backpacking
1 day ago

Skyway Trail to Chinnabee Silent Trail to Pinhoti Trail

This is mine and my wife's second time completing this loop. The first time (going counter-clockwise) was a nightmare. We got lost around the trail change from Chinnabee to Skyway and ended up having to spend an extra night out.

Clockwise was a much easier to navigate route. On Day 1, we went from the Adams Gap trailhead to the Turnipseed Campground just off US 281. You get deep in the woods pretty quickly on this section. Occasionally, there's a nice view of just how secluded you are; the surrounding hills will peek at you as you crest a hill only to disappear as you go down the other side. There is no lack of water as there are several easy stream crossings. As you approach mile 7, the Skyway trail gets narrow and steep leading down to the Cheaha Creek crossing just before it flows into Lake Chinnabee. This crossing can be tricky if there's been recent rainfall but a patient rock hop will keep you dry. Once over the creek, you'll be on the Chinnabee Silent Trail. The Chinnabee Lake parking lot with restrooms is a relatively short walk NW, but the trail continues E. The Devil's Den area after this is a steady, rocky ascent. Once through this area, you'll resume the steady up and down that characterizes the Appalachians and their foothills until you arrive at the Cheaha Falls shelter followed by the beautiful Falls themselves around 9.5 miles in. This is the same water source that flows through Devil's Den and into Lake Chinnabee that you crossed a few miles back. Just over one more mile gets you to the Turnipseed Campground where there is plenty of space to pitch a tent (finding a flat area is a trick, though). There is a $5 honor system fee to camp here. Just past the campground there is a small creek at which I'd advise you fill up your water cache for the night and for the day ahead.

On day 2, we finished the loop with a pretty grueling climb and descent of Talladega Mountain (actually a mountain mass of which Cheaha Mountain is the highest peak). From Turnipseed, you'll gain ~917' in just under 2 miles (a 9% grade on average). As you crest that climb, you're at the Little Caney Head Campground at which you'll take a right onto the Pinhoti Trail. A less steep ascent gets you to 2,217' of elevation, the highest point on this loop (for comparison, Cheaha is at 2,411'). There's an almost unimpeded 180 degree westerly view from this point and it was a much needed 45 minute lunch break for us. After this ridge, you dive down immediately losing 752' of elevation in 0.9 miles (approx. -16%). The Pinhoti undulates but continues to lose elevation for another 2 miles after this. As the loop nears completion, nearly a mile of climb appears out of nowhere, the trail reasserting its dominance as if the earlier ridge weren't enough. To finish up, you fall 0.3 miles downhill back to your car.
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With GPS for reference after some of the creek crossings, through campsites and at trail junctions, the trail is relatively easy to follow. There are a few service roads that cross the trail near the outset; take care not to let your feet get distracted by them.

Happy trails!