A remarkable number of waterfalls are scattered about the mountains and canyons of Alabama, from the northern part of the state to areas just south of Birmingham. One of the most popular destinations, the Sipsey Wilderness, is actually known as the "Land of a Thousand Waterfalls." In east Alabama, you’ll find more touristy falls, such as Noccalula in Gadsden and DeSoto Falls and Little River Falls in Fort Payne. But, hidden away in the backwoods are some gems that most people never get to see.
As you make plans to go off the beaten path to see Alabama’s hidden falls, keep in mind that some of them are seasonal and only flow during periods of rain. With that in mind, consider putting the following lesser-known waterfalls on your bucket list.
High Falls Park
Just east of Guntersville in the town of Grove Oak, High Falls Park is home to a 35-foot cascade that can measure 300 feet wide during periods of heavy rain. Now, don’t confuse this with High Falls in the Talladega National Forest. This High Falls in Grove Oak is located on Town Creek, which feeds Lake Guntersville. When you visit the park, take the trail that runs beside the falls, and then cross a pedestrian bridge to view the impressive water show. While you’re there, check out the 25-foot natural bridge that was carved out by the action of the water hundreds of years ago.
High Falls (Talladega National Forest)
Alabama’s other High Falls is located on the south end of the Talladega National Forest in Lineville. This three-tier cascade is accessible via a short but moderate 1-mile out-and-back walk on the south end of the Odum Scout Trail. Each tier of the falls is 10 to 15 feet tall, and the rush of water become more impressive after a rain, roaring down the hillside.
The trailhead is located just off of Clairmont Springs Road in Lineville, and a single National Forest sign marks the turn-off. The first part of the hike traverses rocky, boulder-strewn terrain, but you then ascend metal stairs on the side of the falls to reach the top.
Most people hike the Chinnabee Silent Trail in the Talladega National Forest to see the beautiful cascades near Lake Chinnabee and the amazing Devil’s Den. After they’ve seen these sites, hikers usually turn back and head home. But, if they were to keep going, they would encounter Cheaha Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the forest.
To reach Cheaha Falls, you can do a moderate 3-mile (one-way) hike from the lake on the Chinnabee Silent Trail, or do a 1-mile jaunt from the Turnipseed Hunting Camp on Alabama Highway 281.
Similar to High Falls, Cheaha is a beautiful three-tiered cascade that forms as Cheaha Creek tumbles down a rock face. If you’re into backpacking, you might want to do an overnight to the falls and be lulled to sleep by its rushing waters. A trail shelter is available near the falls on a first-come, first-served basis, or you can pitch a tent.
Moss Rock Preserve
As you drive through a nice residential area on your way to Moss Rock Preserve, you’ll wonder what could possibly be here for hikers and waterfall chasers. But, once you start walking the preserve’s 5 miles of trails you’ll get it, as you encounter giant boulder fields, rock shelters, a wetland, and plenty of waterfalls.
The water features are brought to you courtesy of Hurricane Branch, which swells after a good rain to form several cascades and two waterfalls, including High Falls (yes, another one) and the amazing, aptly named, Tunnel Falls, which flows under the rocks and out to the open air through a rock tunnel.
The Nature Conservancy and the Land Trust of North Alabama teamed up to protect a rare and special tract of land, the 310-acre Keel Mountain Preserve in Gurley. The preserve is the home of many rare and endangered species of plants and is littered with deep sink holes. One in particular has a name, the Lost Sink.
The highlight of a visit to the preserve is Lost Sink Falls, which tumbles down the limestone rock walls of the sink and disappears into darkness. To reach the falls, you’ll hike just 1 mile moderate terrain.
Caney Creek Falls
Every photographer who has been to Caney Creek Falls in the Bankhead National Forest will tell you it’s one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. Even so, a surprising number of people aren’t familiar with it.
While Caney Creek Falls usually flows all year, it’s still best to view it after a rainstorm, when the south fork of Caney Creek runs full and two beautiful curtains of water plunge into the broad pool below.
Falling Rock Falls
About 40 miles south of Birmingham in Montevallo, Falling Rock Falls lies within the protected confines of the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area. This spectacular 90-foot ribbon of water spills over the towering bluff and crashes onto the boulders below. Behind the falls is a rock shelter where people like to sit and watch the cascade.
A trip to Falling Rock Falls involves just a moderate, 1.4-mile out-and-back hike. But, be aware that the terrain near the falls is very slippery and it’s a long way down. Use extra caution if you go, especially if you attempt to climb down, as there have been several tragic accidents here.
After you visit Caney Creek in the Bankhead National Forest, take a short, 8.5-mile drive north on Alabama Highway 195 and walk a quarter mile to Kinlock Falls.
Measuring 20 feet wide, Kinlock Falls slides down 30 feet and drops into to a pool. Kayakers actually come here to slide their boats down the wall, and locals love this place in the summertime when they inflate their inner tubes and ride the natural Slip-n-Slide into the icy cold pool.
Some say Sougahoagdee Falls resembles their idea of Shangri-La—a large natural rock bowl is surrounded by brilliant green moss and ferns, and a 70-foot curtain of water spills over a sandstone wall.
The falls are located in the Bankhead National Forest, where the waters of Brushy Creek provide a year-round flow. Finding the falls can be difficult, because you have to walk 4.5 miles on a trail that is not maintained and traverses moderate terrain. For your first outing, join one of the WildSouth hikes, which visit Sougahoagdee Falls as well as several other smaller falls.
Tucked away in the hills and canyons of northwest Alabama in the town of Phil Campbell there is an incredible park known as the Dismal Canyon Conservatory. The canyon was designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service because of its unique moss covered geology and human history. But it’s also home to Rainbow Falls, which is formed from a pool that sits high above the canyon floor and was once part of an old mill operation. The water roars down the sandstone walls and creates Dismal Branch, which flows through the entire length of the canyon. The falls get their name from the rainbow that is seen as the sun reflects through its mist.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.