The Talladega National Forest is a true gem in Alabama. Stretching across 70 miles of hardwood forests from the town of Sylacauga to the Georgia state line, the forest offers incredible outdoor recreational activities in the southernmost end of the Appalachian Mountains.
The forest is veined with many hiking trails that lead to breathtaking panoramic views from rock outcroppings, shimmering lakes, rushing streams, and waterfalls.
There are many waterfalls hidden away within the Talladega National Forest. Here are the five best hiking trails that will take you to some of them.
1. Pinhoti Trail To Little Hillabee Falls
We start our adventure on Alabama’s famous long path, the Pinhoti Trail, for a trip to Little Hillabee Falls.
This section of the 335+ mile-long trail that continues into Georgia begins at Morgan Lake in Oxford, Alabama on County Highway 24. The lake is beautiful in and of itself with the forest and hillsides reflected in its tranquil waters. A small waterfall is located here as well.
The hike on the blue-blazed Pinhoti Trail is an easy to moderate 6-mile out-and-back over a traditional dirt and rock footpath. It is a beautiful walk in the woods with plenty of solitude. Many times you will have the trail virtually to yourself.
The hike culminates with a visit to the sparkling 50 foot tall Little Hillabee Falls, where you will then turn around and return to the trailhead.
2. Chinnabee Silent Trail To Cheaha Falls And Devils Den
The natural beauty of the southern Appalachians is encapsulated in this one trail – the Chinnabee Silent Trail. This 7-mile out-and-back trail is a moderately difficult hike through the beautiful hardwood forest that blazes with color in fall and provides cool shade in summer, breathtaking views of the Talladega mountains, rushing streams that churn white over their rocky bed, and not just one, but two stunning waterfalls.
Starting at the trailhead on Alabama Highway 281 and Adams Gap Road, it is an easy first mile to the first waterfall – Cheaha Falls, a 20-foot-tall tiered cascade that tumbles down a series of rocky quartzite steps into a turquoise pool that is the perfect place to sit and reflect or maybe to take a dip on a hot summer day.
From there, the hike becomes moderately difficult as you cross the stream using extreme caution and arrive at a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains from the Cheaha Falls Trail Shelter.
Continuing on, you will arrive at Devils Den, a narrow gorge where the water of Cheaha Creek funnels through its boulder-strewn channel as it flows to Lake Chinnabee. The trail actually clings to a rock wall using a stone and wooden walkway where you will have breathtaking views of the gorge from high above before it dips down to creek level where you can see its many cascades firsthand and swim in the pools of the cold mountain stream. After spending time at the mesmerizing stream, turn around and head back to the trailhead.
If you would like to see either waterfall but not hike the entire 7 miles, you can split the trip into two hikes. To visit Cheaha Falls, start at the trailhead on Alabama Highway 281, visit the waterfall, then turn around and head back to the trailhead for an easy 1-mile hike.
To visit Devils Den only, begin the hike at the Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area and take a 3.1-mile out-and-back hike alongside the creek to the gorge, turning around at the walkway.
If you park your vehicle at Lake Chinnabee, remember that there is a small day-use fee required for parking. The recreation area is closed from November to March due to the potential of hazardous winter road conditions.
Because there is easy access to both waterfalls from either end of the trail, it can be very crowded in the summer months. Be patient and arrive early. As of this writing, the trail is vaguely blazed but so well used that it’s easy to follow.
3. Nubbin Creek Trail To Mill Shoal Cascade And More
Within the Talladega National Forest, there are several wilderness areas. These are areas that have been designated by the National Forest Service as places that have been untrammeled by humans, leaving them virtually pristine. One of those areas is the Cheaha Wilderness, a 7,200+ acre section of the forest that has been preserved by the National Forest Service and today offers hikers in Alabama a true outdoor adventure.
Within this wilderness, you will find the Nubbin Creek Trail, which will take you deep into the forest for a stunning view of three waterfalls.
The first waterfall comes only a half-mile into the hike where a side trail leads you to a rock bluff for a spectacular view of Mill Shoal Cascade, a gorgeous 100-foot-long waterfall that tumbles through a gorge into a blue-green pool.
After that, two more unnamed falls will be visited. You can’t miss them; the trail crosses both.
Both of those waterfalls are 40-foot-tall cascades that rush downstream beds over large rocks and boulders. The first waterfall will be encountered at 1.3 miles into the hike, the second at 1.6 miles. Even though the actual trail continues past this point, you will turn around here and head back to the trailhead, making this a moderate 3.2-mile out-and-back hike.
The trail is a dirt and rock-strewn path, and being in a wilderness area, it is unblazed but well worn and maintained so it’s easy to follow.
The falls are best experienced from fall through early summer. In fall, the foliage ignites the landscape with color. In spring, wildflowers grace the path.
4. Odum Scout Trail To High Falls
It’s difficult to miss High Falls – it’s only a few yards from High Falls Trailhead on High Falls Drive in Lineville, Alabama, but what you see at the base of the falls is only the beginning as the short moderate to difficult half-mile out-and-back hike leads you to three different segments of the falls.
The trail leaves the trailhead to the base of the falls, where you will have to carefully cross the stream to the other side. Once there, begin the short – but difficult – hike up the side of the waterfalls. The entire trail runs parallel to the falls.
At the top of the hill, you will come to the middle pool with a nice 10-foot cascade filling it to the north. But as they say on TV, wait! There’s more!
Continue steeply up another hill using a set of wood and steel stairs and arrive at the third pool and a 15-foot cascade.
The hike is short in length and moderately difficult until you make the final push up the stairs, which is rated as difficult.
When the falls have a good flow, use extreme caution when crossing the stream. Sometimes the water is too swift, especially after heavy rain. During those times, consider finishing the hike another day.
5. Unnamed Trail To Hopeful Falls
On a small back road in the center of the Talladega National Forest in the town of Munford, Bass Lane, there is a non-descript, unnamed trail that is perfect for families. It is an easy half-mile to a gorgeous waterfall that has an identity crisis. Locals call it Camp Mac Falls since it is located near the summer camp of the same name. Google Maps calls it Secret Falls. Others call it Hidden Falls. Its real name is Hopeful Falls.
Hopeful Falls is a 35-foot plunge type waterfall that flows down separate channels forming a double ribbon of water. The water plunges over a rock ledge where it loses touch with its rocky base. When it has a good flow, you will be able to (carefully) walk behind the watery curtain.
As I mentioned, the trail is an easy walking sandy path that follows the stream to the base of the waterfalls. You will have to cross the stream that flows from the falls several times on your way to the waterfall, but most of the time it’s an easy crossing. Just be ready to get your feet wet. After heavy rain, the water can be swift and high. In those instances, come back another day.
The trailhead isn’t marked. It is located 11-miles west of Cheaha State Park on Bass Lane in Munford, Alabama. When heading down the road, you will come to a 7-ton bridge. Don’t cross it. Park well off the road so you don’t block traffic before the bridge. The trail begins across the road.
The trail isn’t blazed but it’s easy enough to find; just follow the creek.
- Please use caution around waterfalls. The rocky footing is wet and slippery with moss and algae.
- On a few of these hikes, you will have to cross streams. If the water is high and swiftly flowing, use extra caution or better yet, consider coming back another time.
- Dogs are permitted in the forest, but the forest service asks that you keep them on a 6-foot leash and pick up after them.
- Please pack out what you carry in.
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