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Heflin designated as a Pinhoti ‘trail town’

Hiker award

Heflin Mayor Rudy Rooks presents thru hiker certificate No. 5 to Jason Smith on Tuesday. The certificate is earned by any hiker who documents completion of the entire 335 miles of the Pinhoti Trail. 

HEFLIN The city of Heflin has been recognized as a place along the Pinhoti trail that goes the extra mile to help hikers and to promote the trail itself, Alabama’s longest footpath.

Heflin was designated as an Alabama Trail Town at the Heflin City Council meeting Tuesday. The honor was announced by representatives of the Alabama Pinhoti Trail Association.

The Pinhoti trail is a 335-mile-long trail that begins at Flag Mountain in Coosa County and extends to the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. The Alabama section is 175 miles long, and 90 percent of it is within the borders of the Talladega National Forest. 

The trail town program was something that APTA members started to discuss last year, said APTA board member Adam Dasinger. Last week, Sylacauga was recognized as a trail town and next month Piedmont will receive the designation, according to Dasinger.

Haywood Warren, president of the APTA, told the council that the APTA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Pinhoti. Group volunteers maintain the trail by clearing fallen trees and clearing brush, Warren said.

Dasinger said a city that applies to be a trail town is required to have an regular event that promotes the trail. On Nov. 7 — for the second year in a row — the city of Heflin, Heflin Main Street and the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce will assist runners during the Pinhoti 100. 

Last year, city officials manned an aid station for 230 participants during the 100-mile endurance race that began in Heflin and ended at Sylacauga High School. 

Outgoing Heflin Mayor Rudy Rooks said the partnership the city has had with the APTA has been “very good.”

Hikers — whom Rooks said were an untapped market —  visit the city to have their photo taken with the mayor at City Hall and some stay overnight at a local motel. The trailhead for the Heflin Spur Trail which connects downtown Heflin to the Pinhoti Trail is at City Hall.

Rooks said over the last two weeks there has been a huge increase in the amount of hikers visiting the city in part to the favorable reviews posted online.  

“There’s been so many positive comments on social media,” Rooks said.

Earlier this year the city, along with the APTA, was issuing certificates for thru hikers who complete the entire Pinhoti Trail. Hikers must document their journey with photos at certain landmarks along the way to be considered.   

On Tuesday, the city awarded Jason Smith the fifth certificate. Smith was the first hiker to receive his certificate in person and told the council his hike was a fantastic journey.

A requirement of the certificate is to complete the Heflin Spur Trail through Cahulga Creek Park, which Smith said was his favorite part of his trip.

“It’s just beautiful,” Smith said.