The Pinhoti National Recreation Trail is often overlooked as a hiking destination because it’s not well known. This article will give you all the information you need about this trail, including how to plan for your hike, and hopefully help you finish the entire trail.
The Pinhoti Trail goes through some beautiful sections of Alabama and Georgia with scenic views and diverse terrain, but it also comes with long, tough miles of road walking!
Compared to the Appalachian Trail, it has many comparable style views, green tunnels, and rock gardens. It also pushes hikers to improve their water crossing skills and abilities, reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail or Continental Divide Trail.
The Pinhoti Trail has been called a fantastic location to prepare for long-distance hiking attempts like the AT, PCT, or CDT. Unlike many other long trails, the Pinhoti was only completed in 2008, so relatively recent.
This recent completion is part of why there are still long road walks versus other trails, the Pinhoti Trail Alliance has been working to acquire land to help divert the trail away from the road walks, but progress is slow.
The Pinhoti Trail at a Glance
- Length: Approximately 350 miles
- Elevation Gain: ~47,930.4 ft
- Elevation Loss: ~46,192.9 ft
- Expected Completion Time: (3-5 weeks, averaging 10-25 miles a day)
- Location: Alabama Into Georgia
- Best season(s) to hike: Spring, Fall, Winter, Summer
- Trail Type: point-to-point (Flagg Mountain in Alabama to The Intersection of the Pinhoti Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail in Georgia)
- Scenery: Beautiful forests, woodlands, wildflowers when in season, lots of beautiful overlooks and outcroppings, and amazing waterfalls.
- Difficulty: Moderate, with no considerable elevation gains, but lots of uneven trail due to rocks and roots
- Navigation: You can find the map on FarOut (formerly known as Guthook). Old school topo maps are also available online for the people who carry maps as primary or backup directions.
- Blazing: The blazes are white, and the trail is remarkably well-maintained and fairly easy to follow in nearly all sections.
- Permits? None are needed, but
Pinhoti Trail Backpacking Thru-Hiking Guide
This is not an exhaustive guide but more a complete introduction to this superb thru-hiking option that has grown in popularity over the last few years, with some very popular YouTubers publishing their hikes.
The first thing you need to know about the Pinhoti Trail is that it has two distinct personalities. The first section, from Flagg Mountain in Alabama to Cheaha State Park, is what most people think of when they picture a southern Appalachian trail. There are green tunnels, rock gardens, and gentle grades.
The second section, from Cheaha State Park to the intersection of the Pinhoti Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail in Georgia, is much more like a northern Appalachian trail. The grades are steeper, the views are more expansive, and the water crossings are more challenging.
That said, both sections have their own unique charms, and both are worth hiking. If you’re planning on thru-hiking the Pinhoti Trail, you’ll need to be prepared for both personalities.
When to Hike the Pinhoti Trail
The Pinhoti Trail, for me, is a four-season hike but with most people want to enjoy the much more common three seasons for maximum convenience. Choosing to hike in October through March is ideal because the weather is colder and bugs are mostly gone.
The trail may be hiked all year, however late spring and early fall are typically high season, when temperatures can be extremely hot and water might be more difficult to come by.
- Spring: This is a great time to hike the Pinhoti Trail. The temperatures are moderate, the days are getting longer, and the flowers are starting to bloom, so you can see the trail coming back to life.
- Summer: Summer can be hot on the Pinhoti Trail, but if you start early and take breaks then continue to hike late, you can avoid the worst of the heat. The trail is also relatively dry, so you won’t have to deal with too much mud.
- Fall: Fall is my favorite time to hike the Pinhoti Trail. The temperatures are perfect, the leaves are changing, and their tends to be less crowds.
- Winter: Winter can be a great time to hike the Pinhoti Trail if you’re prepared for the cold. The trail is relatively empty, and the views can be stunning.
Pinhoti Trail Markers
The Pinhoti uses standard White Blazes to mark the trail, these are very reliably known and easy to spot.
The first section of the Pinhoti Trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. The second section is more remote and rugged, but the trail is still easy to follow for the most part.
There are a few places where the trail isn’t as well-marked, but if you pay attention, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way.
Pinhoti Trail Difficulty Level
This trail is seen as a good shakedown hike for an AT thru-hike attempt, and it is long enough to give you a range of hardships and a good feel for what you are in for.
The first section is relatively easy, with gentle grades and a well-maintained trail. The second section is more challenging, with steeper grades and more rugged terrain.
Overall, the Pinhoti Trail is a moderate to difficult, depending on which section you’re hiking.
Water Sources on the Pinhoti
Plenty of water sources are available on the Pinhoti Trail, especially in the first section. In the second section, water becomes more scarce, but there are still plenty of sources if you know where to look.
In general, it’s best to carry enough water for two days when hiking the Pinhoti Trail, just to be safe.
Hiking North Bound vs. South Bound
The two directions will have vastly different starts and finishes. Hiking northbound, you’ll start in the more accessible first section and end with the more challenging second section.
Hiking southbound, you’ll start with the more challenging second section and end with the easier first section.
There is no right or wrong way to hike the Pinhoti Trail, it all depends on your preferences.
North Bound From Flagg Mountain
Starting from the visitor center at Flagg Mountain, you’ll immediately begin climbing the mountain.
This section of the trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. The views from the top of Flagg Mountain are stunning, and it’s a great place to take a break and enjoy the view.
From Flagg Mountain, you’ll continue on to Weogufka State Forest. This section of the trail is a little more challenging, with steeper grades and more rugged terrain.
You’ll also begin to see fewer people on this section of the trail as you get further away from Flagg Mountain.
Weogufka State Forest is a beautiful place to camp, and plenty of water sources are available.
South Bound From The Intersection of the Pinhoti Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail
Getting to this point will be a little more effort as you must park on the Benton MacKaye Trail and hike about .75 miles to the intersection.
This section of the trail is more challenging, with steeper grades and more rugged terrain. The views from the top of the ridge are stunning, and it’s a great place to take a break and enjoy the view.
From here, you’ll continue to Cheaha State Park. This section of the trail is a little more challenging, with steeper grades and more rugged terrain.
Cheaha State Park is a beautiful place to camp, and plenty of water sources are available.
Key Points of Interest
I wanted to provide some of the Pinhoti Trail highlights and key points of interest for those considering thru-hiking this beautiful trail.
- Highest Elevation: Buddy Cove Gap at 3,164ft.
- Lowest Elevation: Near Weogufka Creek at 545 ft.
- Flagg Mountain Fire Tower
- 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)
There are towns near the trail where you can resupply food and water.
Some of these towns include:
- Flagg Mountain, AL
- Weogufka, AL
- Cheaha State Park, AL
- Heflin, AL
- Bowdon Junction, GA
- Bremen, GA
Pinhoti Trail Resources
Following are some quality resources to help plan and execute your thru-hike of the Pinhoti Trail:
As always, FarOut is THE definitive app for thru-hikers to have available on their phone before hitting the trail.
It provides access to loads of information on current water status to resupply points, hostels, town resources, and more for those who might want or need it along the way.
While there are other apps and websites out there that provide some of this information, I believe that FarOut offers the most comprehensive and user-friendly experience for hikers
- Pinhoti Trail Alliance – Alabama Pinhoti Trail Guide
General Community and Facebook
The residents of this region are kind and welcoming, and hikers are popular in this area.
They are often ready to assist hikers in various ways, including giving them a ride, offering them a place to stay or food and drink, or simply being there for them if they need help.
Make use of the Pinhoti Facebook pages to get to know some locals and ask any questions about the trail or the area or if you should need assistance!
Pinhoti Trail Termini Details
The end and beginning are always the most crucial part of any thru-hike, and the Pinhoti is no different. I wanted to speak to both termini so that you start well grounded in any planning.
Pinhoti Trail North Eastern Terminus: The Intersection of the Pinhoti Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail
This is unlike many other trails as the end of this trail is not at a specific geographic location, but rather it terminates at the point where it meets up with another trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail.
The Pinhoti Trail technically doesn’t have an official “end,” as you can continue on the Benton MacKaye Trail to Springer Mountain if you so desire.
If you want to start at the northern terminus, you will need to park and hike in from the Benton MacKaye Trailhead.
The drive to the trailhead is relatively short and easy, especially if you’re coming from Atlanta, as it’s only about an hour and a half away.
Pinhoti Trail South Western Terminus: Flagg Mountain
The southwestern terminus of the Pinhoti Trail is located at the top of Flagg Mountain. Flagg Mountain is the highest point in Alabama and is a popular spot for day hikes and picnics.
The drive to Flagg Mountain from Birmingham is about an hour, and the drive from Atlanta is about two hours.
There is a small parking lot at the top of the mountain, and the trailhead is located just a short walk from the parking lot.
Shelters Available Along the Pinhoti Trail
There are some limited shelters on the Pinhoti Trail, with nine being on the Alabama side and one additional option on the Georgia side.
But loads of primitive camping sites are located along the trail in state parks. There are campsites located along the trail itself.
If you choose to camp more ni private, In most areas, stealth camping is allowed as long as you are considerate of private property.
Additional Gear-Related Considerations for the Pinhoti Trail
Thru-hikers will typically be geared pretty well for most environments. Still, you can always look at where you are heading to supplement your gear with viable helpful additions for specific trails.
This is what many spoke of while researching:
There are loads of animals like bears in the area, but there are also lots of climbing ground dwellers like squirrels who can carve into the corner of your bag, dropping and exposing your food.
In addition, many comments stated that many campsite areas do not have trees conducive to a proper hang on a food bag.
I don’t suggest bear canisters all the time as they are much heavier than a traditional food bag and PCT hang, but for a shorter trip, they won’t cause as much pain, and they can provide you a seat when resting, so kind of a win? Not sold.
I love my umbrella, and with the timing of heavy storms or sun exposure, you can look to add an umbrella to help minimize being soaked in heavy rain or to help block out the sun and provide high SPF protection.
Emergency Signaling Device
This is something with our technology level today that no one should decide to skimp on. While most trails are marked, going off-trail to use the restroom can quickly get you turned around and lost; the PLB is a safety system.
Also, there are venomous snakes on the trail, which are usually very time-sensitive issues should you be bit by one. In most cases, you don’t want to speed up your heart rate hiking to get out; signaling could save your life or someone else’s.
Pinhoti Trail Thru-Hike Videos
Final Thoughts on the Pinhoti Trail
The Pinhoti Trail is a great option for those looking for a relatively easy and well-marked trail to thru-hike. The scenery is beautiful, and there are plenty of towns located near the trail where you can resupply on food and water.
If you’re looking for a challenge, the Pinhoti Trail is a great option, and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering a thru-hike. Thanks for reading!
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