Cheaha Mountain rises 2,407 feet into the skies of the Deep South. It is Alabama’s highest point.
Cheaha State Park atop the mountain is known for its beautiful scenery, historic sites and opportunities for outdoor recreation. The park is surrounded by the Talladega National Forest which offers hiking, waterfalls, stunning views and wilderness areas.
Cheaha got its start as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC. Recognizing the need of American families for work and income during the darkest days of the Great Depression, Roosevelt convinced Congress to create the CCC. The corps replanted forests, built roads and schools, created parks and undertook a wide array of other public works programs across the country.
On Cheaha Mountain, CCC workers build hiking trails, picnic areas, cabins and a beautiful stone tower that stands atop Alabama’s highest point. A modern restaurant, hotel and store, chalets and other amenities have been added since and the beautiful stone creations of the CCC are maintained and preserved.
The park and mountain take their name from the Muscogee (Creek) word “Chaha,” which means “high point” or “high place.” It is both appropriate and descriptive. Local legend also holds that the mountain was called the “Sleeping Giant” because it takes the form of a sleeping man when viewed from a distance.
The area that is now Cheaha State Park has been inhabited for thousands of years. Rock shelters near the base of the mountain revealed archaeological evidence of the presence of early Native American hunters and their families. Hernando de Soto’s Spanish army marched through the neighboring valleys in 1540 and the soldiers and priests of Tristan de Luna’s expedition came to the area two decades later. Both expeditions found the ancestors of the Creek Indians living along rivers and streams in the valleys beyond Cheaha.
A significant battle took place within view of the mountain during the Creek War of 1813-1814. The Creek Nation was at war with itself even before the United States intervened at the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek in South Alabama. The Red Stick faction of the Prophet Francis called for a return to traditional ways and an end to the “civilization program” introduced by the U.S. Agent for Indian Affairs, Col. Benjamin Hawkins. The Big Warrior or White faction of the nation supported Hawkins and his program, which aimed to turn the Creeks into farmers and planters much like their white neighbors.
As the war intensified, Red Stick forces laid siege to Talladega, where a small white faction party “forted in”to defend themselves. A courier was sent to alert Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson who commanded an army of Tennessee militia at Fort Strother near present-day Ohatchee. Jackson marched to the relief of the fort at Talladega, catching the Red Sticks by surprise and slaughtering nearly 300 in a pitched battle. Red Stick survivors fled to the slopes of Cheaha Mountain where they found safety in the rocks and crevices.
That same rough and rocky terrain made the mountain unattractive to most early settlers and few people lived on it. It remained an important landmark and timber companies later harvested much of the virgin forest that grew on its slopes.
Remarkably, it was the Great Depression that gave the nation one of its most remarkable scenic, historic and natural assets. President Roosevelt tried to pull the country from devastating economic times and relieve human misery and suffering by returning Americans to work. His plan gave birth to the largest public works program in the history of the United States.
The State of Alabama purchased the mountain in 1933 and a cooperative state and federal effort led to the design and construction of Cheaha State Park. The president followed with a proclamation establishing the Talladega National Forest on July 17, 1936. CCC crews turned the heavily timbered heights into national treasures by replanting trees, building recreational facilities and improving roads to provide public access.
Cheaha State Park is a modern recreation area today, but also preserves beautiful Depression era structures. It is a crown jewel of the Alabama State Park system and offers a peaceful setting within reach of much of the Deep Douth. Museums at Cheaha include the Walt Farr Native American Relic Museum and a CCC Museum.
Outdoor activities at the park range from birding and hiking to swimming, fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing and rappelling. There is even a gem mine near the entrance gate and a number of waterfalls can be found in the park vicinity.
In addition to its campgrounds, trails, picnic areas and spectacular views, Cheaha offers a lodge, restaurant, cabins and more. The park is on Alabama 281 roughly 10 miles south of Anniston and Oxford. The address is 19644 Hwy 281, Delta, AL.
The day use entry fee is $5 for ages 12-62, $2 for kids 6-12. Kids under 6 are admitted free with an adult.
These videos will tell you more about Cheaha State Park: