America’s smallest National Forest lies just northeast of Tuskegee, Alabama. Not only is Tuskegee National Forest the smallest in the country, it lies entirely within one county (Macon). Tuskegee National Forest spans just over 11,000 acres. This is roughly one-tenth the size of Huntsville City. But Tuskegee, although it’s small, offers plenty of outdoor recreation.
Tuskegee has several short hiking trails, a shooting range, and the lovely Taska Recreation area. The forest is mostly flat or gently rolling terrain with several creeks and rivers running through it. The forests are a mix of pine and hardwood. Flowering trees such as magnolias and dogwoods break up the landscape. It really is a lovely place, but like the other forests in Alabama, it wasn’t always.
About the Forest
The USFS first designated Tuskegee as a National Forest in the 1930s. At the time, it was mostly eroded, weary landscape. Sand and silt from the eroded land had washed into the rivers, destroying aquatic habitat, and therefore, aquatic life. Because most of the woodland was cutover, secondary growth and scrub oak covered most of the land. But after setting the land aside as a National Forest, the Forest Service got to work. Workers planted hundreds of thousands of trees, including pine, locust, oak and Osage orange. Over the years, Tuskegee’s forests have become much healthier, and home to more and more wildlife. Although it’s not exactly the same habitat that it was hundreds of years ago, it’s a much healthier place today.
Recreation in Tuskegee National Forest
Taska Recreation Area
Taska Recreation Area is part of the Black Belt Nature and Heritage Trail. It is a daylight use area. This mean no camping is permitted, although there are restrooms and picnic areas. It is located in a beautiful, partially-cleared area of the forest. Taska is open year-round.
Tuskegee has no developed campgrounds, although 14 undeveloped, designated camps are located throughout the forest. Primitive camping is also permitted, except during deer hunting season.
There are several short, but great hiking trails in Tuskegee. Bartram National Recreation Trail is just over eight miles long. It winds through several different types of forests, including a wide variety of wild flowers and flowering trees.
Pleasant Hill Trail is one of the forest trails that allow mountain bikers. It is 3.8 miles, and connects with the Bartram National Recreation Trail. The historic Hickory Grove Church and cemetery are located along the trail.
The Bold Destiny/Bedford Cash Memorial Trail is a 15 mile trail designated for horseback riding. As with the Pleasant Hill Trail, hikers are also welcome to use the trail. The trail winds through a variety of forests, from nearly century-old hardwoods, to freshly planted pines.
Visit Tuskegee National Forest
Tuskegee National Forest is small and it’s trails are limited, but it’s also the only one of it’s kind. The partly restored forests and the deep history of the forest are unique to Tuskegee. Visit the forest and see a part of America that you can’t see anywhere else.