Touring the Byway
29 miles | 5 Days / 4 Nights | Gateway City: Atlanta, Georgia
We recommend starting your journey in Atlanta, a good gateway for many Alabama experiences. Visits to the Atlanta History Center and the Georgia Aquarium introduce you to the uniqueness of the region. The building that houses the High Museum is as astounding as the collection inside. And of course, a visit to the CNN headquarters is always in store in Atlanta. A stay at the Georgian Terrace lets you explore Buckhead, the jewel of the city. The next morning, you’ll be on your way to Heflin, which looks like a live action Norman Rockwell painting. Here, the Cleburne County Mountain Center hosts hundreds of nature and recreation programs every year.
From there, it’s onto the Byway, lying completely within the Talladega National Forest. The Cheaha Scenic Overlook offers an amazing view of Cheaha (chaha in Muskogee means high place) Mountain. At the top of the mountain, Cheaha State Park offers breathtaking views, spectacular sunsets and beautiful waterfalls. It’s the only place to stop for lunch along the drive and the Vista Cliffside Restaurant will not disappoint.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
This 2,799-acre mountain top retreat located on top of Cheaha Mountain, offers breathtaking views. Named by the Creeks, chaha means “high place,” the park is completely surrounded by the Talladega National Forest and connects several hiking trails including the Cheaha Trailhead of the Pinhoti Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the Odum Scout Trail, and the Chinnabee Silent Trail.
If you’re not in Talladega on a day when the Speedway is running, you can visit the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, dedicated to celebrating those who have contributed the most to auto and boat racing. The majority of inductees have been American drivers, although people of many other countries have also been honored.
Over 2,000 years ago, Native Americans named the largest room of the DeSoto Caverns, Kymulga, meaning healing all. At 120 feet tall and 100 yards long, the Healing Cathedral is the first room you experience on the cavern tour. Maintained at 60 degrees year-round, DeSoto has the largest accumulation of onyx-marble stalagmites and stalactites, complemented with flowstone, draperies, helictites and cave bacon. Rich mineral deposits created the bright tapestry of colors on the cave walls. The property includes waterfalls, streams and ponds, and a laser light, sound and water show is included with every tour. The All Inclusive Gate includes a 1 hour guided cavern tour, underground laser light show, unlimited access to other a dozen other attractions, daily craft artisan demonstrations, daily shows with historic characters, and strolling entertainment.
In a location where it all came together, all the ingredients needed to make iron lay could be found within a thirty-mile radius surrounding Birmingham including an abundant seam of iron stretching for 25 miles and deposits of coal, while limestone, dolomite, and clay in the Jones Valley. After the Civil War, Reconstruction brought railroad men, land developers and speculators into the region to capture the rich mineral resources. One of these men, Colonel James Withers Sloss convinced the L&N Railroad to capitalize completion of the South and North rail line through Jones Valley to move the iron to market. With help from the Pratt Coke and Coal Company, he founded the Sloss Furnace Company and two years later blew a second furnace into blast, with two blowing engines and ten boilers. The annual production of 24,000 tons of award-winning iron ultimately made the furnace the largest producer of pig iron in the world. Even though nothing remains of the original furnace, a 1902 building housing eight 1900 steam-driven “blowing-engines” used to provide air for combustion in the furnaces, is still standing.
On non-racing days you can drive a NASCAR on the 2.66-mile oval with 33 degree banked turns. Following a meeting with the crew chief, you’ll drive the car for timed racing sessions, with no lead car and no instructor riding with you. Instructions come in from a spotter over the radio. In between every eight minutes of track time, you get a pit stop and instructions on how to drive faster speeds. Pass every car in front of you and enjoy!