Cherokee Rock Village

By Frank Emory
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              Rock Village
           Cherokee Rock Village

          Sunrise over Weiss Lake

          View toward Big Mountain

                 Big Mountain

bolders at
              Cherokee Rock Village
               Field of boulders

       View from Shinebone Ridge

Turkey buzzards viewing Weiss Lake

              rock village
           Floor beneath boulders

High above Weiss Lake at the southern end of Lookout Mountain, sits Cherokee Rock Village. Also known as Sandrock, this interesting maze of boulders and rock formations line Shinbone Ridge for half a mile or so. On a clear day, you can see as far as Rome, Georgia.

Native Americans used this area for ceremonies until they were forced to walk the Trail of Tears in 1838. Today, this Cherokee County park is one of Alabama's most popular rock climbing areas, drawing climbers from around the Southeast. It is suited for beginner to intermediate climbers. On some weekends it is heavily visited by campers, hikers, climbers and nature lovers. Primitive camping is free, but get there early to stake out your place.

For nature lovers who are not climbers, Cherokee Rock Village is an interesting place to explore, especially during weekdays or times of the year when the crowds are gone. Without any official climbing skills, you can still climb up and down some of the boulders just for the fun of it or to enjoy the view. If your timing is right, you can climb the boulder you see in the first picture, as I did, for a first class seat to an extraordinary Alabama sunrise.

Sunrise over Weiss Lake

It's easy to see why native Americans found this a spiritual place. One can only imagine their view of the Coosa river in the valley before Weiss Lake was constructed. I find Cherokee Rock Village one of the most spiritual and thought provoking places in Alabama, especially at sunrise on a day when other people aren't around. I'd like to share a few of those thoughts.

One morning I arrived about an hour before sunrise and made my way to the top of my favorite boulder. As I watched Weiss Lake reflect the unfolding of dawn, the landscape in general began reflecting a perspective of my life on this beautiful planet.

Down in the valley, Weiss Lake had been completed only a few decades ago in 1961. In 1540 the first Europeans to explore Alabama, Hernando DeSoto and his army, crossed the Coosa River and continued down the Coosa Valley on what is now the far side of Weiss Lake. The very first people to ever see this area may have done so as early as 8000 B.C.

The boulder I sat upon was formed about 300 million years ago out of an ancient sea before dinosaurs, mammals or birds had evolved. Volcanic action pushed layers of rock up to form this ridge, as well as the rest of the Appalachian Mountain chain. The earth stretched before me came into being about 4.5 billion years ago when our solar system took form.

Most of the starlight above me had traveled from a few decades to 2000 years to reach my eyes. On a clear night, light from stars on the far side of our Milky Way Galaxy might have taken 100,000 years to reach me. And further out in the vast universe there are billions of other galaxies containing more stars than grains of sand upon this earth. The universe itself had been expanding from the big bang for almost 14 billion years as I sat on Shinbone Ridge observing a tiny speck of it.

Without life to experience it, whether the universe ever came into being or not would amount to the same thing. We are the "eyes of the universe" looking at itself. Our intelligence brings meaning, purpose and importance to the world around us. Through us, the universe is aware of its own existence. Our awareness brings the universe to life like the sun brings each day to life.

As sunrise approached I felt I was in the right place in the universe at the right time. Beautiful deep blues, reds and yellows colored the clouds at the edge of a cold front. A sliver of yellow sun finally broke the plane and blasted a warm golden light across the boulders and trees around me. I felt fortunate to start another day on planet earth, from beautiful Cherokee Rock Village.


To get to Cherokee Rock Village, follow I-59 to the Collinsville exit. At the first intersection in Collinsville take a right onto Hwy 11 South. After about 1/2 mile, take a left onto Hwy 68 East and follow it for about 6 1/2 mile. Turn right onto County Rd 36 and follow it for approximately 1 1/2 miles. Just before the big steel power line towers, turn left onto a paved road with a Cherokee Rock Village sign. At the top of the ridge bear right and in a few minutes you will end at the parking area.