DeSoto State Park: Laurel Falls Trail, CCC Quarry Trail, and DeSoto Scout Trail (CCC Trail Shelter to Lodge), Fort Payne, Alabama
As one of Alabama's first state parks, DeSoto State Park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, and much of their work can still be seen throughout the park today. Located on Lookout Mountain, the park is positioned on the west side of the West Fork of the Little River, conveniently close to the town of Fort Payne. A network of hiking trails visits as many as five waterfalls on tributaries of West Fork Little River. You will also see some views of the Little River gorge and some of the CCC's work on this moderate mountaintop hike. This hike occurred on Saturday, April 2nd, 2016. After completing a short hike to nearby De Soto Falls, I drove down to DeSoto State Park with a plan to make a loop out of several of the park's trail. First, I would take the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk to Azalea Cascade. Then, I would take the Azalea Cascade Trail to the Laurel Falls Trail. I would follow the Laurel Falls Trail to the Lost Falls Trailhead, making sure to make the side trips to Laurel Falls and Lost Falls. After the Lost Falls Trailhead, I would continue on a mountain bike trail that would take me past the CCC Museum and to the CCC Quarry. From the CCC Quarry, I would follow the CCC Quarry Trail to its terminus near the DeSoto State Park Visitor Center. After this, I would cross the park's Picnic and Play Area and follow an access trail to the DeSoto Scout Trail. I would follow the DST north for a little bit to the CCC Trail Shelter and views of the Little River, before turning south and finishing the hike at the park's lodge, passing Indian Falls and Lodge Falls in the meantime. A bit of roadwalk would be necessary to return back to the parking area.
Alabama's Little River is one of the few rivers in the United States that flows along a mountaintop. The headwaters of both the West Fork and East Fork of the Little River are in northwest Georgia on Lookout Mountain. Both forks of the river continue flowing along Lookout Mountain into Alabama, gradually carving out their own gorges on the mountain, before merging together and entering the Little River Canyon. Upon the end of Little River Canyon, the Little River flows into the Coosa River. One of the major landmarks on the West Fork of the Little River is De Soto Falls - an impressive waterfall that drops more than 100 feet into a rock amphitheater. The official view of the falls is from a rock outcrop on the side of the falls at the end of Desoto Falls Road. However, many people are not aware of an unofficial trail system that leads to the base of the falls. This hike occurred on Saturday, April 2nd, 2016. My plan was to take the unofficial trail from Desoto Falls Road past Icebox Cave to the base of De Soto Falls. Then, I would return to the road and take another unofficial trail to a view that would take in all of De Soto Falls and its basin.
Sipsey Wilderness: Randolph Trail, Loop via Sipsey River Trail, Borden Creek Trail, Bunyan Hill Trail, Bee Ridge Trail, & Rippey Trail, Double Springs, Alabama
The Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River is Alabama's only federally designated Wild and Scenic River. The small, sandy waterway's clean waters flow through a narrow gorge in the northwestern section of Bankhead National Forest in western Alabama. While the river itself may be a bit tame, you'll encounter several different waterfalls on its tributaries, and some of the rock outcroppings - most importantly the Tunnel of Borden - are astounding. This hike occurred on Saturday, May 9th, 2015. My plan was to start my hike at the Randolph Trailhead. I would combine several well-known hikes with more secluded sections of trail. I would first take Randolph Trail to the Sipsey Fork. Then, I would ford the Sipsey Fork and take the Sipsey River Trail downstream to Borden Creek. Following a ford of Borden Creek, I would take the Borden Creek Trail upstream to the Borden Creek Trailhead. Next, I would take the Bunyan Hill Trail to Bee Ridge Trail, and the Bee Ridge Trail back down to the Sipsey River Trail, with a short diversion along the way to East Bee Branch Falls and The Big Tree on the East Bee Branch Trail. Once I got back to the river, I would take the Sipsey River Trail upstream, ford the river one more time, and break the rim, reaching the Rippey Trail. I would finish by following the Rippey Trail back to the trailhead.
Mill Shoals Creek, flowing off the eastern fringe of Talladega Mountain, is home to two of the few water features in the Cheaha Wilderness part of Talladega National Forest. Once you cruise past the two waterfalls, start on a clockwise loop that will take you through thickets of mountain laurel, through boulder fields, and pass grand rock cliffs, before reaching the grand destination - a beautiful vista on a rock outcrop which provides unobstructed views westward into the heart of Alabama. Finish the loop with some boulder field hiking and back down Mill Shoals Creek. This hike occurred on Sunday, April 24th, 2015. My plan was to hike the Nubbin Creek Trail to its terminus at the Odum Scout Trail. From here on, I'd turn right and take the Odum Scout Trail to its terminus at the Pinhoti Trail. Next, I would turn right and take the Pinhoti Trail to the Cave Creek Connector. Then, I would turn right onto Cave Creek Connector, connect to Cave Creek Trail, and turn right to follow the Cave Creek Trail to its terminus back at the Nubbin Creek Trail. I would finish the hike by returning the way I came on Nubbin Creek Trail.
Cheaha Wilderness is the first of two wilderness areas in Alabama's Talladega National Forest. The wilderness is named after Alabama's highest peak, Cheaha Mountain. The wilderness is located in the southern half of Talladega National Forest, and is shaped as a thin rectangle east of Highway 281. A large trail systems lies across the wilderness and surrounding areas, making it easy to travel through different portions of the wilderness. One of the trails in particular, Chinnabee Silent Trail, starts at Lake Chinnabee in the western end of Talladega National Forest, and meanders a half dozen miles through the area, with the last 2 in the Cheaha Wilderness, before terminating at the Pinhoti Trail. This hike occurred on Saturday, July 26th, 2014. My plan was to hike the entire Chinnabee Silent Trail from west to east, and return the same way.
There's wilderness even in Alabama. In an area of low-elevation ridges and long valleys lies the Cheaha Widerness of the Talladega National Forest. While this is only a mini version of the mountains further north, the Talladega National Forest has numerous hiking trails, with many leading to grand views. While this wilderness is not as "wild" and rugged as the ones in Georgia and North Carolina, it still isn't an easy hike. This hike occurred on Saturday, May 17th, 2014. My plan was to drive up the Talladega Skyway to the Cheaha Wilderness Trailhead. I would hike the Cave Creek Trail to the Pinhoti Connector, follow the Pinhoti Connector to the Pinhoti Trail, and follow the Pinhoti Trail back to the parking lot. Along the way, I would stop at McDill Overlook for what was clearly the most beautiful view I have seen in Alabama, if not one of the most beautiful views I have seen in Alabama and Georgia combined.
Little River Canyon National Park: Martha's Falls Trail, Beaver Pond Loop Trail, and Eberhart Trail, Fort Payne, Alabama
There are just a few places in Eastern Alabama worthy of hiking at, and Little River Canyon is definitely one of them. The canyon is over a dozen miles long, and it is bordered by the Sand Mountain Ridge to its west, and the Lookout Mountain Ridge to its east. There are lots of interesting rock formations around the canyon, and in the canyon, while Little River rushes through with whitewater. Little River Falls is the biggest waterfall on Little River, although there are small slides in its course too. This hike occurred on Saturday, March 22nd, 2014. My plans were to hike the Little River Falls Trail to Martha's Falls out and back, then drive down Little River Canyon Parkway (AL Route 176), stop by each of the overlooks, hike the Beaver Pond Loop Trail, and finally, hike the Eberhart Trail from Eberhart Point to the bottom of the canyon and Little River.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 468.7 Miles