Talladega National Forest, Recreation Area Lake Chinnabee
Geographic Location: south of
Oxford, AL (33.45895, -85.87330)
Length: 6 miles
Difficulty: 6/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: March 2013
Overview: A scenic out-and-back to interesting
. Cheaha Falls
Trail Information: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/alabama/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=30129&actid=50
Hike Route Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=167560
Directions to the trailhead: In eastern
Alabama, take I-20 to US 431 (exit 191). Exit and go south on US 431. Take US 431 to SR 281 ( Talladega Scenic Byway). Turn right on the SR 281 access road, then turn left on SR 281 itself. Take SR 281 south 14 miles to Cheaha Road and turn right on Cheaha Rd. Take Cheaha Road 3.6 miles to Lake Chinnabee Road and turn left on Lake Chinnabee Rd. Lake Chinnabee Rd. enters the recreation area 1.4 miles later. Park in the first parking area on the left. Picnic tables and vault toilets can be found at this parking area.
The hike: Stretching 6 miles from Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area in the west to a junction with the Pinhoti Trail on
in the east, the Chinnabee Silent Trail may be the most famous hiking trail in Talladega Mountain Alabama. One trip down this path and you will quickly see its appeal. The aquatic falls and antics of Cheaha Creek make pleasant sights for the eyes and sounds for the ears.
The trail’s name comes from the fact that it was built over the four-year period of 1973 to 1976 by Boy Scout Troop 29 from the School for the Deaf in nearby
Talladega. Thus, the builders of this trail would never have heard the sounds of Cheaha Creek, one of the main attractions of this hike. Yet they chose to build it anyway, and an excellent job they did at that. Throughout this hike you will see their handiwork in railings, waterbars, and stone steps.
The trail’s centerpiece both in terms of scenery and distance is
. The falls can be accessed by hiking the Chinnabee Silent Trail 3 miles east from Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area or by hiking it 1 mile west from Turnipseed Camp parking area along SR 281. The hike from the camp is shorter, but it misses the best section of Cheaha Creek gorge. Thus, I chose to hike to the falls from the recreation area. With a two-car shuttle you could leave one car at each end and shorten the hike to 4 miles while eliminating any retracing of steps. Cheaha Falls
|Western trailhead: Chinnabee Silent Trail|
With the preliminary section out of the way, the trail heads into the heart of Cheaha Creek gorge as it climbs at first gradually and then more moderately up the north wall of the gorge. This section of trail is rather rocky and may be the most difficult part of this hike. A prescribed burn conducted here in 2011 makes this a very sunny section of trail.
|Climbing on Chinnabee Silent Trail|
|Devil's Den Falls|
After a very easy stretch along the creek, the trail joins an old road at 1.1 miles and begins a steady gradual-to-moderate ascent out of the gorge. Some faded white paint blazes mark the trail here, but for the most part the Chinnabee Silent Trail is well-trodden but unmarked. 1.3 miles into the hike, the trail curves right to leave the old road as the grade eases.
|Chinnabee Silent Trail in a hollow|
3 miles into the hike, you reach wooden Cheaha Falls Trail Shelter, which lies on a ridgetop within earshot of its namesake waterfall. Some picnic tables in front of the shelter make nice places to sit and have a trail snack while taking in the view through an opening in the trees to the south. Cheaha Creek Gorge lies directly in front of you, and
is the large mountain that can be seen in the distance. Talladega Mountain
|View from Cheaha Falls Trail Shelter|