Talladega Ranger District
Planning to visit the Talladega National Forest? Know Before You Go and Plan Your Trip
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Below is an overview of the activities offered at Talladega National Forest. You will find additional information in the Recreation Activities section.
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Trailers and motor homes are permitted in all developed recreation areas. Generally, most of the recreation areas in the forest will accommodate trailers up to 22 feet long. Primitive camping is allowed in the national forest unless posted otherwise.
Permits are not needed for primitive camping, except during gun deer hunting season. Campers are responsible for your fire and any wildfire that results from a spreading campfire. Remember to leave your campfire "dead out".
Enjoy nature at its best especially during the fall when mother nature dazzles you with an array of vibrant colors. This primitive camp is located near the Cheaha Wilderness Area and offers camping and hiking. Turnipseed Camp has sanitary facilities.
If you're a natural for the outdoors, this is the place to be. Enjoy the forest and the home of many wild game species. Hunter Camps are open year round for users.
Chinnabee Silent Trail
This 6-mile trail, in the Talladega National Forest-Talladega Division, goes by waterfalls near Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area, and near the Talladega Scenic Drive.
Lake Shore Trail
A two-mile nature trail around Lake Chinnabee in the Talladega National Forest-Talladega Division.
Cave Creek Trail
A four-mile trail in the Cheaha Wilderness Area located in the Talladega National Forest-Talladega Division.
Nubbin Creek Trail
This four-mile trail traverses the eastern slopes of Talladega Mountain in the Cheaha Wilderness Area.
Odum Scout Trail
This trail is about 4.7 miles long in the Cheaha Wilderness and located in the Talladega National Forest-Talladega Division.
This trail includes more than 100 miles of hiking trails that runs from Piedmont, its northern terminus, to a point south of Talladega. The trail winds through rugged pine and hardwood forests, runs along ridgetops, passes through shady hollows and along mountain streams. The Pinhoti Trail meanders through mountains and valleys which are rich in history and legend.
Skyway Loop Trail
This 6-mile trail provides wilderness-like solitude in the upland forests of eastern Alabama. Skyway Loop Trail is located in the Talladega National Forest - Talladega Division.
ORV / ATV Trails
Kentuck ORV Trail
This trail is designed for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATV), and mountain bikes. Kentuck ORV Trail is located in the Talladega National Forest- Talladega Division.
Licensed off-road vehicles (ORV) are permitted on all national forest roads that are open for public travel. Vehicle drivers must be licensed and conform to all State laws. Unlicensed ORV's are permitted only on designated trails. Information regarding ORV trails can be obtained from any local district office.
Check out the new Sylaward Mountain Bike Trails. Mountain biking is also permitted on all Forest Service Roads including behind closed gates and on the ORV and Horse Trails.
The 7,245-acre Cheaha Wilderness offers high elevations, with numerous overlooks for panoramic views of east-central Alabama. Cheaha Wilderness is named for the nearby Cheaha mountain, which rises to a height of 2,407 feet and is the highest point and a prominent landmark in Alabama. Elevations within the Cheaha Wilderness range from 1,100 feet, along the bottom of the eastern slopes, to Odum Point with an elevation of 2,342 feet. Over 1,000 acres are above 2,000 feet in elevation affording hikers the challenge and solitude that is a vital part of the true wilderness experience. Plant life in the wilderness is diverse and corresponds to the local soil types and moisture conditions. Chestnut oak and Virginia pine, with scattered longleaf pine, are found on the main ridge line and side slopes of the higher elevations. Longleaf and loblolly pines grow on the lower elevation ridges, while the drainages and northern settings are homes for oaks and hickories. The rock bluffs, outcrops and cliff lines have Virginia pines, many of which are dwarfed. The small trees evolved over eons of weathering from the wind, rain, snow and sleet. Some places look like the bonsai garden of a giant.
In the spring, flowering mountain laurel make their showy appearances from the drainages and north slopes. The remaining areas have very little understory, except for scattered patches of huckleberry on the southern exposures and scrubby hardwoods along drainages in high elevations. The beautiful sights offered by the plant life are at their height in the spring and again in the autumn. Majestic pines and the delicate yellow-green of new leaves provide the backdrop for spring blossoms of dogwood, redbud and flowering shrubs. Nature has her fling when red, gold, crimson, brown and yellow blend in a carpet of color as the hardwoods don their fall dress.
(Note: Prior to 1945, the Talladega and Shoal Creek Districts were managed as a single unit.)
The passage of the Weeks Act in 1911 had authorized the Forest Service to acquire land to protect the headwaters of navigable streams in the eastern United States. On June 7, 1924, Congress passed the Clarke-McNary Act. In addition to making it easier for the National Forests to acquire land from private sellers within predetermined forest boundaries, it enabled the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state officials to better protect forests, it provided for a continuous production of timber, and facilitated cooperative work between the USDA and private land owners by distributing tree seedlings and providing forestry assistance to farmers.
On January 21, 1935, the National Forest Reservation Commission approved the Talladega Purchase Unit. The total area within the purchase unit consisted of over 422,000 acres in Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne and Talladega counties. Within this area was land that had been purchased for the developed for Cheaha State Park. The boundaries of the purchase unit were laid out along the Talladega Mountain range, excluding as much possible farmland as possible and including as much submarginal farmland, that is, lands not suited for farming, as possible. According to a reconnaissance report written by Wingate I. Stevens, approximately 72 percent of the land had been cut over. Twenty-eight percent still retained merchantable timber, but it had been culled over until only a light stand of saleable timber remained.
On January 23, 1935, Our Mountain Home (Talladega, Alabama) reported that a large tract of land in Talladega County was to be included in the federal government’s purchase of forest reserves. An area of over 250,000 acres in Talladega, Clay, Calhoun, and Cleburne counties had been recommended for purchase by a national forestry engineer. The area embraced the mountain range and surrounding territory from the southern parts of Cleburne and Calhoun counties to the southern parts of Talladega and Clay counties. The area of the purchase units would depend upon the price and other factors. Creation of the units was the first action of the commission under a bill sponsored by Senator John H. Bankhead and Representative Lester Hill which authorized the forest reservation purchases in Alabama. The purchase required the approval of Alabama’s governor and legislature, but it was understood that this approval was only a technical formality, as there was no opposition to the plan.
On March 27, 1935, Our Mountain Home (Talladega, Alabama) reported that the United States Forest Service was ready to receive proposals on land desired for purchase in the Talladega forestry unit. Headquarters had been established at the court house where landowners could meet and discuss the sale of their lands. Twelve foresters were assigned the task of appraising and receiving proposals on the lands. On April 3, 1935, Our Mountain Home (Talladega, Alabama) reported that the national forestry reservation commission had approved the purchase of 82,739 acres of land in the Talladega Purchase Unit from the Alabama Mineral Land Company. This was the first purchase in the Talladega Unit. The purchase price was $165,478. The tract was located along the Talladega Mountain range east of Talladega in Talladega and Clay counties, running from near Sylacauga to a point north of Heflin, Alabama.
On May 29, 1935, Our Mountain Home (Talladega, Alabama) reported that considerable progress was being made by the U.S. Forest Service in establishing a new unit in the Alabama National Forest in Talladega, Clay, and Cleburne counties. More than 1,000 acres had been optioned to the government and several thousand more were under appraisal. In the appraisal of these lands, the merchantable standing timber was given a commercial value, as well as the actual value of the land. The value of the lands optioned and under consideration was estimated at more than a quarter of a million dollars. Development work on these lands was to begin during the summer. The Forest Service was making plans for the establishment of fire towers, telephone lines, and truck trails which would lead to the more inaccessible parts of the Talladega Purchase Unit to provide a means for fire suppression crews to reach forest fires quickly.
The creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps was critical in the development of the Talladega National Forest. On July 17, 1935, Camp F-7 was established at Chandler Springs by Company 3478, a “junior” company of African American men between the ages of 18 and 28. The Talladega Daily Home reported on July 19th that the CCC enrollees would be working on reforestation projects on the Talladega Unit.
On August 6, 1935, The Talladega Daily Home (Talladega, Alabama) reported that the U.S. Forest Service was now comfortable in their new offices on the second floor of the city hall. Two large rooms had been leased to serve as headquarters for the Talladega Forest Unit. Forest Service engineers were making plans to begin work on the forest roads throughout the unit. Forty relief laborers from Talladega County and 20 from Clay County, as well as 400 African-American CCC enrollees in the camps situated near Heflin and near Chandler Springs would be employed in constructing and rebuilding the roads.
According to the Official Annual of District “D”, Fourth Corps Area, Civilian Conservation Corps, 1936, the work project was in “full swing” by August 20, 1935. By the time the 1936 annual went to press, seven miles of motorway had been cleared and graded on a proposed road from Sylacauga to Cheaha State Park. More than 200 steel and masonry culverts had been installed. The grading consisted of excavating cuts and building fills. At the same time, a telephone line, a 200-foot concrete bridge, and a 100-foot steel fire tower were under construction.
On August 28, 1935, Our Mountain Home (Talladega, Alabama) reported that another 9,045 acres of land had been approved for purchase by the federal government at a cost of $20,356.50. This brought the total amount of approved acreage in the Talladega Purchase Unit up to 124,000 acres. In addition to two CCC camps on the unit, whose primary work project was the construction of a 75-mile Scenic Highway running the length of the purchase unit, there were also 50 relief laborers from Talladega County engaged in improving tributary roads. The staff of the Talladega Unit had been increased to 30 men, with 15 men assigned to field work out of the Forest Service headquarters in Talladega, and another 15 men assigned to the supervision of the CCC workers in the two camps.
On July 17, 1936, the Talladega National Forest was created by presidential proclamation by Franklin D. Roosevelt. In August of 1936, Forest Supervisor, Frank W. Rasor, visited Talladega and checked on the progress of work on the forest unit. According to the August 26, 1936 edition of Our Mountain Home, Rasor stated that the Talladega National Forest had possibilities unsurpassed by any national forest in the southeastern United States. One-third of the construction of the Skyway Motorway had been completed in the last year. Most of the work had been completed by hand, and with heavy machinery now available, the work was to progress at a quicker pace. Mr. Rasor spoke of Forest Service plans for two large park and playground projects, which would include artificial lakes, bathhouses, and other shelters; and a game refuge that would be stocked with deer, turkey and fish. Two lookout towers had been completed at this point, and the foundation for the third had been poured. Eventually, a total of 10 or 12 fire towers would be erected across the forest unit for forest fire protection.
On November 4, 1936, Our Mountain Home, a weekly newspaper of Talladega County, reported that Regional Forester Joseph C. Kirchner had approved the plans for the Devil’s Den Recreational Area, located one-half mile from the Munford-Cheaha Road. A small dam was to be constructed to create a 25 to 30-acre lake. Construction of a bathhouse, picnic shelter, open fireplace, and other facilities for camping and recreation were included in the plans.
The June 29, 1938 edition of Our Mountain Home reported that the road leading to the Devil’s Den Recreational Area would be completed within the next 30 days. According to local Forest Service officials, the United States government was spending $100,000 on the project. The road construction project was being conducted with WPA labor. Approximately 50 men from Camp F-7 were working on drilling the foundations for the concrete dam across Cheaha Creek. The dam would create a 25-acre lake that would be known as “Lake Chinnabee.”
On February 10, 1939, The Tuscaloosa News (Tuscaloosa, Alabama) published an article from The Anniston Star reporting on visitation to the Talladega National Forest over the last six months. According to District Ranger W.R. Silcocks, it was estimated that 40,000 people had come to the Forest to view scenic attractions, 6,000 people having registered at the nine lookout towers. Those that registered had come from a dozen different states, revealing that word of what could be seen on the Talladega National Forest was spreading. Hunters and fishermen also were coming to the Forest. More than 1,200 nimrods had obtained hunting permits and another 400 permits had been issued for fishing. It was also estimated that 331,000 motorists and 9,000 pedestrians had traversed the highways passing through the Forest in the half-year.
On May 10, 1939, Our Mountain Home (Talladega, Alabama) reported that the Talladega National Forest had a new District Ranger. John B. Spring was taking over the position, replacing W.R. Silcocks who had taken an administrative position in Puerto Rico after serving as the Talladega District Ranger for the last four years. Ranger Spring came from the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee where he had been assigned for the last six years. Ranger Spring was a graduate from the University of California, and was the son of Dean S.N. Spring, the dean of the New York State College of Forestry, which was part of Syracuse University.
The Skyway Motorway, running along the crest of the mountains through the Talladega National Forest, was the primary work project for Company 3478. As the work project proceeded further and further from Chandler Springs, additional driving time was needed to the work area. It was decided to move Company 3478 to the abandoned CCC camp at Munford where it could be closer to the main road construction project and the Devil’s Den Recreational Area project. On June 22, 1939, Company 3478 established Camp F-10 at Munford.
According to a Camp Inspection Report dated June 22, 1942, the company strength was 180 men. Sixty-one enrollees were on detached service at Fort McClellan. The work project was in an area of 200,000 acres of national forest land. It consisted of another section of construction of the Sky Way Motor Way. All of the structures along the scenic road were completed at this point. The final grading and drainage was 25 percent completed. It was predicted that Coon Creek Bridge would be completed by July 1, 1942. Six and one-tenth miles of telephone line was being constructed between the Cheaha-McElderry Road and the Talladega Ranger Station. This project was 20 percent completed. Ten miles of the Sky Way Motor Way was to be “sprigged” with Bermuda grass. A children’s bathing pool was to be constructed at Lake Chinnabee. Concrete boxes were to be placed on cisterns at the Horn Mountain, Horseblock, and Hollins Mountain fire towers.
The Civilian Conservation Corps officially ended on June 30, 1942 when Congress decided not to continue their funding for the next fiscal year beginning on July 1st.
Initially, the Talladega Division of the Talladega National Forest was managed as one unit. In 1945, the unit was divided with the Talladega Ranger District being that portion south of Cheaha State Park and headquartered in Talladega.
Robert G. Pasquill, Jr.
National Forests in Alabama
Forest Archeologist and Historian (Retired)
Alerts & Warnings
- Closure: Forest Service Road 905 to Forest Service Road 949
- Emergency Closure of FSR 651
- Portion of Forest Service road 616 temporarily closed
- PUBLIC NOTICE REGARDING ATVs
- Rules for Forest Visitors
- Forest Service is hiring hundreds of foresters across the nation!
- Law Enforcement Prohibited Acts