|Trail Name||Pinhoti Trail|
|Distance||118.9 Miles Round Trip|
|Trip Reports||Pinhoti Trail|
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Pinhoti is Creek Indian for "Turkey Home." Expect to see wild turkey on the trail, you may also see deer, snakes, turtles, squirrel, and armadillo. This is a very intimate trail, it goes through dells, alongside streams, and over rolling hills. Many sections of the trail go through long leaf pine groves, these pines give the hills and forests a soft, fluffy appearance and invite you to lay down on beds of soft pine needles. There are few majestic views along the trail but you often can see out over the mountains through windows in the trees and into the many valleys. For me the most appealing thing about the Pinhoti is the solitude. Of the many days I've spent on the trail, less than half of them have I seen other hikers or backpackers, I've always camped alone.
This page was originally written by M. Lee Van Horn while still living in Alabama between 1998 and 2001. At that point he had hiked all 111.4 miles of the Pinhoti trail, most of it at least twice and some of it as many as five times. However, the trail has changed from that time with the addition of nearly 30 miles of trail on the southern end (basically to the end of the Talladega National Forest, and the connection with the Georgia Pinhoti being finished along with a fair bit of trail on the ground in GA. This trial guide will include most of the original text of the Hiking Alabama guide as well as updated maps and a few observations from more recent hikes. However, the guide needs your help to stay relevant! All you need to do is create a Trail Wiki account and then edit away.
Preparing for the Trail
There are a few shelters along the trail, but not enough to do the hike sleeping in only shelters. Those that are available are all decent, two of them are very nice. You are allowed to set up camp anywhere in the forest, but during hunting season you need to get a permit. There are generally plenty of potential camp sites, and in my guide I'll point out the really pretty ones. I always try to camp in beautiful places.
Solitude - Be prepared not to see anyone else while you are on the trail. In many places you are within a few miles of a road, but not all. Forest roads are often gated or not used for weeks
Supplies - There are no groceries stores along the trail that I know of although the store at Cheaha State Park has very limited supplies (but it typically does have trail maps). There is also a gas station with a food mart about a mile up from where you cross US 431 in section 5.
Water - Water is an essential ingredient in your trek, you can go a long way without food but you won't get very far without water. Water is also the heaviest item you will have to carry, creating a good incentive for carrying only what you need (hiking in moderate weather 1 gallon a day per person is what I expect to use). I have pointed out the areas where water is in short supply and have indicated what I believe to be reliable water sources. However, almost all water sources on this trail are weather dependent. In droughts I've seen even large streams completely dry. During normal fall, winter, and spring seasons you should experience little difficulty. I always treat my water encourage you to use chemical treatment or a water purifier.
When to go - The trail is beautiful all year round. However my favorite times are when it is cool and the leafs are down. Then you can see out more, the long needle pines stand out more, and the heat isn't an issue. The summers can get very hot, I've been hiking when it was 100 deg, this is kind of crazy. If you do go when it is over 90, carry lots of water.
Check out the weather forecast for the Cheaha Wilderness before you go.
Maps - The guide was originally written to be a supplement to the forest service maps. This set of 5 modified 1:24000 USGS topo maps with the trail and some side trails drawn in can be bought for $5.00 - $7.00 from Alabama Outdoors or High Country Outfitters in Birmingham. The forest service will also send you the whole set of maps which can be ordered online. I strongly suggest the use of these maps. This site is built around them, they are quite good, and, while the trail is well built, in many places it is overgrown and I have completely lost the trail a few times. I'll try to point out these areas, but if you do lose the trail you'll be very glad for the map. The new sections of the trail do not have forest service maps, this is also true for the sections in the north built and maintained by the Alabama Trails Association on private land. For each section I am including maps done by Chris Johnson and published here with his permission. These maps are pretty good and cover the entire Alabama Pinhoti, although personally I still prefer the FS maps when they are available.
How to get there
This trail guide incorporates work by M. Lee Van Horn and Solo of the Pinhoti Trail Alliance as well as maps by Chris Johnson. Solo uses a different section numbering system than Lee does (Lee's corresponds to the numbers on the FS maps and Solo's starts at the southern terminus on Flag Mountain and goes up through the GA Pinhoti).
Cheaha Side Trails
So, you've finished the Pinhoti! What to do now? There are 27 miles of side trails in the Cheaha area. These are really great trails that include two series of waterfalls, plus a few other random falls, a lake, the best shelter I know of, and a very diverse review of what this area of Alabama has to offer. Hiking in the area can be steep and many of the trails are very rocky, as bad as the notorious sections of the AT in Pennsylvania. Although the mountains are not very high by most standards it is possible to climb over 4500 vertical feet in a day, enough for a nice work out.
Most trails in the Cheaha Wilderness have no markings, they can at times be difficult to follow. Also, there are many old forest service and logging roads that come close or intersect the Pinhoti which are closed or little used which can make great extensions or shortcuts for your hike. Bushwacking is relatively easy, just be careful, be sure to have a map and compass, and I wouldn't do it in the summer and fall when the underbrush and thorns are think. Forest Service map number 4 is highly recommended, it is the only map I know of which includes these trails in adequate detail for hiking. The map here was drawn to 100:000:1 scale and should provide you with a bit of an idea what loops are possible. I have indicated the Cheaha Falls Shelter and the camping spot along the Pinhoti that I love. You can see Cheaha State Park indicated at the top and the Adam's of Adam's Gap at the bottom (both of which have free trailheads) there is also a free trailhead where the Chinnabee Crosses the road to Adam's Gap and a trailhead you have to pay for at Lake Chinnabee (Lake Chinnabee was closed when we were there at Christmas I'm not sure what their schedule is, the walk down to the lake is 2 miles long if it is closed). The trail colors on the map are: Black - Pinhoti; Dark Blue - Cave Creek; Medium Blue - Skyway; Light Blue - Lakeshore; Bright Green - Chinnabee; Rust - Nubbin Creek; Red - Odum. The entire Odum trail didn't fit on the map, it continues a couple more miles south to High Falls and a trailhead. Coming towards Cheaha from I65 you will see signs to the Nubbin Creek and High Falls trailheads if you want to start there.
Fees, Permits, etc.
After the Hike
This page was first created by M. Lee Van Horn using a combination of information from the Pinhoti Trail Alliance site (data provided by Solo) and the Hiking Alabama web based trail guide which was written by Lee. The Hiking Alabama website is now shut down and the trail guide is put into the public domain here. Please help this become an active and up-to-date guide by updating this trail information. Maps are provided by Chris Johnson (Mr. Parkay) and used with permission.