Asher K.

Pro

Birmingham, AL

Joined June 2016

I am an MD/PhD student living in the south who loves camping and my goal is to explore as much of the Alabama wilderness as I can while training here.

Cute park near Lake Guntersville

For fathers day we wanted to take an adventure somewhere we hadn't visited before so we decided to check out Buck's Pocket state park since the hiking at Guntersville seemed a little too mild and we wanted to avoid any crowds. The park here is not huge but really well cared for. When we arrived the staff was incredibly helpful and so friendly and directed us to where to start our hike. We did the 2.4 mile out and back to the viewpoint and it is really an incredible sight. Definitely worth the visit just to check out the view. We then set up our picnic lunch at the campsite area and enjoyed some time under the covered tables while the weather turned and a torrential downpour started. The site is set up as a classic car campground with pull-in sites for RVs and a few designated areas for tent only. They do even have a backcountry site that you hike a little way in to get to. Check out my video for a better look at the whole site. We then drove a little way back down the road to High Falls park and enjoyed a quick dip in the water before the weather caught up with us again. We will definitely be back though since this whole area has a lot to offer.

On the way to the falls

Check out the video included to get a full review of the site. In summary, this is a nice backcountry campsite a short walk in from the chinnabee silent parking area. It has a nice large flat area for setting up several tents. The only negative is that it doesn't have as easy water access as some of the other sites in the area.

Nice group site

This is another great group site for 2-3 tents at one of the bends in the river. It is situated nice and high up on the bank so you should be well protected from flooding. It is also situated on the closer end to one of the parking lots making it a great spot to set up if you hit the trail a little later in the day or want to finish early the next day. Overall like most of the other sites in the Sipsey, it is very much a backcountry site with a few logs and a crowdsourced fire pit but.

Small site along the water

Make sure to check out my other reviews of Sipsey to get a full picture of all the hiking and camping available in the area. This particular site is a small flat area along the bank of the river in a sandbar. It is enough space for a single tent and has a small built-up fire ring. I would not suggest camping here since the river flooding can be a major issue. This site, although comfortable with the sand, would put you at risk of waking up in the river. There are many other sites in the same area that I would suggest scouting out first before setting up camp here.

Amazing backcountry group site

Not far up the trail from the Turnipseed campground, you reach a giant tree standing in front of a small creek. The trail continues across the water and begins climbing towards the intersection with the Pinhoti atop the ridge. However, if instead you turn right and wander into the woods a short distance you come across an enormous clearing under the tree canopy perfect for a large group to set up camp. Not only is it well protected and have an easy freshwater source but it has not one, not two, but three built of fire rings for all the bonfire fun. This area is one of my favorites to hike in Alabama and this site works great as either a base camp to leave your gear and hike for the day or a stopping point to sleep for the night if you are attempting the entire loop. If you want more details on some of the trails in the area check out my other reviews but if you have more than just a single tent I highly recommend checking this particular site out. A final feature is that if you have any younger campers joining along it is not such a far trek in from where you park so they will have an easier time hauling gear.

Great group sites

This area near the waterfall encompasses several sites of varying sizes. They each have their own space but are still visible from each other. They all have easy access to the waterfall and are in such a beautiful area. Check out the video where I show you around a couple of the sites.

Beautiful and away from the trail

My wife and I recently got a chance to escape all the craziness of COVID lockdown and take a socially distanced backpacking trip in Talladega National Forest. We took the Chinnabee silent trail from the parking lot along Cheaha rd and camped out in one of the secluded sites next to the falls. The site we stayed at is in the area of Cheaha falls but is behind a couple of other campsites in its own secluded area. You just follow the river upstream to get there. The site is fairly large and big enough for a couple of tents with nice flat cleared out ground. It also has enough tree cover that you get a good bit of privacy and are away from the main trail. It also has a wonderful access point to the water for filling up your bottles or rinsing off after a hot day of hiking. We even found the perfect tree for hanging out food bag. I would definitely suggest visiting in springtime since everything is magical when the plants are blooming and all the wildlife is out and exploring. Also, make sure to continue along the trail for a couple more miles to see the larger falls where you can climb down and get a much-needed swim in the hotter months.

Alternative campground before reaching Pinhoti intersection

My wife and I recently got a chance to escape all the craziness of COVID lockdown and take a socially distanced backpacking trip in Talladega National Forest. We took the Chinnabee silent trail from the parking lot along Cheaha rd and camped out in one of the secluded sites next to the falls. (Check out my other review related to that site) After packing up our site the next morning and loading the gear back in the car we crossed the road and begin heading towards the Turnipseed campground then heading up the hill to the intersection with the Pinhoti Trail. During all my adventures in the area I am trying to categorize and provide info about all the "organized" campsites along these trails to help backpackers better plan their trips. This particular site is a small level area before you begin the final climb up to the trail intersection. It is modestly level and provides a clear space large enough for about a single tent. You will definitely be most comfortable here if you sleep in a hammock but I know that does not work for everyone. You will definitely get better views if you continue on a little further and try to set up at one of the sites along the ridge but in peak season they can fill up quickly and this space works in a pinch. Another disadvantage is that it doesn't have as easy access to water so if you are concerned about that I would make sure to fill up from one of the streams on your way up. Overall, this is not a bad campground and someone had just stayed there recently when we hiked through but it doesn't compete with some of the spectacular views you get up top. The wildlife in springtime cannot be beaten though.

Beautiful in springtime

My wife and I recently got a chance to escape all the craziness of COVID lockdown and take a socially distanced backpacking trip in Talladega National Forest. We took the Chinnabee silent trail from the parking lot along Cheaha rd and camped out in one of the secluded sites next to the falls. (Check out my other review related to that site) After setting up camp we continued our hike passing the shelter at the top of the hill along the way. Although I have visited the site on previous trips I have not been here in the height of spring and seen just how beautiful the space is with all the flowers blooming. The shelter is situated at the top of the hill after crossing the falls and it has a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains. Although you won't get the same sight distance as you do by taking the Pinhoti to the top of the ridge the cover provided by the trees creates a magical environment. On top of the beauty of the foliage, the wildlife was really starting to come out. We saw so many birds and even found a nest that was built in a bush along the trail. In terms of the sleeping accommodations, the shelter is like most you will find along these kinds of trails with a raised platform and a roof that is closed in on three sides. Others in this wilderness area have loft areas but this one is a single level and is relatively exposed. Overall, it can really be a lifesaver if bad weather or heavy rain is in the forecast but personally I prefer to be under an open sky whenever possible. Another thing to consider is that the shelter is often occupied but there are enough alternate campgrounds that this shouldn't be too much of a concern.

Beautiful but potential to get wet

Sipsey wilderness is one of my favorite places in Alabama to go backpacking, especially in the spring in fall when the weather is not absurdly hot and the mosquitos are not out to kill. There are many small backcountry campsites all along the trails and I have tried to catalog and review as many of them as I can to help people plan their trips to the area. Make sure to take a look at my other reviews to get a more comprehensive view of my favorite trails and places to stay. This site is located right next to a small waterfall in a little alcove off of the main trail. It is really an incredibly beautiful space and I suggest visiting even if you don't end up setting camp here. The ground is relatively level and sandy which makes for a comfortable tent setup. However, the water levels in Sipsey are highly variable since we get a lot of rain in Alabama and most of the levels are dependent on runoff. Overall, it may not be the best option depending on the time of year but if you gauge it right the space is peaceful and the sound of the water can help lull you to sleep.

Small secluded single tent site

Make sure to check out my other reviews in the area for a general overview of backpacking in Sipsey. This site is a nice flat well-established campsite off of the main 200 trail. It has a firepit built up and several logs arranged for sitting. It also provides relatively easy access to the stream for pumping water. Because of its location halfway along the trail it will often be empty and available if you are looking for a site later in the day.

First to Review
Summer camp with retreat rental options

I went here one summer for camp as a kid and have spent several weekends throughout my life on retreats on the Cosby campus. Although they are not available for everyday campers looking to pitch a tent for the night it is an amazing place to host a retreat. They have many options from cabins to more rustic lodging. They also have wonderful facilities with lots of activities for all different ages. One of the big advantages Camp Cosby has is that they are located right on the river providing easy access for boating and swimming activities.

Ranger Review: GCI Pod Rocker at Cherokee Rock Village Campground

Campground Review: Since this is one of my favorite campgrounds I would suggest checking out one of my older reviews for an overview of the whole site. On this trip, we stayed at one of the sites in the central free for all wooded areas. This section of the campground has many spaces and fire pits where you can set up camp any free/flat ground you can find. Normally this would not be my first pick but we got there late on a Friday and most other spots were taken. Overall these sites are still nice but if you can find a space closer to the rocks or the ledge I would highly suggest doing that. We were able to purchase some firewood from the front office and had a very nice night relaxing in our private area. The next day we planned for a full day of climbing and the rocks did not disappoint. Even though there were a ton of people at the crag that weekend we could easily find spots to set up our top ropes and everyone was so friendly. It was such an amazing experience climbing here and by far my favorite in Alabama. There is every type of climbing available from bouldering to top rope to sport. Overall, the earlier you can arrive and claim a spot the better but definitely make a visit to this amazing campground. 

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**Product Review:** 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products while out adventuring. At this campground, I relaxed in the GCI Pod Rocker with sunshade. After using this amazing chair at placed ranging from the beach to the woods some of my favorite features are: 

  1. Rocking: I know it seems obvious to say but it is still an incredible design of this chair. It has built-in shock type devices that allow you to feel like you are in a rocking chair on almost any surface. It works on the beach or on rocky terrain in the woods. I use it on my deck in the summer or on the sidelines of a sports game. It really adds a whole level of relaxation and takes the packable chair to another level. 
  2. Sunshade: This has been one of the features that I thought would be a silly extra but has ended up being one of the most useful parts of the chair. It is designed so that it folds up compactly behind the chair when packed up then locks open and can be adjusted when the chair is set up. The design also allows it to be closed up and moved out of the way when you don't need it. It is just the right size to provide shade for reading a book or taking a nap and the adjustability allows you to move it to wherever the sun is most direct. 
  3. Durability: Although the chair is on the heavier side it is worth it for the durability it provides. The chair is incredibly well built and will stand up to years of use on all kinds of terrain. The folding mechanism is reinforced in several places and all the components and materials are of high quality. This is not a chair you want to take backpacking but any time you only have a short walk it is the best option on the market. 

Overall, this chair is incredibly comfortable and so well designed. The rocking feature works perfectly and takes the camping chair to a whole new level.

Best Group Site in Sipsey

Check out my other reviews for a better overview of Sipsey. 

This site is by far the best site if you have a group of 3 or more tents. It has several firepits and is spread out over a large area. Each individual site has enough privacy while still providing group areas to congregate. On top of that, it is close to several water sources and has some of the most beautiful wildflowers. The only downside to this campsite is that you need to get there early if you want to claim it for yourself. It is often full of people when I arrive. Check out my video for a more detailed walk through of the space.

Huge and secluded backcountry site for 1 to 2 couples

Check out my other reviews of the wilderness area for a general overview of the backpacking here. 

This site, in particular, is one of my favorites to stay at. It has several waterfalls nearby, is close enough to the river for easy water access, and is secluded from many other sites. It shows up in a bend in the trail after you cross over one of the small creeks. It has a large and established fire pit along with several nice cleared areas to set up your tent. Since it falls about halfway along the trail I find it is often empty and available as well. Make sure to take the short hike up the creek away from the river to see some of the beautiful waterfalls that make Sipsey so magical.

Hard to find RV Park

There is very little information about this site online but it is a nice RV park located at the end of White Oak Lane on the Coosa River near Talladega. From the river, you can tell that it is a really nice park and has several covered picnic areas along with a lot of tree cover and privacy between each site. You will probably have to visit them directly to get more info. Also where they are located there are many water access and swimming areas.

Small RV site along the water

This is a very small RV campground located along the water with a single purpose of providing access to the river. The sites are haphazardly placed close together and are in a tight alcove next to the road. Don't expect much privacy staying here but you will still have easy access to the water.

RV Access to Lake

This campground is set up mostly for people who either want a long term space for their RV or to stay in a yurt for a couple of nights. The whole place is set up to have easy access to the water and it does this really well. There are multiple docks and plenty of spaces to tie up your boat. Additionally, the lake is really enormous so you can be out on the water all day. Don't expect a lot of privacy or space when staying here but it is perfect if you want a long term place to stay and access the water without having to pay the high prices for a house in the nearby area.

Large easy access site along the trail

Small but secluded backcountry site with easy access to the river for pumping water. This site is nice because it is level and removed from the water enough that there is no concern of flooding. This site does have less privacy though so take that into account. 

Sipsey Wilderness is a protected but unmaintained area in Northwest Alabama that is well known for its intersecting creeks, streams, and rivers that play together with the many waterfalls and magical rock faces. The wilderness area is contained within the larger Bankhead National Forest and is accessible from a variety of different trailheads many of which are only reachable on dirt roads. Hiking here you definitely get the feeling that you have left the rest of the world behind and are in complete wilderness. Different times of year provide completely different experiences whether its the exciting and boundless blooms of spring, the overgrown wild of summer, the bold and expansive colors of fall, or the high river levels and easy boating access of winter. Just make sure to always do your research and plan ahead since it can change so drastically depending on when you go. My favorite is either fall or spring since the summer can be particularly hot and buggy. This trip we had planned to kayak down the river from the Sipsey River Trailhead to the Highway 33 Bridge take out but were thwarted by a recent lack of heavy rain and unusually low river levels for the season. Several sites online suggested over 4 feet gauge height would be fine but after talking to the Rangers we were told the only time that it was really navigable was in the winter or fall for a couple of days after a major rainfall. With that plan out the window, we decided instead to throw some packs in the car and move our gear around to make it a semi backpacking/hiking trip.

Ranger Review: Red Ledge Free Rein Jacket at Glen Falls Backcountry

Campground Review:

There are two ways to access this campsite and one definitely requires significantly more sweat (that’s the route we took). The backcountry site is located near the far trailhead at Glen Falls located at the end of a forestry road. We hiked in from the trailhead that most people use to access the falls and continued down the trail past the typical turnaround point until you reach the bottom of the valley. The site is on the nicer side for a backcountry campground as it is level and has multiple areas for tents along with a large fire pit surrounded by logs for sitting on. The main advantage of this site over others in the area is that it is located on the inside of a curve in the river so the creek surrounds almost the entire site giving easy access to water and a relaxing sound to help you sleep at night. The hike down from the upper trailhead is relatively steep and involves going down many (many) stairs but is well worth it for the views of Glen Falls. This is a well-traveled and also well cared for route and we saw many other hikers while we were there. However, most people do not make it all the way down to this site so you will most likely find a significant amount of privacy if you plan on camping here. Since it is National Forest you will have no issues with camping just make sure to follow leave no trace practice and keep your fire under control. I would also highly recommend a dip in the cool waters to help with the heat during the middle of the summer. Overall, this is a beautiful secluded campsite very close to Highlands that provides both tranquility and also some strenuous hiking.

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**Product Review:** 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products while out adventuring. At this campground, I stayed dry using the Red Ledge Free Rein Jacket. After multiple rainy hikes and wet campground days some of my favorite features are:

  1. Dryness (obviously): Although it is the main purpose of a raincoat I still want to mention that this design is highly effective at keeping you dry. Not only is the material incredibly water-resistant and all seams are well sealed but it also has a dual closure system in the front to keep every last drop of water away from your body. I also know that this effectiveness will last since my wife has been using a Red Ledge raincoat for many years and only recently did it need a fresh waterproofing treatment. The small touches like a multi-cinching hood and velcro wrist straps make this an incredibly effective raincoat.
  2. Breathability: Where I am hiking in the south breathability is just as important as waterproofing since the heat will often cause you to become wetter from sweat than anything the rain can do. I found that this raincoat although still being hot was significantly more breathable than others I have used with the same rain protection. It has huge armpit zipper openings and several large mesh pockets that can be opened to increase airflow. The only negative I found was that the sizes for men run slightly smaller than usual so the tightness decreased airflow. However, this can be easily solved by getting a size larger than your usual. 
  3. Color Options: One of the things that often frustrates me about men's hiking clothing and gear is that the colors are typically boring and flat. They stick to dull greens and blues or grays and blacks. But not these raincoats! They come in bright reds and greens and many other color options to fit your individual personality. This was a big plus for me and is important if you want to be seen while hiking in areas that allow hunting or don't want to get lost from your hiking partner in a torrential downpour. 

Overall, for the very reasonable price of these raincoats, they are incredibly effective and comfortable and I would highly recommend seriously considering them for your next raincoat purchase.