From its shimmering waters to its lush hillsides, Lake Guntersville State Park is one of the best places in Alabama for a weekend escape. The 75-mile Guntersville Lake is perfect for long lazy days cruising in the boat and the waters are teeming with bass, which makes the lake a popular spot for anglers. The lakeshore beach is also an ideal place to relax in the sun and enjoy a family picnic. If you’re looking for a more active adventure, you can take to the hills to hike, bike, ride horses, and even zoom across ziplines.
If you’re trying to decide on a destination for a quick getaway, here are several reasons you should visit Lake Guntersville for your next weekend vacation:
Great Days on the Water
Few things are more relaxing than whiling away the hours lounging on the shore and cooling off with a dip in the lake. For a sublime day, throw the sunscreen and a book in your pack, grab your beach chair, and head to the state park’s beach complex. Open sunrise to sunset, the beach area is maintained daily for swimmers. If you’re a registered camper at the park, entry to the beach complex is free. Otherwise, there’s a modest day-use fee.
When you’re ready to explore the lake further, rent a boat and cruise along the shore or explore the many tributaries and backwaters like Town Creek. Whether you prefer a canoe, kayak, or even a pontoon boat or bass boat, you can rent just about anything from Town Creek Fishing Store located north of the park on AL-227. Canoes go for $10 an hour, while single-seat kayaks are $13 an hour, and tandem kayaks are $14 an hour. You can get discounts if you rent boats for four, eight, or 24 hours.
If you love to fish, you couldn’t ask for a better place to spend a weekend. Lake Guntersville is famous for its bass fishing, but you can also try your luck at snagging catfish, crappie, bream, bluegill, and sunfish. Before you hit the water, don’t forget to pick up an Alabama freshwater fishing license.
Hiking and Biking
While the water is a main attraction at the park, the lake is rimmed with rolling, forested hillsides that offer great opportunities for hiking and mountain biking. Lake Guntersville State Park features 36 miles of trails with seemingly countless loops that lead to scenic views and interesting historical spots. Hikers and bikers can challenge themselves on moderate to difficult paths that traverse rocky, rooted terrain and run through beautiful tunnels of mountain laurel. There are also short, easy trails where you can stroll through peaceful forests and enjoy patches of brilliant wildflowers in spring.
History buffs will appreciate hiking the 2.5-mile Lickssillet Trail, which follows a path used by Cherokee Indians in the 1800s. On the half-mile Old Still Path, you can walk to a well-preserved whiskey still that still bears the ax marks from revenuers that busted up the operation.
If you like a vacation that includes thrill rides, the park’s Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures will get your heart pounding. Beginning atop Taylor Mountain beside the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge, you’ll climb high into the tree canopy to negotiate rope bridges and zoom across ziplines. During your tour through the trees, you’ll have impressive views of Lake Guntersville.
There are two levels of aerial adventures. Level 1 includes 10 zip lines that are up to 400 feet long, plus four suspension bridges as high as 80 feet above the ground. Level 2 has 15 zip lines up to 2,000 feet long and eight suspension bridges that take you as high as 250 feet above the ground. Level 1 takes an average of one to two hours to complete and costs $55 per person. Level 2 is two to three and a half hours and costs $99 per person.
There are restrictions, and reservations are strongly recommended. Contact the attraction operator, Historic Banning Mills, at (256) 886-2517.
Lodging to Suit Every Taste
Whether you’d like to rough it in a tent or enjoy modern amenities, you’ll find park lodging that suits your taste. Lake Guntersville State Park has more than 100 primitive tent camping sites, 65 improved sites, and 229 RV sites with sewage hookup. A few of the sites are right alongside the lake, but as you can imagine, you’ll have to make your reservations well in advance to snatch a prime location. If you can’t get a lakeside site, never fear. The remaining sites are only a short walk from the water.
Keep in mind that the primitive campsites can be quite “cozy” with little room between sites on crowded weekends. On busy summer weekends and holidays, you may want to consider upgrading to an improved site.
Rates (not including tax) are $15 per night for primitive sites and $28 per night for improved sites with electricity and water. RV sites are $26 per night with water and electricity and $28 for full-hookup sites.
If you don’t want to go rustic tent camping, then upgrade to one of Guntersville’s cabins, a room in The Lodge, or one of their luxury chalets. When you stay in one of the cabins, you’ll have a patio with amazing views of the lake. Each cabin ($163 plus tax per night) has a kitchen with dishes and cookware, cable TV, two bathrooms, either a king bed or double beds, and a grill and fire ring in the backyard. There are also two dog-friendly cabins: #425 and #426.
Perched atop Taylor Mountain, The Lodge has cozy rooms ($109 per night) as well as a restaurant, large lounge areas, a pool and a vast deck overlooking the lake.
If you choose a luxury chalet ($206 + per night), you’ll enjoy rooms with floors and walls made of beautiful rich wood, plus an indoor Jacuzzi, and an outdoor hot tub.
You can’t beat a meal cooked on a barbecue. All campsites come equipped with grills, so you can fire up the burgers, hot dogs, and steaks. Also, cabins and chalets come equipped with kitchens so you can make your own home-cooked meals. But, if cooking sounds like a chore, you have other options in the park.
The first is the Pinecrest Dining Room in The Lodge, where you can sit down to a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Start your morning off right with an omelet or a buttermilk waffle with whipped cream. After a hard morning of hiking or biking, replenish your energy with a catfish or shrimp po boy sandwich. When it’s time for dinner, start with an appetizer of fried cheese curds, and then dive into a mouthwatering 12-ounce ribeye, Bourbon-glazed salmon, or a thick and juicy Lakeside Burger. Be sure you get a table on the restaurant’s outdoor seating area for beautiful sunset views while you dine.
Later in the evening, kick back and wind down with your favorite beer or soft drink at the Hickory Lounge, which is located directly across from the Pinecrest Dining Room. The lounge has billiard tables, happy hour from 3 pm to 7 pm, and a dining menu that is sure to please all.
Make it a Package Deal
The Alabama State Parks Majestic 3 Z’s package (Zip Line, Zen, and ZZZ’s) makes it easy and affordable to experience not only Lake Guntersville State Park but also other nearby parks and their attractions.
The two-person package($350) includes a bluff-side lodge room, passes to ride Screaming Eagle Zip Line Level 1, trail maps, a box lunch, tickets to Cathedral Caverns, and breakfast at the Pinecrest Dining Room. For an additional $100, you can change the room to a cabin or chalet. Additional packages ($90 each) allow you to invite your friends.
Written by Joe Cuhaj for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.