Little River Canyon is easily one of the most beautiful outdoor destinations in the Birmingham area, affording excellent hiking, challenging whitewater and climbing, and one of the best swimming holes in the country.
Located in the northeast corner of Alabama, Little River Canyon national preserve is a great day trip from the Birmingham area. While the river itself is infamous for the fact that it flows for most of its length along the top of Lookout Mountain, the real reason to make the trip is to check out the amazing scenery and do a little exploring. Of course if you’re looking for a little more serious adventure there’s climbing and whitewater paddling in the LRC as well.
What Makes It Great
Start your visit at the falls overlook located on the southeast side of the canyon where highway 35 crosses over the river. From here you’ll be able to get an overview of the preserve and take a gentle walk down to the river’s edge for an up close view of the waterfalls. Depending on the season and the recent rainfall, the falls can be either an impressive torrent or a light trickle. Either way if you’re here in the warm summer months, join the locals for a refreshing dip in the pool below the falls.
From here the best option is to cross the river and turn south on Highway 176 (Canyon Rim Drive) for a scenic drive along the canyon rim. There are options where you can stop to take in the view or hike down one of the several trails to get to the canyon floor. Our favorite trip is to enjoy the scenery on the rim and end up at the bottom of one of the steepest roads you’ll drive in the south at Canyon Mouth Park. Here you can swim, hike along a gentle 2 mile trail or just relax at one the picnic tables in this park.
For the serious adventurer with the skills and equipment to tackle a Class V river run or 5.10c climbing routes, the LRC is one of the best destinations in the state for both. The whitewater here is considered the premier run in Alabama with 3 distinct sections each offering up high-quality Class IV-V rapids. The climbing is also some of the highest quality sandstone in the south, but access and into the canyon and the climbing itself are challenging. Most of the routes are 5.10 and above and bolts tend to place 30 feet off the ground to discourage inexperienced climbers from getting in over their heads. But if you possess the requisite skills for either of these activities then by all means make this a top priority trip.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone who loves outdoors adventure! Hiking may be the best way to take it all in and can inspire other sport adventures to Little River Canyon in the future. The easy to access natural features are good for families.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Per the NPS site:
Our address is:
4322 Little River Trail NE Fort Payne, AL 35967
Since this is a fairly new address, most GPS units cannot find us. If not, try using this address: 472 Alabama Highway 35, Fort Payne, AL 35967 or give us a call at 1-256-845-9605.
Canyon Mouth Picnic Area is the only area with a fee.
Canyon Mouth Picnic Area has a $3 parking fee per vehicle. No matter how many people in the vehicle, the fee is only three dollars. (No checks accepted, only cash or seasonal pass). Seasonal passes can be purchased for $10 and can be purchased by mail by sending a check for $10 made out the "National Park Service". Mail to Little River Canyon National Preserve, 4322 Little River Trail NE, Suite 100, Fort Payne, AL 35967. Please make sure that your name and correct return address are marked clearly in your request.
There are no fees to tour the Scenic Drive, Little River Falls or the Backcountry Area.
SPECIAL USE PERMIT FEES
Special Use Applications for special events can incur a processing fee of $50 or more depending on the type of event.