Alabama's Summer Bucket List

Alabama has 21 beautiful state parks, all with unique adventures.
Alabama has 21 beautiful state parks, all with unique adventures. Stephanie Pluscht
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Alabama summers are hot, but the season still holds a warm spot in our hearts. Maybe it’s because we have ingrained in our brains childhood memories of running around with friends, free from school, for weeks or months at a time. Whatever, the reason, the summer inspires us to plan all sorts of outdoor excursions where we can soak up the sunshine.

Of course, summer always seems to fly by. With only 14 weekends between Memorial and Labor Day, there’s no time to waste. So, consult the calendar, pull out the maps and begin plotting the next few months of fun. In case you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, we put together a list of adventures that should be on your list of things to experience in Alabama this summer.

Zipline Over Lake Guntersville on the Screaming Eagle

Known for trophy bass and bald eagle nests, Lake Guntersville is also home to one of the most exciting ziplines in Alabama. Catch a unique view of the lake on the Screaming Eagle Zip Line as you soar through the sky in a heart-pounding aerial adventure. Level 1 features 10 ziplines up to 400 feet long and 75 feet high. And, if that wasn’t enough to get the heart racing, Level 2 certainly will, with seven runs ranging from 1,400 to 2,100 feet long and up to 190 feet high.

Hop in Little River Canyon’s Hippie Hole

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There are rock slides, waterfalls, and even a few small cliffs to leap from. Tennessee Wanderer

Recognized as one of the best swimming holes in America, the Hippie Hole in Little River Canyon near Fort Payne is the perfect place to cool off this summer. There are rock slides, waterfalls, and even a few small cliffs to leap from.

Tuesday Evening Float with NACK

Kayaking is just more fun at night. Moonbeams bounce off tiny ripples, and familiar terrain takes on new life once the sun sets. North Alabama Canoe and Kayak (NACK) offers an easy way to take advantage of a summer evening paddle with its Tuesday night float. Join the group from 6-10:30 p.m. on Tuesdays for an unforgettable summer adventure.

Weekend Getaway at a State Park

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Enjoy Oak Mountain State Park. Shannon McGee

Alabama has 21 beautiful state parks, all with unique adventures, making it impossible for us to pick just one for a summer weekend getaway. Whether you rent a cabin at Monte Sano, explore the waterfall while camping at DeSoto, or run the Double Oak trail after a night of primitive camping on Oak Mountain, you can’t go wrong at an Alabama State Park.

Hike to the Highest Point in Alabama

Cheaha State Park in the Talladega National Forest is home to the highest point in Alabama at 2,407 feet. Cheaha Mountain was named by the Creek Indians that called this land home, and the name means "high place." An observation tower marks the highest point, with 360-degree views that are unlike any other in Alabama.

Start Climbing

For newbies, bouldering might seem intimidating, but if you watch someone navigate the problems at Moss Creek or Horse Pens 40, you’ll realize it’s extremely fun. To get the hang of climbing, take a class at Birmingham Bouldering or High Point Climbing and Fitness in Birmingham. A class is the best way to get a feel for the sport and learn how to enjoy climbing safely. Plus, indoor climbing allows you to get some exercise without suffering in the summer heat.

Experience Dismals Canyon

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A hike on the 1.5-mile trail on the canyon floor brings you close to this primeval swamp which was formed millions of years ago. Chuck Clark

One of most well-preserved nature sites in the world, Dismals Canyon in northwest Alabama has been designated as a National Natural Landmark for good reason. Home to a wide variety of rare vegetation, it is also one of the few places in the world where you can find Dismalites. To thrive, these bioluminescent beings need specific conditions that happen to come together in this pocket of Alabama. A hike on the 1.5-mile trail on the canyon floor takes you through the heart of a primeval landscape that formed millions of years ago.

SUP the Gulf

Summer isn’t complete without a trip to the beach, and one of the best ways to enjoy the Gulf and Alabama’s coast is with a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) trip. The Gulf of Mexico and nearby lakes and streams often offer calm, clear water and light winds, which create perfect conditions to try out a paddleboard. There is no shortage of rental shops along the coast, and you just have to make sure your beach allows outside watercraft prior to renting.

Go Whitewater Rafting in Phenix City

On the Chattahoochee River, wedged between Alabama and Georgia, you can take the longest urban whitewater rafting trip in the world. It’s a quintessential summertime experience that you would usually have to travel thousands of miles to experience. Gather a group of friends and family, load up the raft and get ready for two hours of excitement through rapids as high as Class IV. You can also book a more challenging trip with Alabama Whitewater if your group wants to test its rafting prowess.

Beat the Summer Heat in a Cave

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Explore the Cathedral Caverns by guided tour. Sumner Caughey

While you have to take a guided tour to explore Cathedral Caverns, the formations and cool temperatures during the summer months make it well worth a trip. The cave hovers around 60 degrees all year, and the entertaining tour guides share a wealth of knowledge as you cover 1.5 miles during a tour that lasts about an hour and a half. You can also make a weekend out of it, as the 500-acre park has numerous hiking trails and campsites.

Paddle the Sipsey

Northwest Alabama is full of hidden gems, including the lush and rugged Sipsey Wilderness. Known as the "Land of 1000 Waterfalls," a paddle through the Sipsey is a journey into wild Alabama, featuring towering cliffs, clear water, and raw nature.

Written by Hap Pruitt for RootsRated Media in partnership with BCBS of AL.

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