Imagine standing on the beach alongside historic Fort Morgan where Admiral Farragut uttered those immortal words, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”, the sun rising over the Gulf of Mexico, a backpack clamped tight to your back, and the promise of a 380-mile long adventure before you. That is what members of the Alabama Hiking Trail Society hope to bring to the state – a brand new backpacking trail, the Alabama Trail.
The Alabama Trail has been a dream of the non-profit organization since its inception in 2001. The path would stretch from Fort Morgan on the Alabama Gulf Coast to the Natchez Trace Trail near Florence, a trek of over 380-miles. The path would join two other long trails in the state – the Great Eastern Trail (that runs from Alabama to New York State) and the Eastern Continental Trail (that runs from Key West, FL, to Cape Gaspe’, Canada.)
Until recently getting the project off the ground seemed like a distant vision but now pieces of the puzzle are coming together and in the most unlikely of places – the heavily populated Alabama Gulf Coast.
Hiking author and Gulf Coast AHTS member Joe Cuhaj says some unique hiking opportunities already exist in south Alabama.
“Currently hikers can walk the trails of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, the many trails of Gulf State Park including the new Backcountry National Recreational Trail, and trails at Little River State Forest north of Atmore.”
But Cuhaj says that more hiking adventures will be coming soon.
“AHTS members are just now beginning to scope out a new trail in the state’s Forever Wild tract along the Perdido River that borders Alabama and Florida and eventually add new trails at Lillian Swamp and Splinter Hill Bog near Perdido.”
In the meantime, the group will be looking at connecting several areas of interest on the Fort Morgan peninsula including historic Fort Morgan, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and Gulf State Park. Then they will “connect the dots”, linking all of these properties and tracts together to create the beginning of the Alabama Trail by contacting state, county, and city officials for permission to use easements for a possible trail route.
“Not only will this project create amazing day hikes in all across the state but will eventually create an exciting extended backpacking adventure.”
The Gulf Coast Chapter will be responsible for the trail from Fort Morgan to Monroe County. From there other AHTS chapters will begin putting the remaining pieces together to take the remainder of the Alabama Trail to Florence.
The plan has already attracted the attention of the state’s ADECA program, being incorporated into their “Alabama Trail Plan”. The state sees such a project as a way to enhance eco-tourism in one of the most ecologically and geologically diverse regions of the country.
When completed, AHTS would like to see the Alabama Trail take hikers through such beautiful landscapes as the Sipsey Wilderness with its deep canyons and bountiful waterfalls, Moundville Archeological Park with its rich Native American history, and Bankhead National Forest.
“This is far from an overnight project,” Cuhaj admits. “We are just in the early stages of getting the path built. There is much work to do and completing the entire trail will take years, but this is a huge start.”
The Alabama Hiking Trail Society is a statewide hiking and trail organization. Made up of members from across the state and nation, AHTS partners with many federal, state, local, and non-profit organizations to build and maintain safe hiking trails for all to enjoy. The organization also provides speakers and workshops on various topics to help educate the public about the environment, hiking, and the health benefits of hiking. The Gulf Coast Chapter (LA Hikers) hold regular meetings that are free and open to the public the first Tuesday of each month at the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort.
For more information about the Alabama Trail and other trail projects throughout the state, contact Joe Cuhaj at 251-533-1812 or visit AHTS online at www.hikealabama.org. You can also visit the Gulf Coast Chapter website at lahiker.blogspot.com.
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For more information or interviews, contact Joe Cuhaj with AHTS at 251-533-1812 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos of Alabama hiking destinations, trail work, and the Alabama Trail are available upon request from AHTS by contacting Joe Cuhaj.