The state of Alabama, a destination that’s long been on my USA travel hit list was a huge part of our Deep South Road Trip.
So what is Alabama known for? Its rich history (in particular, the Civil Rights movement), delicious food, and Southern hospitality – But the best Alabama state parks and waterfalls in Alabama are incredible!
What many people don’t often know is that this state is full of natural beauty. From its white-sand beaches to lush forests, it’s the perfect destination for outdoor lovers like me. I was a little blown away with just how many state parks and waterfalls you can find in Alabama.
This guide is going to take you through the best Alabama state parks and waterfalls, so you’ve got a good idea of what’s on offer. To experience the best of this area’s beauty, you’ll want to visit as many of these as you can, so don’t rush it.
Best Alabama State Parks and Top Waterfalls in Alabama
The waterfalls in Alabama are some of the reasons why I extended my stay in the state, and it’s so easy to see why! Let’s discuss the best ones of them, as well as the best Alabama State Parks here.
Little River Canyon Reserve offers one of the best ways to experience the Southern Appalachians. It was established back in 1992 and has seen its fair share of history, from native American populations to Civil War troops who used to camp out here!
However, it’s not the history that draws people to this place. Once you’ve had a look at Little River Canyon’s jaw-dropping overlooks, spectacular landforms, and of course waterfalls, you’ll soon realise the beauty of this preserve.
A highlight of visiting this reserve is Little River Falls! You’ll find this 45-foot (14-metre) waterfall near the Little River Canyon Visitor Centre. More specifically, it’s located right next to the bridge in Gaylesville (off Highway 35).
While in the reserve, I’d also recommend checking out Little River Canyon Rim Parkway. This scenic drive covers a distance of 11 miles (17.7 km) and will take you past several fantastic lookouts – so have your camera at the ready and allow plenty of time to stop for photos.
For those who have a bit more time, there are several hiking trails you can do. Some of the most popular options include the Bridge Trail (which is super easy!), the Little Falls Trail (another must), and Eberhart Trail. The latter offers epic canyon views and a popular swimming hole. Honestly, what more could you ask for?
Where to Stay Near Little River Canyon
If you plan to spend the night near Fort Payne, here are 2 options I recommend to have a good, comfortable night’s sleep.
The Holiday Inn Express is the best hotel in Fort Payne, near Little River Canyon. You’ll have premium rooms with a beautiful design, a microwave, and laudry facilities.
You’ll have a delicious breakfast in the morning, which is an added bonus before going to the trail!
Another good option in town is the Quality Inn, with a great location, a continental breakfast in the morning, fast WiFi, and comfortable rooms to spend the night in.
To visit my next waterfall, you’ll want to head to the DeSoto Falls Picnic Area. Located in the gorgeous Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, this whole area really has a lot to offer for avid outdoor lovers.
Now, there are plenty of waterfalls for you to visit in this state, but you don’t want to miss out on Desoto Falls. It’s one of the tallest waterfalls in Alabama, at an impressive 107 feet (32 metres) high.
To reach Desoto Falls, you’ll need to walk down a paved pathway from the parking lot. It’s only a short trail (but be prepared for plenty of steps) and then you’ll come to an overlook. From here, you’ll get some epic views. You can also take a trail down to the bottom of the falls, which is only suitable if you are a bit fitter.
The one thing I will say is that parking is limited at Desoto Falls Picnic Area. If you’re planning to visit on a weekend (especially during peak times), you’re going to have a real struggle finding a space.
While visiting the falls, I recommend heading to Orbix Hot Glass which is close by. Here, you can learn all about the glass-blowing process and pick yourself up a souvenir or two (Christmas ornaments are a firm favourite).
Of course, if you’d prefer to just spend more time in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, then that’s entirely up to you!
Did you know? The Desoto Falls is where I went swimming to look for a certain iPhone. Make sure you check that part out in the video above!
Where to Stay Near Desoto Falls
Nestled in Sautee Nacoochee, near Anna Ruby Falls, Sylvan Valley Lodge offers lush gardens, free parking, a lounge, and a terrace.
This 5-star hotel features complimentary WiFi and a bar, situated 6.9 km from Helen Festhalle. Rooms include air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, fridges, and coffee machines. Some have balconies with mountain views. Guests enjoy hiking and other activities nearby.
Adjacent to the Chattahoochee River, this Georgia motel offers rafting, fishing, and swimming, plus a daily continental breakfast. Rooms feature microwaves, refrigerators, and flat-screen TVs.
Select chalets at Helen Riverbend Motel include kitchens, balconies, and spa baths, with some offering river views. The motel provides free WiFi in public areas, barbecue facilities, picnic tables, and vending machines.
Cherokee Rock Village
Next up we have Cherokee Rock Village which is a 15-minute drive out of Leesburg. For those who love the outdoors, this nature facility is a must-visit. I had a true ‘welcome to Alabama’ moment at Cherokee Rock Village.
Covering over 200 acres and offering plenty of amenities, you won’t run out of things to do at Cherokee Rock Village. Whether you’re into rock climbing, hiking, horse riding, or bird watching, this place has something for all age groups.
Rock climbing is one of the most popular activities, as you’ll find endless sandstone boulders within the area. Some of these reach a whopping 200 feet (61 metres), and you’ll find over 200 top rope routes here. Perfect for the Adrenaline lovers out there.
If you’d prefer something a little less daunting, then there are four main hiking trails to choose from; the Blue Trail, Green Trail, Orange Trail, and Red Trail. At 0.7 miles (1.1 km), the Green Trail is the shortest option, while the Red Trail is the longest at 3.4 miles (5.5 km).
Cherokee Rock Village can be enjoyed by everyone but it’s certainly a popular spot with families. Not only is there an array of activities on offer, but there’s a well-equipped playground on-site too (perfect for keeping the little ones entertained for a while).
Where to Stay Near Cherokee Rock Village
This hotel, located 12.8 km from Gadsden city center and a 55-minute drive from the Talladega Super Speedway, offers an outdoor pool and rooms with free WiFi.
Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Gadsden features rooms with a seating area, flat-screen TV, coffee maker, and work desk.
You have access to a fitness center and a business center, which is convenient. The hotel is 11 minutes’ drive from the Gadsden Cultural Arts Center and 16 km from Noccalula Falls Park.
Red Roof Inn Gadsden, a 2-star motel in Gadsden, features a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi and private bathrooms.
Each room includes a desk, flat-screen TV, and a microwave,. The reception offers local area tips and they offer attractive deals too!
My next top Alabama waterfall and park on the list is Noccalula Falls Park. The highlight of course is the falls themselves, with the water cascading over 90 feet (27 metres) into a ravine, with a statue of Noccalula overlooking them.
However, that’s not all there is to do! First of all, there are several paved trails which start from the Admissions Pavillion. This is one of the best ways to explore the area, especially as the trails aren’t very taxing (always a bonus).
One of the most popular options is the Black Creek Trail which covers 1.7 miles (2.7 km), although this one starts at Noccalula Falls Wedding Chapel.
I’d also recommend checking out the Huntington miniature train. This authentic train ride offers a great way to admire the park’s beauty and is especially popular with children (and adults for sure).
If you still aren’t convinced, then there are tons of other attractions at Noccalula Falls Park. For the little ones, there’s a petting zoo and children’s playground.
You’ve also got the Pioneer Village where you’ll get to learn about the area’s history.
For a bit of fun, check out the Noccalula Falls Miniature Golf Course! Not only will it bring out your competitive side, but you’ll get to appreciate cascading waterfalls along the way.
Noccalula Falls are located not far from Cherokee Rock Village, so check out my hotel recommendations above to stay right next to both waterfalls in Alabama!
Cheaha State Park is undoubtedly one of the best state parks in Alabama! It’s also the state’s oldest park as it was established back in 1933.
Home to huge granite boulders and endless forests, the beauty of Cheaha is honestly unparalleled. Thanks to its location as the highest point in Alabama, this state park has earned itself the nickname ‘Island in the Sky’ (pretty fitting, if you ask me).
Hiking is a popular activity in Cheaha, with trails including the Mountain Laurel Trail, the Lake Trail, and the ‘Leave No Trace Bigfoot Trail’. If you opt for the latter, you’ll find large Bigfoot cut-outs scattered along the trail (hopefully, not a real one).
If you have the time, I’d suggest the Waterfall hike. You’ll also find stunning waterfalls in the nearby Talladega National Forest. The Cheaha Wilderness Area is close by too.
There are 21 Alabama state parks in total, but Cheaha is certainly one of the most beautiful (in my opinion). It’s also not as popular compared to other state parks in Alabama, so it’s far less crowded.
Top tip, if you visit during fall (autumn), you’ll be treated to stunning orange and red colours. Better yet, time your visit to the viewpoints during sunrise or sunset.
Where to Stay Near Cheaha State Park
This sophisticated all-suite hotel offers well-equipped suites with kitchen appliances, coffee makers, ironing essentials, hair dryers, cable TV, and comfortable workspaces. Suites feature charging stations with AC and USB outlets.
Amenities include complimentary high-speed internet, free local calls, a fitness center, and on-site laundry facilities, ensuring a convenient and elegant stay.
The Red Roof Inn & Suites Oxford, situated off Interstate 20 and 1 mile from Quintard Mall, offers rooms with free WiFi.
Each room features a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee-making facilities, along with ironing amenities. The hotel provides a launderette and free local calls.
I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by the countryside on this leg of our road trip. I kept saying to myself ‘this is Alabama’.
It’s certainly a lesser-known side to the state, and I hope this article, my photos and my video help to showcase that and you enjoy some of this beautiful state. Alabama I’ll see you again soon.