Alabama isn't always given the recognition it deserves when it comes to tourism. Unless they are going to the beach, many people just drive on through on their way to somewhere else. So, I have compiled a list of places around the state to showcase just how beautiful our state is and why it is worth visiting.
All of these places showcase the state's natural beauty, and I hope they inspire you to take a trip to see this wonderful state.
Cheaha State Park, Clay and Calhoun Counties
This park is near and dear to my heart because I grew up about thirty minutes from it. Mt. Cheaha is the highest point in Alabama at 2,407 feet. The views are spectacular and overlook the Cheaha Wilderness and the Talladega National Forest. The park has several hiking trails, and there are also a few surrounding it in the Cheaha Wilderness including two with multiple waterfalls. One trail is covered by a boardwalk so as to be handicap accessible and ends at Bald Rock, a popular lookout spot for visitors. For something less traveled, I recommend the Cave Creek trail, a moderate to strenuous 6.7-mile loop.
On this trail, you will pass McDill Point, pictured above, which looks out on the Talladega National Forest and the site of a plane crash. You can also connect with the Pinhoti Trail on Cave Creek. The Pinhoti is a long distance trail that starts in Alabama and connects to the Benton McKaye Trail which runs into the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. Cheaha offers wonderful views for the novice and seasoned outdoorsman.
Sipsey Wilderness, Lawrence County
Michael Hicks https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/legalcode
The Sipsey Wilderness is part of the Bankhead National Forest in northwest Alabama and is named after the Sipsey River which is one of the last free slowing, wild rivers in Alabama. It is the third largest wilderness east of the Mississippi. Brindlee Mountain comprises much of the area, but the Sipsey Wilderness' nickname is "The land of a Thousand Waterfalls."
Dozens of waterfalls dot the landscape, and you can also find many lookouts, sinkholes, and caves in the area. There are twelve trails that traverse the area that is popular with hikers, and many canoeists and kayakers enjoy floating the Sipsey River.
Neversink Pit, Fackler
Neversink Pit is a gigantic sinkhole in northeast Alabama. The hole is forty feet wide at the top and 162 feet deep and is one of the most photographed sinkholes in America. Many rare plant species grow inside the pit, and several bats also call it home. Waterfalls form after rainstorms throughout the year, and in the winter, ice sheets from inside the hole. Neversink is open to experienced rappellers and cavers, but they must obtain a permit to enter the pit from the Southeastern Cave Conservancy who owns Neversink Pit.
If spelunking or climbing is not your thing, the view from the top is still worth the trip. Neversink can be accessed by a somewhat strenuous hiking trail. Directions, information, and permits can be found on Southeastern Cave Conservancy's website.
Little River Canyon National Preserve, Fort Payne
Little River Canyon really needed two pictures, but I picked this one because it shows how large the canyon is. The reason it needs to photos is that there is a large waterfall that drops into the canyon. Little River Falls is 45 feet high and is an impressive site to see. it is easily viewed from the observation deck near the entrance to the park. Sometimes, you can even watch brave kayakers plummet over the falls. The area is a very mountainous region, and the Little River wore down the mountain until it formed the canyon and is the only river in the country that begins and ends on top of a mountain. A scenic drive encompasses the rim with plenty of places to pull over to look at the canyon or have a picnic. There are also some trails inside the park and mountain climbers can enjoy descending and ascending the walls of the canyon.
Natural Bridge Park, Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge is so nice they named the town after it. This small park is home to the longest natural bridge east of the Rocky Mountains. It extends 148 feet and is sixty feet off the ground. You can access the bridge by an easy nature trail that winds through the woods. While you can not walk across the bridge, you can walk under it and explore the shallow cave that the rock formation makes. On your way to the bridge, be sure to keep your eyes open for Indian Rock. The rock is shaped like a Native American's face, similar to the one on buffalo nickels.
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores
Gulf State Park is one of the most visited parks in Alabama. Its white sandy shores attract many visitors every year. Vacationers can enjoy two miles of beaches as well as twenty-five miles of walking and biking trails and a golf course. The park features a fishing and education pier that is a popular spot for fisherman as well. The park also offers several beach and lakeside cottages and a campground 1.5 miles from the beach. Gulf Shores is a perfect spot to just sit and relax and enjoy the sun.
Lake Guntersville State Park, Guntersville
Lake Guntersville is a popular spot for avid fishers, but it offers more than just fishing. The park also has thirty-six miles of hiking trails, a beach along the lake, a top-notch lodge, and a golf course. If you are looking for something a little bit more adventurous, the park has just recently opened a zip line called the Screaming Eagle. The zip line gets its name from the many eagles that live around the lake. They are truly a beautiful site to see soaring through the air.
Noccalula Falls, Gadsden
Library of Congress
Noccalula Falls is another impressive waterfall in north Alabama. The waterfall drops ninety feet into Black Creek below. The falls name is derived from Noccalula, an Indian princess who is said to have lived nearby. Legend has it that Noccalula jumped over the falls to her death after her father would not let her marry the warrior that she loved and tried to force her to marry the chief of a neighboring tribe. The falls is also surrounded by a park that features a campground, five miles of hiking trails, a mini golf course, a small zoo, a train, and several examples of early settler buildings.
Cahaba River, North Central Alabama
Garry Tucker, USFWS
The Cahaba River is the longest free-flowing river in the state and starts north of Birmingham and ends near Selma. It is a beautiful river that is popular with canoeists, kayakers, and fishers. It is also a hotbed for biodiversity. The river is home to 125 fish species, 35 snail species ten of which only live in the Cahaba, and 50 mussel species some of which are rare. Perhaps the river's biggest attraction and what it is best known for being the Cahaba lilies, pictured above. The Cahaba River is the best place in the state to view these flowers which bloom from May-June. West Blocton hosts the Cahaba Lily Festival every year to celebrate these beautiful flowers.
Coosa River, Central Alabama
The Coosa River flows from Tennessee and Georgia and ends just below Wetumpka, Alabama where it meets the Tallapoosa to form the Alabama River. It is a shallow and fertile river which means it is a very productive breeding ground for fish and in return fishing. The river is also part of the Alabama Scenic Trail which goes all the way to Fort Morgan on the coast. Because of this, it is a popular kayaking and canoeing location. Perhaps the most popular area for these sports is on the section from Jordan Dam to Wetumpka. There are many class II and III rapids in this section, and it also offers a feature unique to Wetumpka. Wetumpka was the site of the only meteor crater in Alabama. The meteor was the size of a college football stadium and left a very sizable crater which Wetumpka is built in and around. You can see evidence of the strike along and in the river by the way the rocks were pushed up by the blast. Wetumpka also hosts a kayaking festival every year.
As you can see, whether for a day trip or a week-long vacation, Alabama has something to offer all levels and types of outdoor people.