What High-Pointers Need to Know About Cheaha Mountain

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Trip Report
Alabama, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jul 4, 2012
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What High-Pointers Need to Know About Cheaha Mountain
Created On: Jul 8, 2012
Last Edited On: Jul 8, 2012

Hiking to the Top Instead of Driving

There are lots of good trails on Cheaha Mountain, but none of the named trails actually goes to the summit. However, if you don't want to drive up to the top, and you want more of a real "high-point experience," you actually can walk from the base of the mountain to the summit using a series of trails, plus a little bit of walking on pavement.

To do this, start at Cheaha Lake, and take the Lake Trail up the mountain. This is a steep trail with lots of nice boulders at the higher elevations. (Other trip reports on this site give very good descriptions of this trail.) This trail will end near the top of the mountain, at a driveway where there are several rental cabins. Follow the driveway to the main road, and turn left. This road makes a loop that circles the summit.

Walk on the road around a sharp bend, and continue for about 1000 feet until you get to Campground No. 1. Turn right into this camping area, and walk straight ahead until you get to Campsite 5. Between Campsites 5 and 6 you will see yellow blazes on trees marking the summit trail. This trail is very new, and at the time of writing is not included on the trail maps, nor does it have a name yet. However, this trail is easy to follow and not very steep, and after about fifteen minutes of hiking, it will take you to the parking lot of the summit area. The total elevation gain between Cheaha Lake and the summit is about 1000 vertical feet.


On the Way Back Down

If you return to Cheaha Lake by the same route, you will pass the trail head for the Pulpit Rock Trail as you descend along the paved road. This short trail is an excellent side trip, and will probably give you the best scenery of your hike (that's where I took the picture above). The trail leads to a number of rocky outcrops will wonderful views of the surrounding valley and more-distant mountain ridges. Other trip reports on this site provide detail descriptions of this trail.

When you rejoin the Lake Trail to return to the bottom of the mountain, the Rock Garden Trail branches off from the Lake Trail shortly beneath the trail head. (The Lake Trail is marked with blue blazes, and the Rock Garden Trail with red.) The Rock Garden trail is another good short side trip, and it will take you some rock outcrops with good views of Cheaha Lake in the valley below, so you can get a good feel for just how high you have hiked. The trail ends at another campground, at which point you can turn around and return to the Lake Trail for your descent back to the bottom.

What I Really Did

When I hiked Cheaha, I didn't realize you could hike up the entire mountain in this way. I actually drove to Campground No. 1 and took the short summit trail to the top. I then drove to the Pulpit Rock trail head and hiked that short trail. Next, I drove to top end of the Lake Trail, hiked down to Cheaha Lake, and then hiked back up again. Finally, I hiked the Rock Garden Trail. I did all this not knowing the area very well. Only after having explored the area in this way did I realize that I could have simply hiked up from the lake!




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