Sweet Home Alabama at Sweet Water Lake in Talladega National Forest

Talladega National Forest is a bit of the mountains in the middle of the plains, but for most of this trip to its northern tip you’ll feel like there’s more pine trees than rocks and elevation. And like the favorite anthem of Alabama state pride the ride in is pretty sweet – sliding around on white gravel roads weaving off through controlled burn pine forest.

The only downside is it might make you nostalgic for places whose full address is not only in space, but also, alas, in time.

Is it goat approved? Yes, I have official permission to hike with a goat out here. Thank you Talladega National Forest!

How you get there: Parking is at Pine Glen Campground – google it! The last several miles in will be a series of poorly marked gravel roads (look for brown forestry signs for the road number). Oh, and the Skyway Motorway is not fancy here – its just a bigger gravel road than the rest of them. Over all the general road maintenance is excellent and even low ground clearance vehicles won’t have trouble.

Time for hike: The distance for this hike is 6 miles out and back to Sweet Water (yes, that is really the name, I know it sounds like something out of a made for TV movie) Lake.

Pinhoti Trail Marker

Best season to do this hike: Any time. Its easy, it’s flat, and it is mostly shaded. You will probably encounter more activity in the summer as it ends at the lake and starts at a fairly well maintained rustic campground.

Trails to Take


The trail starts across the bridge from the parking at the campground, and follows the river. The blaze is blue, and this is also the Pinhoti Trail but instead of Georgia it is the Alabama Edition.


The trail meanders along a series watercourses and climbs several times up through fire cleared pine forest. A few wildflowers and a flat, placid river are the main points of interest. There is also an old stone wall just before the trail heads up hill for the final climb to the dreadfully named Sweet Water Lake.

Sweet Water Lake plus a less preteniously named goat

Just before the lake the trail passes through a fun little field of yellow grass that may make you feel like breaking out the katana if you’ve been watching too many bad martial arts movies lately, then the lake comes in to view.

The field – a good spot for a goat lunch

The trail takes its time along the lake shore, and the turn around point is the road down to the small boat ramp.



  1. Parking is limited at Pine Glen Campground. As in like only 3 official spots for hikers at the entrance…and in winter I got the last spot.
  2. The Pine Glen Campground (and thus your car) are in a flash flood zone. So is most of the trail. Maybe not a great spot to hang out if its raining and stuff. Especially since the last water course before the lake also appears to be the drainage for the lake.
  3. To hike with goats the park requires that goats be fed with weed free hay for 96 hrs before you arrive. I use a heat treated timothy/alfalfa blend chaffe hay in place of my usual stuff for this.

In sum: 

When the welcome sign to your state says “Sweet Home Alabama” it means you recognize you’re the source of the only politically correct anthem for the South. And you’re a tad smug about that…