I'll be honest. When I have time to get out into nature, I typically don't spend it in state parks. Cheaha State Park, though, is a veritable outdoor playhouse that calls for repeat trips. Cheaha contains Alabama's highest peak, Mount Cheaha, which at 2,407 feet is the state's closest rival to Alaska's Denali. In addition to hiking, the park offers great mountain biking, climbing and the usual state park accommodations along with a small resort. In fact, the quality of Cheaha's bike trails and climbing areas are so impressive it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas in Alabama that is relatively uncrowded.
At present there are 10 miles of bike trails in the park. The Cheaha Mountain Express Bike Trail begins just before the entrance gate, so you don't have to pay the $1 per person entrance fee unless you are going to be using other areas of the park. Though not the lengthiest trails individually, the four trails that make up the route provide an excellent ride. Particularly in winter months when the leaves have fallen, you'll ride across ridges that provide spectacular views of the valley below and mountains beyond. Be aware of the bowling ball size rocks that litter the trail, which is predominantly packed earth without too many ruts and roots. Huff it up and out of the bike trail and, if you still have energy, head for the Rock Gardens area to check out the granite crags. You're likely to enjoy some solitary climbing here; even on weekends climbers are scarce. The height of Rock Gardens is moderate for the Southeast (between 50 and 75 feet), but the quality of rock is good and there is a wide range of ratings.
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