Joe Wheeler State Park Trails
Joe Wheeler comes in at #1 on my ranking list mainly because it is my home trail. I can be there in a few minutes, plus its also where I first began hiking. I began going there with a late friend of mine, Jonathan Bryant. We used to hike or jog that trail quite often. So there is a bit of a sentimental value to hiking that one that puts it at #1 for me. The trails are located in a beautiful state park. There is also another trail located just south of Wheeler Dam which is a 2.5 mile loop.
The main trails have two trail heads. One is located at the day use area, the other is located near the lodge
at the end of the parking lot. Their is an advantage to each trail head. If you are just planning on a hike and
nothing else, go for the trail head at the lodge. You can enter there at no charge and start there. If you take the trail head
at the day use area it is likely you will be charged (around $2.00 per person) to enter that area. However, the advantage there
is if you decide to use the day use area. The day use area has a beach, basketball/tennis courts, picnic tables, pavilions,
a play ground and other amenities. So if you plan on doing any of the other activities then it is well worth the fee to get
in the day use area. But if you are only hiking then your best bet is the trail head at the lodge.
The trail head to the 2.5 mile trail across the river from the main state park area is less than 0.5 miles south of Wheeler Dam
To access the trail heads: From the main park entrance you just drive a few miles and there will be a sign directing you to the day use area. If you want to use the trail head at the lodge, just drive all the way to the end of the road. You will see the lodge on the left just before you see the marina. Turn into the parking lot and go to the very end of it. You will see a structure with a map of the trail on it. Trail/park maps are also available in the lobby at the lodge.
The trails here are easy to hike. The terrain is easy to tackle, however some parts of the trails contain some fairly steep hills. You don't have to do any climbing or cross any difficult terrain. Just be prepared for the hills!
Hiking the Trail:
I normally start at the lodge trail head. If you choose to start at the lodge trail head, you will walk about 100 yards and the trail
splits. This is the Blue Loop trail. Take a left at the fork. This will take you right by some old tennis courts. You then
walk across a paved road (the road to the lakeside cottages). I suggest going by the food plot. Most of the time you will see several
deer grazing. I also suggest taking the yellow trail down to the day use area. The yellow trail offers a very scenic view of the Tennessee River.
If you decide to start at the day use area, I suggest taking the red trail to the the yellow trail and hiking towards the food plot.
The yellow trail is well worth the walk! If you walk the blue loop, yellow trail, and red trail you will get in roughly 3 miles.
If you want to walk the 2.5 mile trail south of Wheeler Dam, there is only one trail head. Just walk through the trail entrance at the wooden fence and go from there. This 2.5 mile loop will take you near the Tennessee River, and through a few open fields. It offers a few scenic views of the water! Its a very nice trail to hike!
Location of the Alabama State Champion Trees The Joe Wheeler State Park Blue Loop trail is home to three Alabama State Champion Trees. A "State Champion" is a tree that happens to be the largest in it's species in the state of Alabama. This is determined by the Alabama Forestry Commission by using a certain formula. There are a total of five state champion trees in Lauderdale County. Here are the locations of the three located at JWSP. The September Elm is located about 100 yards from the lodge trail head. The Bitternut Hickory is located on the section of the Blue Loop that takes you to the mouth of First Creek, and the Chinkapin Oak is located on the backside of the Blue Loop. For more information on Alabama State Champion Trees you can visit The Alabama Forestry Commission website: http://www.forestry.alabama.gov/ChampionTreeProgram.aspx?bv=5&s=1
At the Joe Wheeler trails you will get an awesome view of the Tennessee river. At the main park you can see Wheeler Dam in the Distance. At the trail south of the Dam you will get a great view of Wheeler Dam and also of the river. On the blue loop, yellow, and red trail at the main state park you will see a lot of deer and other wildlife. The view of the Tennessee River is incredible!
The trails are maintained very well by the park staff. One of the best maintained trails in the area!
The trails at the main state park offer bathrooms at the lodge(in the lobby). At the day use area there is a bathroom, picnic tables, and a drinking fountain near the Tennis/Basketball courts. There is also a camp ground for RV's and Tents.