Flagg Mountain

Siri Hedreen / The Outlook

Thanks to efforts by the Alabama Trails Foundation and Alabama Forestry Commission, hikers will be able to get above the tree line and enjoy a 360-degree view of central Alabama.

The Flagg Mountain Tower is open to the public after a series of renovations and refurbishing efforts were made to get the tower back in tourist shape.

Flagg Mountain, known as the “jewel of Weogufka State Forest,” rests at around 1,100 feet above sea level and marks the beginning of the 335-mile long Pinhoti National Recreation Trail which stretches across northeast Alabama into Georgia.  

The stone-built fire tower, which was used as a lookout to search for sudden wildfires over the Appalachians, was initially constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, a voluntary government work relief program for unemployed, unmarried men in their late teens to late 20s that ran from 1933 to 1942. The program was cut during the mid 1940s because of a resource scarcity due to the start of WWII. Consequently, the tower and Flagg Mountain paid the price as many of the mountain's facilities fell into unfixable decay after more than five decades of neglect.

With sturdy new stairs and a new revitalized life as a tourist attraction, one of the tower’s first visitors on the day of reopening was Alabama’s own Kay Ivey, fresh off her win of the Republican governor primary in late May. 

“It was a pleasure to visit Coosa County today to officially reopen the Flagg Mountain Tower,” tweeted Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. “Built in the 30s, this tower is a symbol of Alabama’s history, her rich natural resources and her strength.” 

At the reopening ceremony on Wednesday, June 15, Ivey spoke of future plans for the state and a new commitment to preserving and improving Alabama’s trails for its hikers. 

“This is just the beginning,” Ivey said. “We look forward to building a welcome center and more amenities. We want to welcome walkers and hikers of all abilities to the longest trail in Alabama.”

In November of 2021, M.J. “Sunny” Eberhart, also known as “Nimblewill Nomad,” completed the 2,600-mile trek across the entire Appalachian Trail at 83 years of age. He was recognized as the oldest person to complete the hike. He began his journey at the Flagg Mountain Tower. 

Looking out from the top of the tower gives an unobstructed view into the horizon as the tower overlooks the peak of Weogufka State Forest into the plains below.  

The Alabama Forestry Commission, the agency who is at the head of conservation efforts for Flagg Mountain, put out a 25-page plan in early 2019 detailing the history of Flagg Mountain and presenting a strategic planning process to make general improvements to Flagg Mountain and Weogufka State Forest as a whole. The draft highlighted necessities for water lines for functional bathrooms atop the mountain and a need for new stairs inside the tower itself. 

“Through the collaboration with the Alabama Hiking Trail Society and the Friends of Flagg Mountain, the Alabama Forestry Commission intends to build upon the work performed by the Coosa County Cooperators to restore Flagg Mountain cabins and the lookout tower to near-original condition, with a few necessary adjustments to open the facilities to the public for primitive camping and sightseeing, with minimal maintenance,” the forestry commission said at the time of the plan’s release. 

Nine different city and government agencies combined efforts to get Flagg Mountain back to its former glory, including the Coosa County Commission.

In 2017, a series of renovations were made to the Flagg Mountain’s Ranger’s Cabin including a brand-new kitchen, walls, furniture and toilet facilities. 

The plan also listed ideas for possible future projects for the state forest with a monument next to the fire tower to commemorate the start of the Pinhoti Trail at the top of the list. A few other goals for the forestry commission are to replace bridges along access roads, enhance marketing of Flagg Mountain with maps, brochures and other promotional materials and to contact the Creek Indian tribe for a potential American Indian Museum. 

To separate time-sensitive projects versus projects that could take a little longer and are not as high priority, the plan encompassed a strategic planning table where specific items were listed and then deemed high, medium or low priority, as well as listing what agency the funds will come from for that specified item. The fire tower stairs were listed as high priority with the funds for the renovations coming from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Alabama Hiking trails Society.

Under the request for the new stairs in 2019, the forestry commission noted that the previous staircase was “unsafe to use and in absolute need of complete replacement.” 

Now, with renovations complete, the Flagg Mountain Tower is ready for visitors.

To reach Larry Robinson, email larry.robinson@alexcityoutlook.com.

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