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Talladega National Forest Camping Guide

Spanning out among mountain foothills and hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful forestry, Talladega National Forest is among the most beloved national forests in Alabama and the continental US.

Incredible Talladega National Forest camping opportunities await in the vast acreage of this forest…along with other recreational fun. Read on to learn the best times to visit, what to bring for your trip, where to stay, and more.

View of a waterfall in Talladega National Forest. Talladega National Forest camping.

What Is Talladega National Forest?

Talladega National Forest is a sprawling span of national forestry located within the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Before its conversion to government land in the 1930s, it was one of Alabama forestry’s most abusively logged stretches. Thanks to the state’s reforesting efforts, it is now considered a thriving and diverse ecosystem.

With lots of places to stay within this national forest’s nearly 400,000 acres, Talladega National Forest camping is becoming more popular every year.

View of a creek in the Appalachian Mountains.

When is the Best Time to Visit Talladega National Forest?

One of the key benefits of visiting is how you can take advantage of its location! Being in the deep south, Talladega National Forest camping can happen all year round, and a trip here can be perfect for all seasons.

Many of the recreations in Talladega National Forest can be enjoyed all year round. Besides camping, you can try hiking, bicycling, scenic driving, and more. And, because of the sheer size of this national forest, chances are you will find somewhere to camp regardless of the season as well.

If you are a fan of long summer days and don’t mind the humidity and heat, you may find the summer months are the perfect time for some Talladega National Forest camping. However, if you enjoy things slightly cooler during your camping and outdoor activities, a crisp winter trip could do your soul a lot of good.

A natural bridge formation in northern Alabama.

The transitional views are magnificent in Talladega National Forest in spring and fall. Fiery hues swatch the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains as summer turns to fall. Meanwhile, in the spring, the blanket of new blooms laid down by the deciduous trees makes for some wonderful photography and plenty of beauty to behold.

The good news is, no matter when you visit, there will be plenty to do and see throughout Talladega National Forest. It all comes down to what season works best for you!

Where to Stay at Talladega National Forest

Best Camping Spots

There are numerous Talladega National Forest camping options. All are spread out between the national forest’s three ranger districts: Oakmulgee, Shoal Creek, and Talladega.

Oakmulgee Ranger District

The Oakmulgee Ranger district boasts several different types of Talladega National Forest camping. For folks who are interested in primitive camping, there are 10 hunting campsites within this ranger district. These are truly rustic and available all year round.

A remote tent campsite.

For a slightly more cultivated camping experience within the Oakmulgee district, folks can set up camp at the Payne Lake Recreation Area. There is access to the waterfront, bathhouses with showers and restrooms, and a swimming beach.

Shoal Creek Ranger District

The Shoal Creek district is the largest location for Talladega National Forest camping, boasting two different recreation areas for camping as well as two separate hunting camps—one of which is disability accessible. The recreation areas typically see light to moderate use; the Coleman Lake Recreation Area, which is the larger of the two, is open only in season and offers more amenities.

The hunting camps are somewhat more primitive. However, the Big Oak Physically Disabled Hunting Camp does offer sanitary facilities and all of the amenities required for the physically challenged to enjoy a great hunting experience.

Talladega Ranger District

The Talladega Ranger district offers several more hunting Talladega National Forest camping sites and hosts the Turnipseed Campground, which is open seasonally. This no-frills campground is great, especially in the fall, with its beautiful forest views. There are sanitary facilities available at Turnipseed Campground.

A dog lying down by a camping tent.

Additional Camping

Various RV campgrounds are scattered throughout Talladega National Forest and its three ranger districts, each with various levels of commodities. These include hookups, sanitation stations, and more.

Booking, Fees, and What to Bring

All Talladega National Forest camping is on a first-come, first-served basis. There is typically a nominal vehicle fee per use in cultivated campgrounds.

Camping Gear

Before you head out on your Talladega National Forest camping adventure, you will want to take time to inventory and assess your camping and state park gear. This includes making sure that all camping gear is in good repair. Check for any rips, tears, molding or mildewing, or other compromises in tents, camping chairs, and all other gear.

Camping gear at a tent camping site.

First Aid and Safety Gear

You will want to ensure you bring a well-stocked first aid kit in case of incidentals during your trip. Plenty of food and water for the duration of your visit is also a must. Whether you are tent or RV camping, be sure to bring sealable containers to keep foraging animals away from your stored food and scented items such as perfumes, cologne, and more.

Also, insect safety is a must, given the location and depending on the time of year you pick for your Talladega National Forest camping trip. Wearing a hat and socks in forested areas will help prevent tick exposure. A bug repellant of choice is ideal near bodies of water and in the dusk hours, especially in the summertime.

Water running over rocks in a stream bed.

In addition, be sure to pack along sun protection in warmer months, such as a hat and long, loose-sleeved clothing.

Recreation Gear

You should also come prepared to enjoy Talladega National Forest’s many recreational opportunities. This includes bringing sturdy footwear and season-appropriate attire for traversing the hiking trails. Swimwear and water safety items should be brought to lakes and swimming beaches.

If you want to do some fishing or hunting on your Talladega National Forest camping trip, ensure their gear is in good condition. This includes tackle, hunting rifles, and crossbows. Or, if you are hoping to enjoy the beauty of the forest visually, be sure to bring along a good pair of binoculars and even a camera to capture the highlights of the trip.

Things to Do at Talladega National Forest

A post next to a hiking trail in the Appalachian Mountains.


Hiking holds great appeal for many visitors to Talladega National Forest! There are plenty of day-use hiking trails which traverse the three ranger districts. These vary greatly in their length and challenge, so folks of all ages and hiking skills can find something to love among the trails in this national forest.

In addition to the day-use trails, there are various backpacking trails where campers can pitch a tent overnight and continue hiking the next day.


With so many lakes, rivers, and streams dotted throughout the massive acreage of Talladega National Forest, it comes as no surprise there is plenty of fishing to enjoy! These can be found at numerous lakes throughout the various ranger districts, including right there in the Payne Lake Recreation Area–making this a great camping spot for anglers to set down roots.

Logan Martin Lake in Alabama on a sunny day.
Logan Martin Lake.


Big game hunting is permitted within Talladega National Forest. Pitching your tent in one of the primitive hunter camps will allow you the best access to the wildlife portion of this national forest, giving you a chance to see the game of your choosing.

Water Recreation

Along with fishing, the lakes and rivers of Talladega National Forest provide endless water recreation! Be sure to bring your bathing suit and life preserver to enjoy some swimming, boating, tubing, and more.

Other Recreation

Talladega National Forest has numerous other recreational options, from horseback riding, bicycling, picnicking, and OHV riding to target shooting, nature viewing, and stargazing.

Wrapping Up the Talladega National Forest Camping Guide

View from a mountain in Alabama.

Excited to kick off your Talladega National Forest camping adventure? Be sure to check out our Camping Gear guide! This will help ensure you are outfitted with everything you need for a truly wonderful camping experience.