In northeast Alabama, the nearly 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail is a regional playground that passes through welcoming towns and pastoral landscapes. Following a former CSX railroad corridor, the rail-trail is named for the Creek Indian leader who signed the 1832 Cusseta Treaty, surrendering the tribe's remaining land in the area.
Remarkably flat and smooth, the trail arcs from Woodland Park in Anniston northeast through small towns and quiet countryside to the state line with Georgia, where it connects to the Silver Comet rail-trail. It begins on a slightly raised rail bed before entering open fields, passing beneath canopies of pine, dogwood and other native trees and alongside enchanting wetlands. You'll find numerous access points along the way.
The first stop is Weaver, where you might want to pop into the nearby grocery store for snacks. Back on the trail, twin stone foundations of a railroad trestle flank the route. Five miles along, in Jacksonville, you'll pass an old train depot, restored in 2010 and now providing, among other things, a resting place for trail users. You'll also find the Jacksonville State University campus. Just off the trail is the historic town square, which boasts several shops and restaurants (climb Mountain Street and turn right on Route 21).
Keep alert over the following nine miles, as you may catch a deer or fox watching you. You'll soon reach central Piedmont, a quaint community that embraces the trail with a welcome center, benches and a sandwich shop just steps away.
From Piedmont the scenery begins to change. Duggar Mountain and the southern Appalachians provide a backdrop to fields that transition to forests. Terrapin Creek skirts the trail, and soon a bridge carries you over it. Here, the trail travels through protected wilderness within Talladega National Forest. Equestrians, please check the trail website and contact the trail manager to inquire about equestrian use on the trail.
At the state line, the Chief Ladiga Trail connects to Georgia's Silver Comet Trail, which stretches for another 62 miles, making the trails (combined) among some of the longest paved pedestrian paths in the country.
Directions: From I-20, take Exit 185 and head north about 10 miles through Anniston on Route 1/Quintard Avenue; bear right on McClellan Boulevard/Route 21 on the north side of town. A few miles past the split, turn left on Weaver Road; continue about a mile, then turn left again on Holly Farms Road to the well-marked Woodland Park trailhead.