Discover the Largest Forest in Alabama (And What Lives Within It)

Written by August Croft
Published: February 2, 2023
© Flat Hatter Photo/Shutterstock.com
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While the answer may be surprising, the largest forest in Alabama is located just outside the largest city in Alabama. Full of mountains due to its proximity to the Appalachian Mountains, Alabama boasts humid summers, scenic drives, and beautiful mountain peaks full of recreational opportunities. But where exactly is the largest forest in Alabama and what can you do in this place?

In this article, we’ll be going over the history, wildlife, and recreation found within Alabama’s largest forest: the Talladega National Forest. From hiking to fishing to everything in between, this large forested area within Alabama has so much to offer the average outdoor enthusiast. Let’s talk about the Talladega National Forest, including all of the animals you might see there!

The Largest Forest in Alabama: Talladega National Forest

largest forest in alabama
The three ranger districts found within the Talladega National Forest include the Talladega, Oakmulgee, and Shoal Creek districts.

©iStock.com/Jacqueline Nix

At nearly 400,000 acres, the Talladega National Forest is the largest forest found within the state of Alabama. In fact, this forested region is comprised of multiple state and national forests, with 3 distinct ranger districts and hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Most of these visitors are in fact local Alabama residents seeking the great outdoors. This is especially possible for the average Alabama resident given the close proximity of these forests to large cities.

The three ranger districts found within the Talladega National Forest include the Talladega, Oakmulgee, and Shoal Creek districts. These locations manage different portions of the forest itself, and there’s even a state park nestled within these 400,000 acres that has separate management!

Not only can you enjoy countless hikes within the Talladega National Forest, but it also offers you fishing, waterfall viewing, mountain vistas and overlooks, and much more. This forested region is unique in that it is located in the East Gulf Coastal Plain region, a section of low-lying plains and low-elevation mountains found in multiple states.

History of the Talladega National Forest

largest forest in alabama
While much of the Talladega National Forest was mined and logged during the 1900s, you can learn much about its rich history by visiting nowadays.

©The Roaming Dad/Shutterstock.com

As opposed to a lot of national forests in the United States, the Talladega National Forest was founded later than average. President Theodore Roosevelt was integral in establishing our forest service and many of our national forests and parks, back in the early 1900s. However, the Talladega National Forest wasn’t purchased by the federal government until roughly 1936, under President Franklin Roosevelt’s term.

The Talladega National Forest has a history of timber and the logging industry, as well as agriculture. The primary reason this forest was established as a protected region was that much of Talladega had suffered from fallow farmland and clear-cut old-growth forests. In fact, there are very few old-growth forests remaining in the Talladega National Forest, with most of the trees being newly planted by comparison.

Because the history of the Talladega National Forest technically begins long before the 1900s. Occupied by the Muscogee and Creek Nations for thousands of years, this region of Alabama has served as an ancestral homeland to indigenous people. While much of the Talladega National Forest was mined and logged during the 1900s, you can learn much about its rich history by visiting nowadays.

Recreation in the Talladega National Forest

largest forest in alabama
With over 30 separate mountains found within this park, you’ll never run out of gorgeous vistas!

©iStock.com/mel-nik

There are plenty of things to do within the Talladega National Forest, likely leading to its popularity among locals and visitors alike. While the mountain peaks found throughout this region can’t hold a candle to some of the tallest mountains in the United States, the Talladega National Forest still offers visitors the opportunity to climb a mountain and check out the views. With over 30 separate mountains found within this park, you’ll never run out of gorgeous vistas!

The same can be said of the lakes and rivers found within the Talladega National Forest. Lake Chinnabee and Coleman Lake offer fantastic fishing and boating opportunities. Plus, many river hikes lead visitors past beautiful waterfalls as well as swimming holes, giving you plenty of opportunities to cool down amongst these Appalachian Ridges.

Finally, you can hunt, camp, and enjoy many interpretive centers within this national forest. Given the low elevation of the entire region, most outdoor activities and hikes are well-suited for the entire family. Plus, with metropolitan areas so close by, you’ll never be far from your cozy place to stay (especially if you choose to camp)!

Wildlife in the Largest Forest in Alabama

largest forest in alabama
The rangers of the Talladega National Forest system recommend the Coleman Lake Recreation Area for wildlife viewing as well as a few other, less populated locations.

©iStock.com/Robert Winkler

With hundreds of different species coexisting in the ecosystems offered by the Talladega National Forest, there are many opportunities to view wildlife should you choose to visit. The rangers of the Talladega National Forest system recommend the Coleman Lake Recreation Area for wildlife viewing as well as a few other, less populated locations.

Some of the most popular wildlife species you may catch a glimpse of in the Talladega National Forest include:

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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