A Stunning State Park Lets You Camp At The Highest Point In This Southeastern State

Where do the Appalachian Mountains end in the South? If you said Georgia, you're probably thinking of the Appalachian Trail. America's most famous long-distance hiking route starts or ends in Georgia. But the Appalachian Mountains continue their path south into central Alabama. And there, at the southern tip of the Appalachians, you can find one of the nation's most stunning state parks.

Cheaha State Park lies 2,407 feet above sea level and sprawls across 2,799 beautiful acres. The park is a magnificent mix of windswept boulders and ancient trees reaching toward the sky. Clouds often veil the park's highest points, allowing visitors to really feel like they're at a high altitude. If you want to have the bragging rights of sleeping at Alabama's highest point, you'll need to head for Picnic Trail Campground in the park. From here, the observation tower that marks Alabama's high point is within walking distance.

Discovering Cheaha State Park

Cheaha is best explored on foot like many of Alabama's beautiful state parks. The park boasts several excellent hikes, ranging from short and simple to longer and more challenging routes. A popular and easy route is Pulpit Rock Trail, a 0.6-mile out-and-back trail with gorgeous views from Pulpit Rock. There's also the short but scenic Bald Rock Trail, which gives visitors incredible views from Bald Rock Outlook.

The Cave Creek Trail and the Hernandez Peak and McDill Point Trail begin in the park and continue outside into the Talladega National Forest. The trails follow the same route to Hernandez Peak and McDill Point. You can either choose to return the same way you came or turn the hike into a loop via the seven-mile Cave Creek loop trail. Out-and-back it's a five-mile hike. Reviewers on AllTrails love these trails, writing "beautiful views," "amazing hike," and "excellent view to effort ratio." Be warned, though, that these hikes include some scrambling over boulders, and hikers say it's easy to go off-trail accidentally.

The park also offers a place to relax by the water. At Cheaha Lake, you can swim, fish for bass and bluegill, and rent paddleboats during the summer. You can hike here on the Lake Trail, a challenging mile-long steep path leading to Rock Garden. The views at the end are glorious.

More to explore

When in Cheaha, make time to visit the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum. Located in the Observation Tower, the museum showcases items used by the C.C.C. to construct the tower, a dam for Cheaha Lake, and some cabins, among other things. Again, the Observation Tower is at the highest point in the park! Cheaha is also home to mountain bike trails, a hotel, several campgrounds, a glamping site, cabins, and a dog park.

Finally, getting to Cheaha is half of the fun! Though the park is only a 1.5-hour drive from Birmingham and Atlanta, you'll feel a world away once you start winding up through the mountains. You can take the wide, accessible Talladega Scenic Drive or get off the well-driven path and meander up Cheaha Road from Munford, AL. The winding road takes you past incredible scenery but is not recommended for large RVs due to its uneven surface. However you get here, be prepared for some of the best views in Alabama in stunning Cheaha State Park.