Friday, October 05, 2012

Hiking Alabama

Eagle Creek Falls - Sipsey Wilderness Area

The crisp edge of autumn is upon us and for a few hundred rabid fanatics around the state the change in the weather brings one of the most anticipated seasons of the year: hiking season.

Hiking is at its best in Alabama from the time  that persimmons begin dropping from the trees in autumn until privet hedge begins blooming in the spring.

You may be surprised to learn that Alabama offers many excellent hiking opportunities. From hiking amidst alligator ponds and carnivorous plants in the Conecuh National Forest on the Florida state line to the felled tree bridges and precipitously steep canyon trail of the Walls of Jericho on the Tennessee state line, Alabama has an amazing variety of hikes for all ages and fitness abilities.

Although there are challenging and scenic day hikes to be had in the Birmingham area, the truly great hiking spots in Alabama can be found by driving an hour or two outside of the Birmingham metropolitan area.

The Cheaha Wilderness and Cheaha State Park near Anniston offers the some of the toughest trails in the state as well as the most scenic mountainous overlooks including the famous McDill Point where part of the trailside scenery includes the wreckage of a small plane. The Cheaha area draws thousands of visitors each year and the longest trail in Alabama—the 171 mile long Pinhoti trail—meanders along the ridgeline of Mount Cheaha as part of its path from Flagg Mountain in Weogufka through Indian Mountain above Piedmont on the Georgia state line.

The Sipsey Wilderness may be the ultimate hiking destination in the state of Alabama and most of Alabama's hikers consider this area sacred in its natural beauty. The Sipsey is home to thousands of waterfalls, canyons,  house-sized boulders, and some of the last remaining stands of primeval forest in the state. The Sipsey Wilderness is based around a large number of canyons situated in the Warrior Mountains between Double Springs and Moulton in northern Alabama. The most popular hiking destination in the Sipsey Wilderness is the largest tree in the state of Alabama: a 176 foot tall Tulip Poplar known as the "Big Tree"; however, there are several amazing hikes in the Sipsey if you have no fear of going off trail and can read a map

For more information on hiking in Alabama, visit your local library where you can find several great books that will point you towards the best in hiking in Alabama .

Hiking Alabama by Joe Cuhaj is considered by many to be the best guide to hiking within the state of Alabama.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Birmingham by Russell Helms is an excellent guide for short jaunts in the metro area.

The Complete Walker IV by Colin Fletcher & Chip Rawlins is something of a bible for hikers and backpackers in its exhaustive descriptions of gear, training, and being prepared for anything in the woods.

The Battle for Alabama’s Wilderness: Saving the Great Gymnasiums of Nature by John N. Randolph is an account of the political struggles that various state and federal officials as well as grassroots organizations faced in conserving large tracts of Alabama's public lands for recreational use.

Indian Trails of the Warrior Mountains (Library Use Only) by Butch Walker is an interesting publication that describes the old American Indian trails throughout the Bankhead National Forest. Some of these trails have evolved into roads and highways and some are still walking trails in the Sipsey Wilderness replete with Creek Indian arborglyphs and marker trees.

photo courtesy of Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith
Springville Road Library

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