Description - For backpackers in Alabama's four national forests, the Bankhead, Conecuh, Talladega, and Tuskegee National Forests are administratively combined to encompass over 664,000 acres of public land. Surprisingly, this Deep South state actually has peaks over 2,000 feet tall. Many of them are within the Forests in Alabama. These Forests stretch across portions of the Cumberland Plateau, Appalachian Mountains, Piedmont and Coastal Plain and are excellent for camping. These diverse lands range in elevation from over 2,000 feet in the Talladega NF, down to only 100 feet above sea level in the Conecuh National Forest.
High overlooks, rolling hills, and tree-studded flat land are among the contrasting terrains in the forests. Backpackers enjoy an extensive network of trails, with some of the pathways crisscrossing two designated wilderness areas. There are roads for quiet drives with far-reaching scenic views and special walk-in areas designed for seeing wildlife. Boaters and water skiers can enjoy large, clean lakes, which have enough quiet coves to satisfy anglers as well.
Two wilderness areas are within the four national forests. The 25,002-acre Sipsey Wilderness in the Bankhead National Forest, is the second largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi. The 7,245-acre Cheaha Wilderness in the Talladega National Forests offers high elevations, with numerous overlooks for panoramic views of east-central Alabama.
The 180,000 acres of the Bankhead National Forest offer scenic beauty, tall trees, flowing streams, picturesque rock bluffs, and abundant wildlife. The rock cliffs that rise from the waters of Lake Lewis Smith and along the canyons of the Sipsey River are outstanding examples of the Bankhead's rugged beauty. Streams on the Bankhead often cascade over faces into deep canyons to form beautiful waterfalls.
41,000 acre Lake Lewis Smith and the Clear Creek and Houston Recreation Areas which are located on the lake are major recreation attractions on the Forest. Brushy Lake Recreation Area is another smaller center for recreation activities. Natural Bridge, northeast of Double Springs features a sandstone bridge millions of years old. The Sipsey Wilderness, one of only two designated wilderness areas in the state, is located on the Bankhead. The Sipsey River which flows through the wilderness area is a designated Wild and Scenic River. The Bankhead boast numerous hiking trails and even a horse trail system.
The Bankhead offers a variety of recreation opportunities. The most popular activities on the forest include camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, water skiing, swimming, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain bike riding, target shooting and archery. Recreation sites are available through most of the year, except for those with water systems subject to damage from freezing weather. Look also to the state parks for excellent resources for backpackers.
Blowing Wind Cave National Wildlife Refuge lies just above the Sauty Creek embayment of Guntersville Lake State Park, seven miles west of Scottsboro, Alabama. The refuge consists of upland hardwoods and limestone rock out crops. The cave has a double entrance, upper and lower, and is critical habitat for endangered gray and Indiana bats. The cave serves as a minor hibernation area for Indian bats and historically as a major maternity cave for gray bats.
Open Pond and Blue Lake provide are the focal points for outdoor recreation on the Conecuh National Forest. Other areas of recreational interest on the Forest include the Conecuh Trail, which winds for 20 miles through Alabama's coastal plain, and Brook Hines Lake, offering picnicking and fishing.