Saturday, October 19, 2013

ROADTRIP: Discovering Southern color

East Coast, schmeast coast. If you want great fall color, look to the South, specifically somewhere like Cheaha State Park in northeastern Alabama. Check out all the fun and beauty in the latest issue.

Cheaha is in the Talladega National Forest, and, as part of the Appalachian Mountain foothills, is the highest point in Alabama. Conveniently located, and incredibly gorgeous, Cheaha is a jewel Alabama parks has really taken advantage of fully.

There are numerous trails, and a handy Fall Color Report on the park website for tracking where to catch the best leaves. The photos in the main story here are from the Odum Scout Hiking Trail, but the whole area is beautiful. Other trails access a lake for swimming, waterfalls, mountain biking, and there’s an observation tower at the highest point in the park. All manner of camping accommodations, a restaurant and gift shop are also sprinkled throughout the park.

There is a $3 day-use fee ($1 for seniors) for some areas of the park. Cheaha is very dog friendly, and even has cabins dog owners can rent for an additional charge. I can't wait until the National Parks Service figures out it's better to be dog-friendly and charge/fine instead of trying to ban pets that are going to be brought along anyway.

While you are checking the Fall Color Report and activities on the Alabama Parks website, make sure you check the park history section of the site for some amazing archival film footage and photos from the 1930s.

Getting There
Cheaha State Park is located between Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta, Ga., on Interstate 20 (I-20), and about 90 miles north of Montgomery, Ala., on Highway 231 (US-231). From either Birmingham or Atlanta, take exit 191 and turn south on Highway 431 (US-431). Take the Highway 281 (US-281) access road and watch for the Cheaha Resort State Park exits.

From Montgomery, there are two ways to go. The probably shorter way, and the way that takes you past the cemeteries, lake, goats and funny church signs in this issue (ok, the goats were hilarious too). I’m telling you my way: Take US-231 north to Sylacauga and turn right into Talladega National Forest (State 148). State 7 will take you north from there to Cheaha by way of Clairmont Springs Road and Talladega Scenic Highway. If you are interested in the shorter way see the Cheaha website.

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