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Discover North Alabama’s Hidden Gems At These 9 Nature Escapes

Lake Guntersville Alabama

Spanning the state’s 16 northernmost counties, the North Alabama hidden gems includes rivers, canyons, forests and caves. This is where the Appalachian Mountain range begins and from the peaks of its foothills to the depths of ancient canyons, changes in elevation, variety of vistas and assortment of trail options comes as a surprise to many.

Exploring this diverse landscape is a favorite pastime for locals as well as for visitors who have discovered the region’s variety of public lands and preserved areas. Whether they are looking for a serious challenge or a refreshing outing, the abundance of trails here appeals to hikers of all skill levels.

Over 36 miles of hiking, biking and horse trails throughout its 6,000 acres of wooded land, with experiences ranging from lakeside and wildflower views to mountain climbs with seasonal waterfalls. Length varies from an easy .5 miles to 16 miles of rugged terrain.

An expanse of forested habitat comprising 180,000 acres of public land which includes deep canyons, open fields and pine and hardwood forests. There are several options for memorable day hikes from trailhead picnic areas, with a favorite being the Natural Bridge Picnic Area , a nearly half-mile paved trail which leads to an amazing natural rock archway in the forest. For those looking for a challenging backpacking experience, the Sipsey River Picnic Area and Trailhead is the place to start.

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Known for its spectacular views from the ridge of the Cumberland Plateau as well as its outstanding hiking and mountain biking trails. There are 22 miles of scenic trails, with varying degrees of difficulty. The park’s proximity to downtown Huntsville makes it a favorite for those who like to enjoy the metropolitan area, in addition to getting out on the trail.

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Little River Falls at Little River Canyon National Preserve in North Alabama.
(c)Deb Thompson

Known as one of North Alabama’s most picturesque spots and the variety of trails throughout the preserve give visitors plenty of ways to enjoy the views. Little River Falls is the largest of three named waterfalls in the preserve and a favorite site to see during any season of the year. There are short out-and-back trail options, and an arduous 16-mile trek through back country that connects the preserve and DeSoto State, and many options in between.

A breathtaking 693-acre natural area with a diverse landscape including rolling hills and dramatic falls. The highlight for hikers is the moderate trail which descends approximately 350 feet from ridge top to creek level. Scenery along the way includes canyon overlooks, wildflower areas and creek accesses.

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Waterfall at DeSoto State Park
(c)Deb Thompson

DeSoto State Park sits atop scenic Lookout Mountain and has more than 35 miles of hiking trails, including 11 miles of mountain bike trails.

On the trails, hikers encounter rock formations, small seasonal waterfalls and beautiful views of the West Fork of Little River, in addition to a variety of diverse plant communities and wildlife.

There are 15 miles of hiking and biking trails traversing a landscape that ranges from forested Creekside trails to rocky cliff overhang views. The park also boasts more than six miles of ORV trails. 

Bring the furry friends

The park encompasses 2,550-acres of land along the shores of the Tennessee River, which forms Wheeler Lake. It is home to 16 miles of dog-friendly trails, with the longest ranging just under six miles, known as the Awesome Trail.

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Best for kids

This is a great place for family fun and features a 90-foot waterfall and rock climbing opportunities in addition to 15 miles of hiking trails. The falls are named for the daughter of a legendary Native American chief, who was “famed far and wide for her beauty and loveliness of character.”

Wheelchair accessibility

While there are many accessible areas for outdoor activities in North Alabama, on this list and beyond, Little River Canyon National PreserveDeSoto State Park and Noccalula Falls each have outstanding trail sections for wheelchair users. North Alabama also has an online resource for other outdoor wheelchair-friendly activities.

The outside of Jacob and Ida's Pumpkin Playhouse in Mentone, Alabama.
(c) Booking.com

Where To Stay

Jacob and Ida’s Pumpkin Playhouse located in Mentone, Alabama and is a 2-bedroom, pet friendly vacation home. Book Your Stay Now.

Mountain View Inn offers a Bed & Breakfast style stay and is perfect for couples. Book Your Stay Now.

SpringHill Suites in Huntsville is perfect for those who want a more traditional hotel stay. Book Your Stay Now.

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