As the southern point of the Appalachian mountains, there are plenty of cool things to do in Northern Alabama for nature lovers. Moreover, the Tennessee River flows across the area creating rivers, mountains and lakes. For example, the biggest lake in Alabama, Lake Guntersville, is created from the Tennessee River. The state parks in North Alabama, such as Lake Guntersville State Park, offer plenty of adventure activities. Alternatively, explore the great outdoors in the Bankhead National Forest, delve into caves in North Alabama like Cathedral Caverns State Park or enjoy the many waterfalls in Northern Alabama like at the High Falls County Park. Here is our pick of the nature-related things to do in North Alabama.
5 State Parks in North Alabama
You should consider visiting at least one of the state parks in North Alabama on any road trip in or through Alabama. In terms of nature things to do, Northern Alabama has two state parks well known to many people, Lake Guntersville and Cathedral Caverns State Park.
The Alabama State Parks Reservation website lets you make bookings easily online for the state parks in North Alabama.
Monte Sano State Park
One of the great things to do near Huntsville, Monte Sano State Park hass more than 2,000 acres of the most stunning mountainous forest. Since the 19th century, Monte Sano State Park Alabama has been a refuge for people coming for the health benefits of time spent in nature.
Things to do on Monte Sano State Park Huntsville AL include:
- 20 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles of biking trails
- a playground for younger kids
- a disc golf course
- the Wernher Von Braun Planetarium
- the North Alabama Japanese Garden
Huntsville is an easy 2 hour drive via Interstate 65 South from Nashville Tennessee or a slightly shorter 1.5 hour drive via Interstate 65 North from Birmingham Alabama.
Book online at the Alabama State Parks reservation website for one of the cabins or campsites if you want to stay overnight at Monte Sano State Park Alabama.
Address: 5105 Nolen Ave. Huntsville, AL 35801
Cathedral Caverns State Park
This is another of Alabama’s unique attractions and the Cathedral Caverns near Guntersville Alabama are a must-see when visiting northern Alabama.
These caves in North Alabama boasts some of the most amazing formations; stalagmites and stalactites that are tall, thin, wide, and just plain mind-boggling. At Cathedral Caverns State Park Alabama shows it has a temperate climate (ok, its only inside the caverns!). The temperature is a 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round.
The Cathedral Caverns Alabama state park offers both cave tours as well as gemstone mining activities for kids. Hikers will like the 5 and 1/2 miles of trails available to them.
Cathedral Caverns in Alabama offers primitive camping and backcountry camping. An improved campground feature is still under construction. There are 4 cabins onsite at Cathedral Caverns State Park as well.
Like Lake Guntersville below, Cathedral Caverns in Alabama is easy to reach from Birmingham Alabama (1.5 hours), Huntsville Alabama (1 hour), Atlanta Georgia (3 hours) and Nashville Tennessee (2.5 hours).
Address: 637 Cave Road Woodville, AL 35769
Lake Guntersville State Park
If you are looking for things to do in North Alabama for the whole family, look no further than Lake Guntersville State Park.
Among the many things to do at Lake Guntersville State Park are:
- the Eagles Nest golf course
- the Screaming Eagle Zipline
- fishing, boating and kayaking
- horseback riding
Lake Guntersville Park has fantastic lodging, including tent camping, RV camping, cabin camping and the gorgeous Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge.
Lake Guntersville is easy to reach from Birmingham Alabama (1.5 hours), Huntsville Alabama (1 hour), Atlanta Georgia (3 hours) and Nashville Tennessee (2.5 hours).
Address: 1155 Lodge Dr. Guntersville, AL 35976
Buck’s Pocket State Park
Visiting Buck’s Pocket State Park is one of the best things to do in Northeast Alabama. Buck’s Pocket State Park is created by a canyon of the Appalachian Mountains as they pass through the area.
Sauty Creek, a tributary of the Tennessee River, is one of the premier kayaking creeks in the state. The water runs strong from December to March. There is also an Off-road Vehicle Trail that runs 6.2 miles alongside the creek.
There are 10 miles of hiking trails at Buck’s Pocket State Park Alabama. The scenic backdrop of Point Rock Overlook makes it a popular photography spot.
Various types of camping are available, as well as RV hook-ups for those who like to camp in style.
Buck’s Pocket State Park is easy to reach from Birmingham Alabama (1.45 hours), Huntsville Alabama (1.5 hours), Atlanta Georgia (3 hours) and Nashville Tennessee (2.45 hours).
Address: 393 County Road 174 Grove Oak, AL 35975
DeSoto State Park
Perched atop Lookout Mountain, DeSoto State Park is one of the best things to do in Northeast Alabama. The views from Lookout Mountain are nothing short of spectacular.
DeSoto State Park Alabama is known for its great hikes and panoramic views set in a landscape of waterfalls and wildflowers.
The waterfalls in North Alabama are most prevalent in spring and late fall/winter. The DeSoto State Park in Alabama has 8 of the waterfalls in Northern Alabama. The tallest and easiest to reach is DeSoto Waterfall which has a nice picnic area near it too.
Things to do in DeSoto State Park in Alabama include all sorts of water-based and land-based actives, such as
- 30 miles of hiking and biking trails
- horseback riding
- land based adventure sports like bouldering and repelling
- water based fun like kayaking and fishing
- accessible board walk trail
- Screaming Eagle Zipline
- interpretive centre with family-friendly educational activities.
There is plenty of lodging options in DeSoto State Park as well. There is even a motel onsite, the Lodge and Mountain Inn & Restaurant. Self-catering options range from cabins to tent camping and RV camping.
DeSoto State Park is easy to reach from Birmingham Alabama (2.5 hours), Huntsville Alabama (1.5 hours), Atlanta Georgia (2.5 hours) and Nashville Tennessee (2.5 hours).
Address: 7104 DeSoto Parkway NE Fort Payne 35967
Other Outdoor Places To Visit in North Alabama
Beyond the state parks in Alabama sampled above, there are plenty of nature related things to do in Northern Alabama from wildlife refuges to local parks and small nature trails. You don’t need to commit to even a full-day outing to experience outdoor things to do in North Alabama.
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1938, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge started off as a rest stop for migrating birds especially Canadian geese and ducks. There are also lots of other animals that call Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge home including several endangered species. On the 35,000 acres, you have areas the wildlife need including agricultural fields, swamps and caves.
Located in Decatur, Alabama, visitors at the Wheeler NWR come to fish, hunt and hike. Other visitor activities include boating, cycling and horseback riding. There is a visitor centre that provides regular family-friendly programming.
Address: 3121 Visitor Center Rd, Decatur 35603
Bankhead National Forest
Located in northwest Alabama, Bankhead National Forest covers an area of approximately 180,000 acres. A part of the Bankhead National Forest, 25000 acres, has been set aside as the Sipsey Wildnerness.
Bankhead National Forest is so large that it has 6 recreation areas offering fishing, camping and hiking. A couple of the campgrounds even has hookups for RV vehicles.
There are over 90 miles of hiking, cycling and horseback riding trails plus an ATV trail. Bankhead also has quite a few waterfalls in North Alabama, earning it the nickname “The Land of 1000 Waterfalls”. Some of the waterfalls are easy hikes to reach. For example, the Kinlock Falls and Caney Creek Falls, the most photographed waterfall in Alabama, are mere 1/2 mile or 1 mile hikes, respectively.
Address: 1070 AL-33, Double Springs, AL 35553
High Falls County Park
High Falls County Park is located near Lake Guntersville and is home to the beautiful High Falls waterfall Alabama’s best kept secret. The High Falls Park Alabama waterfall has an impressive wide span of 25 feet and drops 35 feet down. There is both a natural bridge at the bottom of the falls and a pedestrian bridge over the gorge.
There is no entry fee to High Falls Park Alabama and it is open daily. The hike down to the edge of High Falls waterfall Alabama is a bit of a hike on a paved road. Easier going down than up obviously!
Address: 969 Co Rd 144, Grove Oak, AL 35975
Natchez Trace in Alabama
Although the Natchez Trace runs for 444 miles from Mississippi to Nashville, only a 33 mile section runs through the Northwest corner of Alabama. The Natchez Trace is a historic route used for many years until the age of steamship travel made it less popular.
The Alabama section of the Natchez Trace goes through the Florence Alabama area. Cool things to see along the Natchez Trace in Alabama is Tom’s Wall (a 30 year labor of love from a Native American man commemorating the Trail of Tears his ancestor took) and Colbert’s Stand. Mr. Colbert operated a ferry and once charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry Jackson’s army across the river.
Madison County Nature Trail
The Madison County Nature trail is 1.5 looped trail in southeast Huntsville, Alabama which goes around Sky Lake. A lovely walk in all seasons, there is a charming covered bridge and log cabin on the trail.
Address: 5000 Nature Trail Rd SE, Huntsville, AL 35803
SPREAD THE WORD! PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS FOR FUTURE REFERENCE!
We did not receive compensation of any form, monetary or otherwise, from any of the products, services, hotels etc mentioned in this article.
This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.