General Location. South of Anniston, just west of Cheaha State Park.
Length & Difficulty: 6 miles one way; difficult.
Elevation Change: 1350 feet.
What’s Special: Waterfalls, woodlands.
Topo Maps: Cheaha Mountain USGS quad.
The trail begins in the parking lot ot the Lake Chinnabee National Forest Recreation Area – 3 miles from the entrance to Cheaha State Park. The trail is most easily accessed by taking Highway 21 south from Anniston or north from Talladega – then following the signs to Cheaha and the LCNFRA from Munford.
Late spring, summer, and early fall are the best times to hike the Chinnabee Silent Trail, as the Forest Service closes the LCNFRA from November through mid-April. This could make starting a hike from the Lake Chinnabee end more difficult by adding 2 miles that must be hiked on the Lake Chinnabee approach road. The Turnipseed hunter’s camp parking lot provides an alternative for winter hiking towards Lake Chinnabee.
The Chinnabee Silent Trail was constructed between 1973 and 1976 and completed in 1977 by Boy Scout Troop 29 from the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega. Hence, the name “silent” trail. This trail has quite possibly the most varied terrain of any trail in Talladega National Forest. Beginning at Lake Chinnabee (750 feet above mean sea level), the trail winds beside Cheaha Creek and ends 6 miles later at Caney Head atop Talladega Mountain (2,100 feet above MSL). Because of this elevation gain (particularly in the last mile), the trail receives a rating of “more difficult” by the Forest Service.
After leaving the Lake Chinnabee National Forest Recreation Area, the trail parallels Cheaha Creek and passes the intersections of the Lake Chinnabee Loop Trail (2 miles in length) and Skyway Loop Trail (6 miles in length) within the first 1/4 mile. Both diverge to the right and require an immediate crossing of Cheaha Creek. The Chinnabee Silent, Pinhoti, and Skyway Loop Trails form a 17 mile triangular loop perfect for a weekend backpacking trip. After the trail intersections, the trail climbs gradually while clinging to the side of the canyon created by Cheaha Creek and passes over an elevated walkway/observation platform before reaching Devil’s Den Falls at the 1/2 mile mark. The calm, cool waters beneath the falls make this spot popular with swimmers.
The next few miles wind the hiker through wildflower-rich woodlands and away from Cheaha Creek. At the approximate halfway point (3 miles), the trail passes Cheaha Falls Shelter (previously known as the Caney Head Shelter when it was perched atop Talladega Mountain) which was airlifted to this location upon the establishment of the Cheaha Wilderness (which stresses “no trace of man”). Down the hillside past the shelter, the hiker is once again confronted with Cheaha Creek – this time requiring crossing. A hand built footbridge was in place until the onslaught of water associated with Hurricane Opal in the fall of 1995. Downstream from the crossing are a series of waterfalls (including Cheaha Falls) and another large pool popular with swimmers.
At the 4 mile mark, the trail crosses the Skyway Motorway (FS 600) – a dirt road. At the 4 1/4 mile mark, the trail crosses the newer Talladega Scenic Drive and Turnipseed hunter’s camp parking lot. At the 4 1/2 mile mark, the trail passes through the Turnipseed hunter’s camp necessitating special attention during hunting season. After passing through the camp, the trail crosses a small creek and begins the steep ascent to Caney Head. The last mile of trail presents an extremely steep, rock-scrambling climb at angles surpassing 30 degrees.
Upon reaching Caney Head, the trail intersects with several trails. Hikers can turn left (north) along the Pinhoti/Odum Scout Trail and enter Cheaha State Park, or continue right (southwest) along the Pinhoti to Adam’s Gap (6 miles) and Porter’s Gap (approximately 20 miles) on Highway 77. Porter’s Gap is the current southern terminus of the Pinhoti, with the eventual goal being to link the Pinhoti to the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia (some 230 mile northeast). The Odum Scout Trail (straight ahead) continues southward towards its terminus at High Falls (4 miles) near the community of Pyriton. The Nubbin Creek and Cave Creek trails are also accessible from this point by continuing straight (south) for 1 mile and turning left (north) onto Nubbin Creek Trail (4.5 miles in length).
The Cave Creek Trail (4 miles in length) intersects the Nubbin Creek Trail at the approximate 2 mile mark and continues to the large parking area down the hillside from the Cheaha State Park General Store. The many parking areas and inter-connecting trails make a hike of practically any length possible in the Talladega National Forest. The Chinnabee Silent Trail is but one link in this large chain.