The Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway passes through some of the most scenic areas of the State of Alabama. The natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains provides a scenic backdrop for travelers on the byway as the route winds along lush vegetation, interesting geologic formations and quaint historic rural communities. Approximately 80 miles in length, the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway is located in the northeastern part of the state. It traverses through portions of Cleburne, Calhoun, Cherokee and DeKalb Counties, connecting Interstate 20 near Heflin with Interstate 59 at Fort Payne.
From south to north, the byway follows Alabama Highway 9 until it intersects with U.S. Highway 78 on the outskirts of Heflin. From this intersection the byway heads west (along US-78/SR-9) through the Talladega National Forest until Alabama Highway 9 diverges northward through the community of White Plains, the Choccolocco State Forest, and follows along the Dugger Mountain Scenic Drive. In the town of Piedmont, the byway crosses the Chief Ladiga Trail and U.S. Highway 278. The byway continues northward along Alabama Highway 9 through the community of Ellisville, traversing a rural landscape including cotton fields, and then heads to Centre. The byway goes through Centre, then departs Alabama Highway 9 and follows the course of U.S. Highway 411 west to the town of Leesburg. Here, the byway picks up Alabama Highway 273 and heads in a northeasterly fashion through a rural landscape of plantations and cotton fields set within deep mountain valleys. At the community of Blanche, the byway departs Alabama Highway 273 and courses west on Alabama Highway 35. From here the byway ascends Lookout Mountain and passes through the Little River Canyon National Preserve. The byway then descends Lookout Mountain and passes through the town of Fort Payne, to its northern terminus at I-59.
Attractions Near the Byway
Cheaha Wilderness Area and State Park
Contains Cheaha State Park and part of the Pinhoti Trail. Best known for its elevated terrain and overlooks with panoramic views as well as numerous outdoor recreational activities and facilities Cheaha Mountain is the highest point in the State of Alabama.
Talladega Scenic Drive
Scenic Drive that diverges from the Byway west of Heflin and runs southward, offering scenic views and the chance for travelers to view the local landscape.
Loyd Owens Canoe Trail
Follows 44 miles of the Tallapoosa River in Cleburne County through forests and farmland. The canoe trail offers five ramps so that people who want to float only a portion of the trail have easy access. The canoe trail begins near County Road 49, between the Muscadine and Plainview communities, and ends at U.S. Highway 431 near Hollis Crossroads. The canoe ramps are marked with brown signs at their entrance from nearby roads.
Cleburne County Courthouse
This domed neoclassical building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Heflin Historic District
This is a local historic district that contains a number of commercial, financial, and government buildings. Most of the buildings were built between the 1890s and the 1940s and represent a variety of architectural styles.
Pinhoti National Recreational Trail System
This trail winds through rugged pine and hardwood forests, runs along ridge tops, and passes through shady hollows and along mountain streams.
Anniston Museum of Natural History
Museum featuring Regar-Werner bird exhibit with more than 400 specimens including endangered and extinct; full-scale model of an Albertosaurus and a meteorite; Egyptian mummies; and changing exhibition gallery. Also has nature trails, and picnic facilities.
Choccolocco Community and Choccolocco Valley
Historic Valley, surrounded by mountains. Was Creek Indian village in 1832, settlers arrived in 1834, homes built in 1840, school in 1876.
Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area
Managed by the Alabama Forestry Commission, the Choccolocco Management Area contains recreational opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, and hunting as well as a nature preserve.
Frog Pond Wildlife Preserve
Wildlife preserve and observation area located on a two acre seasonal wetland.
Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge
Contains best remaining example of a mountain longleaf pine ecosystem. One of the last remaining old growth mountain longleaf pine forest in the world. Numerous trees over 200 years old.
Choccolocco State Forest
This 4,488 acre tract is part of the Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area. The forest contains the Frog Pond Wildlife Preserve and Observation Area (two-acre seasonal wetland used for nature study and research), and is one of the most scenic forests in the south.
Talladega National Forest
The Talladega National Forest is a vast area of managed forest that contains a number of recreational opportunities such as hiking and camping.
Dugger Mountain Wilderness Area
Located in the Talladega National Forest. Second highest peak in Alabama. Contains over 900 species of plants and animals including many rare or threatened.
Piedmont Commercial and Historic Districts
Piedmont was originally called Hollow Stump and then Cross Plains. The town of Piedmont was settled sometime in the 1850s. In 1868 the Selma, Rome, and Dalton Railroad connected the town to the outside world. Piedmont grew in size during the boom period of the 1890s and into the first quarter of the twentieth century. Today, the town of Piedmont contains a number of commercial buildings, churches, and schools that date from the first half of the twentieth century. Surrounding the downtown area are neighborhoods of Victorian era and early twentieth century homes.
Chief Ladiga Trail
Old railroad bed converted to 33 miles of bicycle trail. Chief Ladiga was the Creek Indian chief who signed the Cusseta Treaty giving most of the land in the area to the United States.
Cross Plains Depot and Museum / Southern Railway
Depot built in 1888. This Depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Piedmont Methodist Church
Attractive Methodist Church built in 1916.
Goshen Valley Cemetery
This cemetery, located on the west side of Alabama Highway 9, contains some interesting examples of late nineteenth and early twentieth century funerary architecture, including simple rock headstones (Figure 52). The most notable features are the Woodmen of the World markers.
On the 27th of March 1994 a tornado destroyed the Goshen United Methodist Church during Palm Sunday services, killing twenty people. The memorial, incorporating the footprint of the building, is dedicated to the victims of this tragedy.
A major stream in Cherokee County, Terrapin Creek contains great natural beauty. It flows particularly close to the byway at Roberts and Coloma Mountains. There is a pull-off on a county road which allows access to the creek. At this location Terrapin Creek flows over some shallow shoals and along a small rock bluff. Outfitters in the area have canoes and rafts for rent and tours are available.
The county seat of Cherokee County, Centre was first settled in the 1840s. The main street, along U.S. Highway 411 and Alabama Highway 9, contains some very good examples of early to mid-twentieth century commercial architecture. Today, Centre serves as the southern gateway to Weiss Lake and its recreational opportunities.
Cherokee County Historical Museum
Houses more than 20,000 artifacts from the past 150 years. Includes pictures, letters, farming tools, house wares of local farms and industries.
Weiss Lake & Dam
Weiss Lake was created in the late 1950s by the Alabama Power Company, Weiss Dam impounds the Coosa River, forming some 450 miles of shoreline and covering some 30,000 acres. The dam and hydroelectric plant are located near Leesburg. The dam can be viewed to the west of the byway before entering the town. This vast lake offers a number of recreational opportunities and scenic views of the surrounding mountains, and is known as the “Crappie capital of the world”.
Cherokee Rock Village
A collection of large boulders located on Lookout Mountain in Cherokee County near Leesburg. Contains scenic rock formations, caves and trails.
Yellow Creek Falls
The scenery around Yellow Creek Falls is stunning with the high rock bluffs of Shinbone Ridge overlooking Yellow Creek (now part of Weiss Lake). The stone, brick, and concrete piers of a railroad bridge are all that remain of the Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia Railroad line built in the 1890s. Just up the mountain are the waterfalls themselves. There is a boat launch and other recreational opportunities available in the Yellow Creek Falls area.
Cornwall Furnace and Park
Civil war era furnace and half acre park with a 3,000 foot nature trail and picnic pavilion. The furnace was built in 1862 and supplied iron to the Noble Brothers Company of Rome, Georgia, one of the south’s largest munitions manufacturers. As such it was a military target and was damaged on two occasions. The last was by General Sherman in 1864, who was in pursuit of General John Bell Hood after the fall of Atlanta. Following the war, it was the second furnace to go back into production, and finally ceased operations in 1875.
Little River community
Where the Byway crosses Little River one can look west to Lookout Mountain and view the mouth of Little River Canyon. Located at this crossing is the Little River community with its old homes, agricultural fields, churches, and cemeteries.
Little River Canyon National Preserve This component of the National Park Service is the highlight of the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway. The Little River is one of the few river systems in the country that forms and flows atop a mountain. This 14,000 acre preserve contains the most extensive canyon and gorge systems in the eastern United States. It is also home to many rare, threatened, and endangered species of plants and animals. Recreational opportunities include hiking, sightseeing, picnicking, whitewater rafting, and rock-climbing. Sightseeing highlights include Canyon Rim Drive, Little River Falls, and Needle Rock.
Pleasant Hill Church and Cemetery
This is an outstanding example of a rural church and cemetery found throughout Appalachia. It has a front entrance, set within the tower that serves as a base for the slender steeple. A series of 9/9 double hung sash windows illuminate the simple interior. Across the highway, also set on a knoll, is the associated cemetery. This church appears to be eligible for the NRHP. The cemetery began in 1841 with the graves of two slaves. It is listed in the Alabama Tapestry of Historic Places.
Canyon Rim Parkway
22-mile scenic drive following the Little River Canyon National Preserve in northeastern Alabama.
Desoto State Park
An operating partner with the National Park Service, this state park contains outdoor recreation such as hiking, camping, bird watching, fishing, boating, and the one hundred ten foot Desoto Falls. A small stone lodge and rustic cabins are also available for travelers.
Historic Fort Payne
The area around Fort Payne was settled as early as the 1730s, when the Cherokees established a village there. During the latter part of the eighteenth century and first part of the nineteenth century, a mission was established to bring Christianity to the area. Clustered around this mission were a few hundred settlers. During the Cherokee removal to Oklahoma in the 1830s, Captain John Payne established a stockade fort next to the settlement. From that point the fort and settlement area was called Fort Payne.
Alabama Fan Club and Alabama Museum
The country musical group Alabama hails from Fort Payne. Recipient of a number of awards, including two Grammies, Alabama has sold over 65 million albums and has had 42 Number One singles.
Benge Route Trail of Tears Historic Marker
Marks the route that John Benge (a Cherokee leader) took when he led over 1,000 Cherokee’s out of Fort Payne to Oklahoma. A motorcycle ride is held every year commemorating the Cherokee Indian heritage and all Indians who where forced to walk the Trail of Tears.
Original Fort in Fort Payne
Army encampment, was used as a removal site and internment camp for 900 Cherokees in 1838 when native Americans where marched out of the area.
Fort Payne Main Street Historic District
This NRHP district incorporates Gault Avenue from 2nd Street NE to 2nd Street NW.
Fort Payne Union Park and Hist. Marker
Historic Park in downtown Fort Payne. Contains markers about Fort Payne’s Indian and Civil War history.
Fort Payne Depot Museum
Built in 1889 of locally quarried sandstone and trimmed in pink granite, this depot building is an outstanding example of the then popular Richardsonian Romanesque style. Contains relics from every war since the Civil War, and thousands of Indian artifacts. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
First Presbyterian Church
Located at 300 Grand Avenue, this late nineteenth century church was built in the Victorian Gothic architectural style. It is listed in the Alabama Tapestry of Historic Places.
Big Mill Antique Landmark and Mall
Antique mall located in the 1889 mill. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Payne Opera House
Built in 1888, this building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
W.B. Davis Hosiery Mill
Built in 1889, this sprawling manufacturing complex is located at 8th Street NE and the railroad tracks. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Payne Boom Town Historic District
Fort Payne Boom Town Historic District. This NRHP district encompasses the 1890s boom town buildings of Fort Payne. It is located roughly along Gault Avenue from 4th Street NE to 6th Street NE.
Lookout Mountain Parkway
Scenic drive that spans three states as it stretches across Lookout Mountain from Gadsden, Alabama to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Additional Sites of Interest
Shady Grove Dude Ranch - Alabama’s only dude ranch. Round-up lodge, farmhouse, horseback riding, wagon rides, and square dancing.
Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort - Snow blowing machines allow Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort to have snow when the temp drops below 28.
DeKalb County Public Lake - 120-acre public lake located on Sand Mountain 1 mile north of Sylvania, Alabama.
Old Union Crossing Bridge – Located at the Shady Grove Dude Ranch near Mentone. The 90-foot long bridge spans the West Fork of Little River.
Mentone/Summer Camps – Provides outdoor summer camps for children. Camps are also available year round for the public.
Sequoyah Caverns – Unique formations, mirrored pools of water, and ancient history.