Adventure awaits in the great outdoors for grownups and kids alike. Children love the chance to explore someplace new, and the woods are the perfect place to do so. It takes a little extra planning to go backpacking with the kids in tow, but it will be worth it to see their eyes glitter at the sight of a waterfall, their cheeks flushed with excitement, and their imaginations running wild.
The options are limitless. Play hide and seek among boulders. Climb trees that grow wild and untamed. Take a dip in a cool pool at the base of a waterfall. Wake up on a crisp morning and watch the sunrise while the children sleep warmly in their tents. All of this—and more—is possible at the following Birmingham-area destinations. Choose one of these locations and make your next family backpacking trip nothing short of memorable.
1. Oak Mountain State Park
For a place that is frequented by families of all sizes and ages, Oak Mountain State Park is one of the best places for family backpacking that you can find anywhere. Covering 9,940 acres, it's no surprise that this is the largest state park in Alabama. There is much to see, particularly Peavine Falls, named for its twisting nature resembling a "peavine". There are a number of hiking trails that lead to this little treasure, many of which are navigated easily by children of all ages. And there are plenty of backcountry campsites ($6 a night), primitive campsites ($18 a night) and designated RV and car camping sites ($30 a night).
2. DeSoto State Park
For the ultimate family backpacking trip, try DeSoto State Park . Walking trails varying in difficulty, hidden waterfalls, and boulders scattered throughout the park will keep the whole family busy, sunup to sundown. Take a peaceful riverside nap at DeSoto Falls and allow the sound of rushing water to lull little ones to sleep in the warm sun. This park is also a two-in-one win, because it is only a few miles from picturesque Little River Canyon . Pick your way around trails that parallel Little River Falls to view it from various different angles, and let the little ones (and big ones, for that matter) play around on the unique, rocky terrain.
3. Noccalula Falls Park
You won't be disappointed going to a park that is built around a giant waterfall. Noccalula Falls is a 90-foot cascade, with a cavern behind it, just begging to be explored. Although this park has popular features such as a petting zoo and mini-golf course, it also has its fair share of secluded places perfect for backpacking with a family. Pet-friendly with a pool and playground, Noccalula Park offers primitive campsites with water and electrical hookups, perfect for beginner campers. And though it's about an hour and half from Birmingham's city center, it's worth the drive.
4. Brushy Lake Campground
The Brushy Lake Campground is perhaps the most primitive backpacking/camping destination on this list. Lacking the polished shine of a state park, Brushy Lake gives backpackers a more organic experience, while at the same time not being too remote for any discomfort. Brushy Lake Campground is considered a base camp for the Sipsey Wildnerness —a gorgeous area within the Bankhead National Forest. With a pristine lake, rushing waterfall, and miles of trails to explore, Brushy Lake's raw beauty is the perfect choice for a backpacking family that isn't afraid to venture off the beaten path.
5. Cheaha State Park
Take your family backpacking to Cheaha State Park , and you'll be able to see some of the state's highest mountains, most picturesque scenery, and popular hiking trails. Rock outcroppings, scenic overlooks, and hiking trails galore will keep the family wide-eyed with awe. This park provides easy access to the Pinhoti Trail , popular for hiking and backpacking (as well as mountain biking), as well as to the Chinnabee Silent Trail and the Skyway Trail. Cheaha is pet-friendly and has a gem mine for the kids to try their hand at mining. It also offers a lake with beach access that's great for lounging and swimming, and it includes a nice playground and picnic area as well. This park is a great place to scale boulders, traverse ridgelines, and find photo ops that you won't get anywhere else. It will leave the whole family begging to return.