Touring the Byway
29 miles | 5 Days/4 Nights | Gateway City: Atlanta, Georgia
We recommend starting your journey in Atlanta for visits to the Atlanta History Center, the Georgia Aquarium, and the CNN headquarters. The next morning, you’ll be on your way to Heflin in Cleburne where County Mountain Center hosts hundreds of nature and recreation programs every year.
From there, it’s onto the Byway, lying completely in the Talladega National Forest. The Cheaha State Park (chaha in Muskogee means high place) offers breathtaking views, spectacular sunsets and beautiful waterfalls. It is the only place to stop for lunch along the drive.
After savoring the entire 29 miles of scenic beauty, explore the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and an adventure at the Richard Petty Driving Experience in Talladega. From there, it’s on to DeSoto Caverns, where prehistoric Native Americans lived, Native American traders visited frequently, Confederate soldiers mined gunpowder, and moonshiners hid during prohibition.
In Birmingham, unprecedented heritage, great food, and more adventure awaits as you explore the Sloss Furnace, the Birmingham Civil Rights District in 1992, and also visit the Birmingham Museum of Art, with a collection of more than 27,000 works.
At that point you have the option to enjoy the Northern Alabama Wine Trail, drive the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway, return to Atlanta, or return home. Whichever you choose, we wish you a safe and pleasant journey home.
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 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. Today it is known as the Healing Cathedral. At 120 feet tall and 100 yards long, this is the first room you experience on the cavern tour. Maintaining 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.
All of the ingredients needed to make iron lay within a thirty-mile radius surrounding Birmingham. One abundant seam of the same type of iron found in the Talladega area stretched for 25 miles. Abundant deposits of coal, while limestone, dolomite, and clay lay nearby in the Jones Valley. 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 in the second blast furnace with two blowing engines and ten boilers. The furnace sold 24,000 tons of award-winning iron to ultimately become 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, the same type that powered the rest of America’s Industrial Revolution, 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 slower car in front of you. Enjoy!