The waterfalls around Alabama are as varied and unique as the people who call the state home. And our collective fascination with these gorgeous natural formations is as old as history itself. Since the earliest human cultures and civilizations, waterfalls have served as valuable landmarks. They are as important as ever to modern-day outdoor enthusiasts, especially in a world full of screens and keyboards.
From underground behemoths that fall hundreds of feet, to those that tell tales of tragic love, to thunderous year-round wonders, these falls are accessible, family friendly, and often suitable to work into an overnight adventure. Here, five of the best waterfalls in Alabama.
1. DeSoto Falls
This thunderous 104-foot falls is located within DeSoto State Park near Mentone, which is named after Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. The West Fork of Little River plunges over Lookout Mountain about 200 yards away from a paved, pedestrian-friendly parking area. Visitors of all abilities may view the falls from the lookout point; however, a brief walk down concrete stairs is required to get the view from the bottom of the falls.
With more than 25 miles of hiking trails, 11 miles of mountain biking trails, and campsites of all varieties, there are plenty of activities available after checking out the many waterfalls. Another particularly worthy adventure destination found within the park is Little River Canyon. Little River carved this 11-mile, 700-foot deep canyon over geological time, and the impressive views are a nice reward for those who hike to the rim.
2. Caney Creek Falls
This year-round falls is located within the larger Bankhead National Forest. With everything from small rivulets that gently trail over moss-covered limestone bluffs to massive cascades that can be heard from a distance, Bankhead is famous for its diversity of falling water formations—it's even known as the “land of a thousand waterfalls." North of Birmingham and west of I-65, this location also offers hiking, biking, and overnight camping.
Caney Creek Falls is one of the most aesthetically pleasing waterfalls within the sprawling national forest due its impressive height and substantial flow. While it is perfectly suitable as a means to escape the summer heat, it's also a year-round destination, since it's one of the unique varieties of falls that does not dry up due to low seasonal rainfall. However, getting there can be a bit of a challenge as it is not practical to hike from any of the wilderness trailheads.
In order to find this hidden gem, start at the Bankhead National Forest District Rangers Office on Highway 33 about a mile north of Double Springs. Head north from the office about three miles on AL 33 before taking a left onto County Road 2. Travel approximately 3.7 miles until you see mailbox 9916 and park.
From there, seek out the nearby gate that marks the trail that leads to the falls.
3. Noccalula Falls
Located within Noccalula Falls Park near Gadsden, this 90-foot waterfall is the park's main attraction and namesake. It is also one of the most frequently visited natural landmarks in the state. Folklore tells of a Native American woman who, in protest of her father’s orders to marry a man she was not in love with, plunged into the cascading waters to her tragic death. In fact, a bronze statue of the young Cherokee woman can still be found near the rim of the falls at the entrance to the park.
Beyond the stunning falls, Etowah County is an amazing area worth visiting for an overnight excursion, as well. Noccalula Falls Park is a good home base, with campsites, cabins, and other lodging in the surrounding area. The day fee for adults is $6 and includes unlimited rides on the replica C.P Huntington train that carries visitors around a one-mile scenic loop of the park.
4. King’s Shower
Only those with caving skills may reach the singularly beautiful King’s Shower, found deep underground within Tumbling Rock Cave in Jackson County. Those who make the three-to-six hour caving expedition are richly rewarded by the behemoth falls that stretch 396 vertical feet. “Dogwood City Grotto,” “Pillar of Fire,” and “The Dome” are three formations found within the vast corridors and pathways in Tumbling Rock.
5. Grace's High Falls
The third-highest falls in Alabama (and the tallest falls above ground), this 133-foot seasonal formation is an absolute wonder to behold mainly due to its supreme height. The falls that dumps into Little Creek Canyon in DeKalb County is well worth a place on this list, but only flows during the wet season. However, you can tack on a visit to these falls along with a trip to see DeSoto Falls, as they are found within a 10-mile radius of each other.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.