Spring is the perfect time for a road trip in Alabama. As the cold gives way to mild weather and we gain back an hour of daylight, people start itching to get outdoors. It’s also the season when rivers and streams swell and increase the power of waterfalls throughout the state.
Boasting about 132,000 miles of rivers and streams, Alabama is home to more waterfalls than you can see in a lifetime. But, it’s never too late to start ticking off as many as you can. If you’re looking for a new adventure, load your hiking and camping gear into the car and hit the road to see some of the state’s best falls. To help you map out your trip, we’ve put together a three-day itinerary that takes you to some of Alabama’s most amazing waterfalls.
Start your journey in Birmingham at Oak Mountain, one of the most popular state parks in Alabama. Peavine Falls is a narrow waterfall that needs a decent rain get roaring, but there is always some amount of flow down this steep, 65-foot drop.
A winding mountain road leads to the parking lot for the falls, and a half-mile hike over moderate terrain leads you to the top. Like most waterfalls, the best view is from the base, which is accessible down a much steeper and rocky trail. It can be a challenge, but the descent adds to the adventure and is doable for most. At the bottom, you can cool your feet in refreshing mountain water and enjoy the view.
From Oak Mountain, drive about an hour and a half northeast to Gadsden, home to Noccalula Falls, one of the most impressive waterfalls in the state. Located in Noccalula Falls Park and Campground, the falls run off Black Creek into a canyon 90 feet below.
It’s possible to hike, drive, or ride a park train to the waterfall, so people of all abilities can access it. But, to get the most intense experience, you must hike down to the base. Once you’re there, you can walk behind the falls get some great photographs. For a challenging hike, take the 1.7 mile Black Creek Trail to the falls. After you walk about a half-mile, you’ll make a steep, rocky descent down to the base of the waterfall.
After a day of exploring the falls, settle in for the night in Noccalula Park where you’ll find campsites for tents campers and RVs, plus two-bedroom cabins that have a fireplace and full kitchen. When you’re not exploring the falls, you can take advantage of many other park activities, including mini golf and a petting zoo. If you’d rather stay in a hotel, you’ll find a wide range of options in nearby Gadsden.
Begin your second day by driving northeast on I-59 for 45 minutes to Fort Payne, where you will find Alabama’s highest above-ground waterfalls in nearby DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon.
DeSoto Falls are in DeSoto State Park close to Mentone. You can drive right up to the lookout point for an unencumbered view of this roaring 104-foot wall of water that’s created as a fork of Little River plunges from Lookout Mountain. For a magnificent sight after a hard rain, head down the pathway to the base of the falls for a heart-pounding view with no barrier between you and the falls.
To reach the base of the falls, you can also take a tricky, little-traveled trail on County Road 613. It’s not for the inexperienced nor faint-of-heart. To reach the path, take County Road 89, and turn left onto Dekalb County Road 613. Travel a half-mile and park next to the trail at a small pull-off area that fits a couple cars.
After you’ve explored DeSoto Falls, travel south on AL-35 for a little less than 30 minutes to easily accessible Little River Falls. There is no real hike to view the falls, and it’s a short walk down to the overlook. This is a popular place to swim once it warms up, and you may even witness a brave kayaker navigating the 30-foot drop.
About 700 feet deep and 11 miles long, Little River Canyon is home to quite a few impressive waterfalls, including the highest above-ground waterfall in the state. Grace’s High Falls is easily viewed from the overlook on Canyon Rim Drive, but it’s fickle and only flows in the rainy seasons. While DeSoto and Little River Falls are the two tallest in the area, other smaller falls like Laurel, Indian, Lost, and Martha’s are a short drive away, and you don’t have to hike far to reach them.
After you’ve toured fall in the area, you can camp or stay in a cabin at DeSoto State Park, or find accommodations in nearby Fort Payne. But, you might want to get a head start on traveling to your next destination and head west toward the Bankhead National Forest. After driving about an hour you, can stop and stay the night in Cullman, which is only 30 minutes from the next day’s adventure. The Cullman Campground, Sportsman Lake Park, and Smith Lake Park are good options for camping, and there are several chain hotels in town.
You can’t go on a road trip of Alabama waterfalls without a trek to the Bankhead National Forest and Sipsey Wilderness, nicknamed the “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls.” Unlike the easy-to-view falls of DeSoto and Little River, these cascades require a little more effort to reach. Two of the most beautiful and serene found here are Sougahoagdee Falls and Caney Creek Falls.
To reach Sougahoagdee Falls, take Hickory Grove Road through Bankhead National Forest to a trailhead located north of the Capsey Creek Bridge. You’ll hike 1.9-miles, passing many small waterfalls before you reach the grand finale, a curtain of water that drops more than 50 feet. The roughly 4-mile round-trip hike isn’t strenuous, but you will encounter some unmarked trails, fallen debris, and creek crossings.
Caney Creek Falls is one of the few Alabama waterfalls that isn’t rain-dependent and will flow year-round. The falls are one of the most visually-stunning due to the height, flow, and surrounding foliage. To get there, drive to the Bankhead Ranger District Office in Double Springs. From there, travel north on Highway 33 for three miles, and turn left onto County Road 2. Travel almost four miles and park at a pull-off near the mailbox marked 9916. Nearby you’ll find the gate that marks the way to Caney Creek Falls. The easy walk to the waterfall is only about a mile.
Written by Hap Pruitt for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL.