Cherokee County, Alabama

There’s a lot to be said about an autumn road trip. Popping in the car for a getaway can be the highlight of the season, but deciding where to go makes it golden.

One charming choice is Cherokee Alabama, snuggled gently in the foothills of the Appalachians. In the northern part of the state, Cherokee County is in the center of the ABC Triangle, referencing its driving proximity (roughly 2 hours) to Atlanta, Birmingham, or Chattanooga. Notably, its largest town is Centre. Easily accessible from major interstates and highways, you never have to be out of touch—unless that’s your intention.

Driving away from major traffic and the stress lane, the towns and communities of Cherokee County offer a respite from the big-city lifestyle. You can wander down the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway, an eighty-mile diverse beauty meandering from the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi to Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama. Hike the Alabama Birding Trail, a great place to spot Bald Eagles and birds of prey; or venture the Alabama Scenic River Trail, designated as the longest recreational water trail of any single state in America.

Rolling terrain is crisscrossed with colorful landscapes of fields, rivers, and streams. Kayakers and whitewater canoers challenge the rapids. Hikers are fascinated by Little River Canyon National Park, and climbers find the Cherokee Rock Village in Leesburg irresistible. The giant rock outcropping, believed to have once held ceremonial significance to Native Americans, rewards hikers with an unparalleled panoramic view from the top.

Weiss Lake: Alabama’s Great Lake

The exceptional centerpiece to Cherokee County’s geographical buffet is Weiss Lake, Alabama’s Great Lake. Sporting 447 miles of shoreline with more than 30,000 acres, it is one of Alabama’s top fisheries and a sportsman’s paradise. Named to the Alabama Bass Trail for 2016, the lake is abundant with a variety of fish such as striped large-mouth bass, catfish, spotted bass, and crappie.

The warmer climate allows boating and fishing almost all year, with all types of water sports finding a home at Weiss or in its tributaries. Canoeing in the coves, water or jet skiing, enthusiasts find Weiss very accommodating. Pleasingly, it remains uncrowded, perfect for graceful sailboats. In late summer, the annual Weiss Lake Regatta offers great photo ops.

With a week or more to spend, the Chesnut Bay Resort provides lakeshore homes for any size family. Neat accommodations include pretty pools, playgrounds, a waterslide, nine-hole golf, and a new zip line for the daring.

Sample Classic Southern Fare

Road trips work up quite an appetite. For convenience, there’s locally owned fast food that’s really good. Great temptation lies with the creations of the southern cooks whose dishes range from traditional to original, with a flare. Either way, it’s unforgettable.

Barbecue recipes, guarded like Fort Knox gold, are passed down thru generations. In Cherokee County, you’ll taste some of the best in the Southeast. The North Alabama style is smoky and sweet, with the right touch of “tangy”, and piled on the plate with or without a bun. Expect generous portions of fresh fries, crispy onion rings and BBQ’s best friend, coleslaw. It’s delicious, even though southern mamas remind you not to talk with your mouth full.

Restaurant menus in Cherokee County feature the best in classic southern cooking. Taste ‘roasted or broasted’ chicken—juicy and tender—complimented by local fresh, colorful vegetables. A server with a generous smile will encourage you to ‘save room’ for dessert, well worth the calories.

You won’t be the first explorer to have traipsed through Cherokee. Desoto came in the 1500’s searching for treasure, but unlike you, he left empty handed. You’ll find it golden.