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Hiking Cheaha Wilderness

One of the major pros of living in Atlanta is that I’m within a two hour drive of several designated Wilderness areas and National Forests. North Georgia is especially popular with hiking opportunities like the Appalachian Trail, Raven Cliffs, and more. Honestly that’s where most Atlantans go.

But I’ve found that there are two National Forests that are a shorter drive time from Atlanta than the default North Georgia destinations. One is the Oconee National Forest, where I’ve hiked a good bit. And, surprisingly, the other is in Alabama.

The Talladega National Forest runs very close to the Alabama / Georgia state line and is bisected by I-20. I had never checked it out, so one October afternoon, I drove out to the Cheaha Wilderness to hike a loop that includes the Pinhoti Trail from the Cheaha Trailhead via a connector trail to the Cave Creek Trail that loops back to the trailhead.

The Pinhoti Trail is meanders along the west side of a long ridge. It has lots of ups and downs as it traverses the rib ridges. It’s also almost all rock.

Hiking Cheaha Wilderness 2

I’m used to the dirt tracks with occasional rock that you see on Appalachian Trail in Georgia. This section of the Pinhoti was all ankle-busting rock making its way through mainly Pine with interspersed oak.

But the trail did have views – around every corner. Views as far as the horizon.

Hiking Cheaha Wilderness 3

A lot of the land in view is National Forest, but most is private. This area of Alabama is just that rural and mainly dedicated to tree farming.

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The trail came occasionally came off the side of the ridge and got some elevation into the forest where the trail was slightly less rocky. There were quite a few informal campsites with great views, but would not be ideal in weather.

Hiking Cheaha Wilderness 5

I hopped up on the connector trail to the Cave Creek trail to head back to the trailhead. Cave Creek is a lovely, well-maintained trail with no epic views, but lots of interesting forest.

Cheaha Wilderness may be small but I’m glad it exists. Compared to other Forests / trails near Atlanta, it’s well-cared for with obviously lots of volunteer hours.

These photos don’t really do it justice, but I was happy to see that my two favorite YouTube backpackers actually met up and did a hike through the Cheaha. It’s worth a watch.

A few years after this hike, I went back and hiked the Nubbin Creek Trail in the Cheaha Wilderness, and plan to come back more often.

By Nate

I'm Nate Shivar - I live in Atlanta and love exploring the city, outdoors, books & Internet. Read about me, my Now page, or my work.

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