Fall in the South is more fleeting than fall in the North. Even within southern states, the changing color of the leaves happens faster and earlier in some places than others. If you don’t want to miss out, it’s best to have the car gassed up and ready to go before the leaves drop and the splendor is gone for another year.
Thankfully, the southern Alabama town of Dothan holds the amazing National Peanut Festival each year in the fall, and serves as a great starting point for a fall foliage road trip to central and northern Alabama.
The festival celebrates the annual peanut harvest, and takes place every year over the course of 10 or so days in early November. Most folks don’t know that a quarter of all the peanuts produced in the United States are harvested in this southern pocket of Alabama.
Why not make a weekend of it, enjoy the peanut festivities, then head north for a full fall immersion? We put together this road trip itinerary for you to enjoy some of best color the state has to offer come fall. Before leaving Dothan, gear up for the hikes along the way at Eagle Eye Outfitters.
From scarecrows to Oak Mountain
Visit the Dothan Botanical Gardens any time in the month of October to see Scarecrows in the Gardens, the town’s annual scarecrow building contest. The winners receive cash based on creativity, originality, and adherence to the year’s theme as determined separately by both a panel of judges and the community. You can walk around and check out each of the year's entries.
Your next stop should be Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham—Alabama’s biggest, with more than 10,000 acres of land. It’s more than a three-hour drive from Dothan on U.S. Highway 231 North and Interstate 65 North, but the waterfalls and overlooks are well worth the time spent in the car. You’ll pass through Montgomery and several small Alabama towns. Stop and have lunch somewhere along this route, before arriving at the state park.
Once you arrive at Oak Mountain, make your way to the Peavine Overlook and Peavine Falls. The overlook is an easy quarter mile from the parking lot and reveals a panoramic vista overtop the state park. With more than 50 miles of trails, the state park is a great place to work in a hike, however short or long you’d like.
Birmingham to Palisades Park
Call it a night by driving just 30 minutes north to Birmingham via U.S. 65. Have a good dinner in the city and a find a cozy bed. We recommendHot and Hot Fish Club, a farm-to-table, Southern fare joint, serving fish straight from the Gulf. It’s in a charming, historic building and boasts a solid wine list. There are several hotels nearby, so finding a place to call home for the night will be an easy task.
Have breakfast in Birmingham or skip it to make an early start for Palisades Park, an hour away via State Highway 75 North. Be sure to stop at the Horton Mill Bridge—one of the highest covered bridges in the nation, rising 70 feet over the Black Warrior River. If you’re chasing nostalgia, a covered bridge is a great detour.
Located in the Oneonta, Alabama area, Palisades Park is part of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and offers beautiful fall colors as the leaves change. With eight nature trails, take the time for a short hike in the 100-acre park.
Cheaha State Park back to Dothan
Once you’ve finished exploring Palisades Park, head about 90 minutes south to Cheaha State Park, by way of U.S. 231 South and U.S. 20 East. You’ll then take State Highway 281 to the state park. As it happens, the highest point in the park is the highest point in Alabama, rising to more than 2,400 feet above sea level. Its elevation alone guarantees beautiful views. If you’d like to explore by foot, there are several short hiking trails, including to several waterfalls.
Once you’ve wrapped up your exploration of the fall colors in northern Alabama, you can head south, back toward Dothan whenever you’d like. It’s about three and a half hours straight south, though we recommend stopping for a late lunch or early dinner on your southward journey. You’ll take State Highway 49 South to State Highway 77 South, later hopping on U.S. 85 South. From U.S. 85, you’ll State Highway 169 South to U.S. 431 South, right back to Dothan.
Along the way, you’ll pass through Auburn, home of Auburn University and a great town to grab a bite before returning to Dothan. You’ll also pass through the charming town of Eufaula, Alabama, famous for its tree-lined streets. And if you feel like squeezing in one more detour, Lake Eufaula is alsa little further south.
This two-day loop is about 10 hours worth of driving altogether and worth all the scenery it delivers. Take lots of photos along the way. We’d love to see them if you do.
The North Face at Eagle Eye Outfitters
Eagle Eye Outfitters is an independent outdoor lifestyle retailer in Dothan, Alabama. With a dedicated staff of outdoor enthusiasts and tech geeks, Eagle Eye offers the very best in outdoor apparel and equipment from The North Face, to ensure that our customers are comfortable, safe and outfitted for anything the outdoors can throw at them.
Originally written for Eagle Eye Outfitters.