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Length: Approximately 350 miles
Time to hike: 3-5 weeks depending on pace
Start and End Points: The Southern Terminus is located at Flagg Mountain near Weogufka, AL. The Northern Terminus is the intersection of the Pinhoti Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail at mile 72.2 (NOBO).
Highest Elevation: Buddy Cove Gap at 3,164ft.
Lowest Elevation: Near Weogufka Creek at 545 ft.
Total Ascent: 47,930.4 ft
Total Descent: 46,192.9 ft
Total Grade: 270.4 ft/mi
The Pinhoti Trail has similar views, green tunnel areas and rock gardens to the Appalachian Trail. It also challenges hikers to hone their water crossing skills which is reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail or Continental Divide Trail. The Pinhoti has been lauded as a great place to train for a longer distance thru-hike.
Construction of the Pinhoti Trail began in 1970 and was completed in February 2008. Trail building is still underway with attempts to acquire additional land and move additional portions off the road walks. The popularity of the trail has grown dramatically in recent years thanks to social media and YouTube influencers.
The Pinhoti Trail is a part of the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT) and the Great Eastern Trail (GET), both long-distance US hiking trails.
Things hikers need to be prepared for include rock fields, multiple water crossings, water carries, road walking (both pavement and forest service), and occasionally aggressive dogs.
Planning Your Thru-Hike
When to Go
October through March would be the best time to hike as the weather is cooler and the bugs are mostly gone. The trail is hiked year-round but late spring and into early fall generally bring high temperatures and water can be harder to find.
WEATHER: The weather can vary dramatically depending on the season with cold snaps, severe storms, tornadoes and heat waves being the major things to consider. Rain is not to be taken lightly on the Pinhoti—with multiple water crossings, flash flooding is a possibility.
CROWDING: The Pinhoti Trail is still relatively unknown and as such, crowding is low. As with all trails, caution camping and staying in shelters near roads is advised.
BUGS: Bugs can be very bad in the warmer months with mosquitoes and ticks being the most bothersome. Carrying bug repellent and/or a bug net is advisable.
To/From the Southern Terminus: The closest airport is the Birmingham International Airport. From there you would need to arrange a shuttle to the Southern Terminus or have arranged a ride via one of the Pinhoti Facebook groups. You could also take the Greyhound bus from Birmingham, AL to Sylacauga, AL and hitchhike or walk to the Southern Terminus.
To/From the Northern Terminus: The closest airports to the Northern Terminus would be Atlanta, GA or Chattanooga, TN. The Northern Terminus is in a remote part of the Jacks River area. And, as such, access can be difficult. A high clearance vehicle is recommended. Ron's Shuttle Service does Georgia Pinhoti shuttles.
Direction to Go
Northbound has been the most common direction of travel with several hikers continuing towards Springer Mountain or Katahdin.
The Alabama portion has fewer and shorter road walks and most vehicles can easily drive to the Southern Terminus making the NOBO hike more popular. It also allows you to get a resupply and hostel stay in the first 25 miles.
Alabama currently has approximately 161 miles of woods trail and 16 miles of road walk. The road walks in Alabama occur in Sections 1 & 2.
Georgia currently has approximately 135 miles of woods trail and 43 miles of road walk. The Georgia road walks are from Cedartown Road to Cave Spring, GA (2.8 miles). Cave Spring to Simms Mountain Trail (19.9 miles) and Dug Gap Trailhead to Dennis Mill Trailhead (26.6 miles). There has recently been a portion of this road walk taken out near the Chief Vann House.
The Pinhoti Trail can be challenging to navigate in some sections making paper maps and compasses a good idea. There are also portions of the trail that go near active logging and can cause blazes to go missing. Blazing also changes based on where you are located on the trail—you will be following light blue or white 2-by-6-inch blazes.
You have several options for trail guides and navigation apps:
Where to Sleep
There are approximately 75 established overnight sites on the trail listed in the Guthook’s app. These include:
- Camp sites: Established tent sites with a fire ring.
- Shelters: 3-sided AT-style shelters that fit 6-8 people. The Alabama portion of the trail has nine shelters and the Georgia portion has one located shortly after crossing into the state.
- Stealth camping: Stealth camping is allowed in most areas but do be considerate of private property.
- Hostels: Hostels are currently sparse on the Pinhoti, but here are the four currently available:
1. Coosa Hiker Hostel is owned by Callie Thornton. Callie's place is near the Pinhoti Southern Terminus / Flagg Mountain Trailhead.
- One full-size bed
2. Pinhoti Outdoor Center, located near NOBO mile marker 23.2, offers:
- Logistical support
- Trailside resupply
- Water caches
- Large parking lot with RV hookup
3. Next Step Hostel located in Talladega, AL and offers:
- Ten beds
- Lounge area
4. Mulberry Gap mile 328.2 Hostel/Campground ~.4 off the Pinhoti Trail
- Small resupply
If you have ever heard the term “Southern Hospitality”, the Pinhoti trail has it in spades. The community on and around the trail is welcoming and friendly and, in many cases, genuinely interested in hikers. Numerous hikers have received rides, places to stay and food and drinks. Announcing your hike on the Pinhoti Facebook pages will allow people to reach out to offer assistance and local knowledge of the areas you will hike through.
Water on the Trail
Water management is another skill that the Pinhoti Trail hiker will need to learn to master.
There are several sections with 10-15 mile waterless sections. Be prepared to carry more water than normal if needed for the conditions. Some hikers do set up water caches along the trail if the weather has been dry. Water sources are marked in Guthook’s and the respective state guides with denotation for if the flow is seasonal or reliable. There are several lakes as well but depending on the time of year, the water may be less than desirable.
Filtration is always recommended as often the trail is near cattle and farmlands.
How to Resupply
Towns are few and far between on the Pinhoti Trail, which means depending on your hiking pace, you need to be prepared for longer food carries or arrange food drops. Resupply options include:
- Dollar General (mile 21)
- Cheaha State Park (mile 85)
- Country Store
- Spur Trail to Heflin, AL (mile 111.3)
- Dollar General
- Piggly Wiggly
- Heflin City Hall has provided a pavilion area for tenting and hammocking
- A motel is available slightly outside of town
- Check in with City Hall, meet the Mayor and enjoy some great Southern cooking
- Cave Spring, GA (mile 188)
- Hearn Inn (only laundry in town)
- Creekside Inn Motel
- Dollar General
- Grocery Store
- West Rome, GA
- There is a Dollar General slightly off-trail at mile 204.
- Citgo mile 206.2 (Gas station food and decent resupply options)
- Evans Parts and Deli mile 206.3
- Dalton, GA (mile 284)
- Dollar General
- Various fast food restaurants
- After Dalton, you have several convenience stores before you reach Dennis Mill Trailhead
- Mulberry Gap (mile 328.2) Hostel/Campground ~.4 off the Pinhoti Trail
- Small resupply
Wildlife you may encounter include snakes, deer, turkeys, and woodpeckers. There is always the possibility for bears so proper food storage techniques are recommended. Portions of the trail traverse ridgelines which allow for expansive views of the countryside.
- Flagg Mountain fire tower and restored CCC camp (also meet the caretaker, Nimblewill Nomad)
- The Alabama high point at Cheaha State Park (off-trail)
- Cave Spring natural spring and the 1810 Vann Cherokee Cabin
- Chief Vann House Historic Site (Chatsworth)
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Pinhoti Trail difficult?
While the elevation never goes above 4000 feet, the Pinhoti Trail is still challenging mentally and physically. Weather can cause additional hardships with the numerous water crossings. There are several long road walk sections in the Georgia portion that can be difficult due to the lack of camping.
Why is so much of the trail a road walk?
Efforts are underway to move trail off the road in both Alabama and Georgia. Legal issues, land acquisition and funding all affect how and when land can be acquired and then blazed for a new trail.
Are dogs allowed on the Pinhoti Trail?
Yes, dogs are allowed on the trail. It is recommended that you have them leashed and are aware that you will encounter loose dogs on the road walk portions of the trail.
Are horses and/or mountain bikes allowed on the Pinhoti Trail?
In Alabama, horses and mountain bikes are prohibited from using the trail. In Georgia, there are sections that do allow horse and mountain bike use.