found within the park. The CCC Trail is particularly popular due to the vast array of large rock formations that are scattered along the sprawling paths that offer visitors a glimpse of the geological oddities that can be found in Alabama.
The CCC Trail is also the most remote of those that are available here and is located west of Lake Chewacla. The closest parking spaces are about a mile hike away, so be sure to check out a trail map and plan accordingly.
Where to Ride
Chewacla State Park is also home to the highest point in Lee County, which means that it's a great location for mountain bikers seeking the sort of elevation changes that give the sport its name. Sprinkled throughout the meticulously maintained trails are hand-built wooden bridges and other structures that encourage riders to push the limits of their abilities on their hardtail or full-suspension mountain bikes. These wooden structures make the riding here unique and offer two-wheeled adventurers the sort of tactile experience that makes the sport unique. Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers is a group of about 80 mountain bikers who are largely responsible for Chewacla's trails. Club president Philip Darden describes the terrain as "amazing and unlike anywhere else in our area."
Camp Trail is roughly one mile in length and is perfectly suited to beginner mountain bikers. It is a relatively flat loop with very few rocks or roots to make for less technically demanding riding and is often used by more experienced riders as a warm up. Bunny hills and wide turns are great for newbies, while a number of black diamond and expert-grade trails will appease more hard-core riders.
Many of the advanced mountain biking trails are located on the eastern quadrant of the park. "High Gravity" is a highlight, with flowy singletrack of mostly downhill that begins at the high point lookout of the park. Rollers, table tops, and rock options abound on this trail that is reserved for the experts. If you go, check out the map beforehand.
Want to stretch your adventure into an overnight excursion? Choose from plenty of camping options, including six 1930s-era renovated cottages built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. These structures feature the same kind of iconic masonry found at the dam, but have been updated to offer a thoroughly modern and relaxing experience. Hardwood floors, stone fireplaces, and other amenities make these the ideal location for family-friendly or romantic getaways in the heart of Alabama.
For those after a more rustic experience, Chewacla State Park also features 10 primitive campsites and 36 RV-hookups that offer access to some of the most scenic lookouts in the park. Reservations aren't necessary for the primitive sites, but are recommended for RV sites.
If You Go
- The park is about 150 miles from Birmingham.
- Day entry fees are $4, while camping fees start at $18 and cabin rentals start at $110.
- Chewacla State Park is a popular destination for Auburn football fans, so it's recommended to make reservations in advance if you're planning to stay overnight during football season.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.