When we think about riding the Appalachian Mountain range, we think of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s easy to consider Virginia and North Carolina as the home of Appalachian Mountain motorcycle riding adventures, but the range continues southwesterly across Georgia into northeastern Alabama. That’s where you’ll find the southernmost scenic route—the Talladega Scenic Drive, also known as Alabama State Route 281 (SR281).
The northern end of Alabama State Route 281 is found between Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia, along the Interstate 20 corridor. You can access SR281 from U.S. Highway 78 (US78) a few miles west of Heflin, Alabama. Take exit 199 on I-20 and head north towards Heflin, where you’ll turn left onto US78 west. Heflin is a good place to gas up before starting your scenic riding adventure. Head west on US78 and turn right at the sign for the Talladega Scenic Drive.
Alabama State Route 281 isn’t your usual National Scenic Byway—it doesn’t connect one place to another. It does provide access to the Cheaha Mountain State Park, which at 2,407 feet above sea level is the highest point in Alabama. The ride south is about 20 miles to the state park entrance. SR281 continues further south for another six miles until it ends at the juncture of two small roads and a trailhead parking place. Perhaps someday SR281 will be extended further south in the Talladega National Forest. Until then, it’s a little hidden gem of a motorcycle riding road.
The Talladega Scenic Drive is located entirely in the Talladega National Forest, which covers 392,567 acres at the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains. You’ll find plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities in this national treasure. Prior to the land being purchased by the federal government in the 1930s, it was over-logged and eroded. Today, the lush forest stands as a testament to how our National Forests create and preserve the beauty of nature. Plan to spend some time enjoying this special place and one of the best keep secrets in Appalachian Mountain motorcycle riding adventures.
For information about the Talladega National Forest:
Talladega Ranger District
1001 North Street
Talladega, AL 35160
Till next time, ride safe!
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