When the first blast of cold air descends on Alabama, it makes us dream of cozying up to a warm fire in a rustic cabin. And for outdoor lovers in Alabama, there are three state parks where you can rent old stone cabins, many with handcrafted fireplaces and other amenities for a comfortable getaway.
While the cabins are rustic, they include creature comforts you won’t get while camping—think TVs, kitchen appliances, and showers. Plus, the great advantage of these cabins is that they lie within state parks, so you also have quick access to trails for hiking and biking. And after a day of adventure, you can relax around the fire with firewood purchased in the state park.
The cabins come with some impressive history, too: In the 1930s, members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the cabins as part of the work program that brought relief to unemployed Americans during the Great Depression.
To help you plan your retreat, we’ve detailed the features of cabins in each park, plus suggestions for outdoor activities during your stay.
Monte Sano State Park
Monte Sano State Park features 14 cabins, including 11 CCC cabins built in the Arts and Crafts style. All of the cabins, except #7 and # 8, have stone fireplaces, and some come with a screened-in porch that’s perfect for relaxing in warmer weather.
Measuring 500 square feet, the CCC cabins have a studio layout, with full and twin beds, a love seat, dining table, full bath, heat and air conditioning and cable TV. In the kitchenette there’s a microwave, oven, fridge, toaster and coffee maker.
Best picks: For more privacy, try to snag cabin #10 or #11, as these are nestled in the woods and more secluded. For a bluff view, choose #6, which also has a screened-in porch. If you bring a pet, you can stay in #7 or #8, but keep in mind that these don’t have fireplaces.
Rates: $105.06 per night, plus taxes and fees. (Two-night minimum on weekend, and three-night minimum on holiday weekends.)
Covering more than 2,000 acres, Monte Sano State Park has 22 miles of hiking, biking and running trails, and the adjacent Land Trust Monte Sano Preserve covers about 1,100 acres, with more than 20 miles of trails.
You’ll enjoy nice bluff views and easy, flat ground if you hike the South Plateau Loop in the park. For a short hiking or biking loop in the park (about 4 miles), begin at the biker’s parking lot and take the Sinks Trail to the Stone Cuts Trail and pass through a lengthy hallway of stone. From the Stone Cuts, you can retrace your steps or loop back on the Sinks Trail or Mountain Mist Trail.
For a loop hike or bike ride over diverse terrain, begin at the Land Trust Bankhead Trailhead and take the Bluff Line trail through a hardwood forest with small streams and falls. Then, turn onto the Waterline Trail to descend a singletrack path, or scramble down boulders in a creek basin to reach Three Caves, a limestone quarry dating to the 1930s. From Three Caves. The Alms House Trail weaves through remote woods to deliver you back to the trailhead.
Chewacla State Park
On the banks of Chewacla Lake in this resplendent state park, there are six rustic cabins, including five built by the CCC in the 1930s. All the cabins were renovated in 2003 (with the exception of No. 4, which is new construction) and include a kitchen with an oven and range, refrigerator, toaster, microwave, and coffee maker.
Small cabins accommodate up to four people, while the larger ones hold up to six people. The small cabins have a studio layout with a main bedroom/living area with a fireplace, a queen size bed, and a couch with a pullout full-size bed. Off the main room there’s a bathroom with a shower. Large cabins have the same layout, but with an extra bedroom.
Best Picks: All cabins have lake views, except #1 and #3.** **For the best lake views, choose #4, #5 or #6.
Rates: From $124.43 per night. Note that rates vary during Auburn home football games. Also for those game weekends, reservations are taken on special call days determined in late February and posted on the park website.
Bring your mountain bike, because Chewacla State Park is one of the best places to ride in Alabama. To experience some of the finest terrain, link together the Kick Six, Rocky Bottom, and Tiger Woods trails in Upper Chewacla. For the biggest thrill ride in the park, take Dell’s Trail and head for the Great Wall of Chewacla. After a steep and swift descent, you’ll speed across a wooden wall at a height of 10 or 15 feet above the ground. After you negotiate the wall, you’ll cross a series of serpentine bridges, skinnies, and a few pumps and jumps.
Chewacla also has several hiking trails that lead to natural and man-made waterfalls. To reach one of the most popular natural falls, you only have to hike about a mile from the parking area near the Creek View Trail. To see the most impressive flow of water in the park, take the Mountain Laurel Trail to Chewacla Falls. Formed by a dam spillway, the falls form a 30-foot curtain of water.
DeSoto State Park
DeSoto State Park’s four CCC cabins are surrounded by mountainous terrain and beautiful hardwood forest. Each cabin has a bedroom with a full-size bed, plus a living room with a fireplace, cable TV, two twin beds and one sleeper sofa. There’s also a full kitchen, one bathroom and a shower.
Best Picks: Cabin #9 is most popular due its good bluff view. Also, all cabins are pet-friendly.
Rates: $102 per night, plus 13% lodging tax
DeSoto State Park has 25 miles of hiking trails, including numerous paths that lead to waterfalls. While Laurel Falls drops only about six feet, it’s still beautiful, and you can reach it by hiking less than a mile on the Orange Trail, a rugged path with moderate climbs.
Just behind the DeSoto Lodge you can see Lodge Falls, which drops about 25 feet. But, you can get a better look at it by hiking into a ravine and walking on the Yellow Trail.
If you’d rather bike, the park also has 11 miles of trails to ride, including the easy Family Loop near the Lost Falls trailhead. While the Family Loop traverses rugged terrain, it’s generally flat. For a more ambitious ride, challenge yourself on the steep inclines of the CCC Quarry Bike Loop, or try the 3.8-mile Never-Never Land Loop, rated moderate to strenuous. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, take the DeSoto Scout Trail Exits, where bike racks and benches are located.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.