The beauty in north Alabama runs deep – literally. From the depths of Cathedral Caverns to the mountaintop vistas at Lake Guntersville State Park, the landscape diversity and natural beauty are world-class. As if that weren’t enough to enjoy, nationally renowned artisans, award-winning local wineries, and mouthwatering local eateries satisfy every appetite for a multi-day adventure.
I grew up a stone’s throw away from north Alabama; however, I hadn’t taken the time to explore there until recently. But now that I’ve been, I keep going back more and more seemingly never seeing the same thing twice.
One of my recent adventures began in DeSoto State Park, near Ft. Payne, Alabama. The gorgeous mountain scenery and a walk in the woods were just what I needed to stretch my legs and breathe the fresh clean mountain air. After a short hike to soak up the bliss, I replayed the childhood joy of casting stones in a small lake as a couple of kayakers paddled in the still waters. The thought of unsent emails, texts, and other work began to melt away as I listened to the rhythmic slap of the paddles on the water and the thunk of rocks splashing down.
With peace of mind restored, I ventured a short drive to Little River Canyon National Preserve. Here erosion is a work of art, and I could see how Little River has taken its time – some say millions of years – to craft a 600-foot limestone cavern into Lookout Mountain.
The cavern is visible from numerous viewpoints along the Canyon Rim Drive, and the lookout points along the rim are undeniably beautiful. However, venturing below the rim reveals the cascading Little River Falls and the small reflecting pools formed at the top. These pools stirred my own reflections amid the lush green forest and blue skies, and it was life imitating art as my energy and peace were restored.
Refreshed and enthusiastic, I was off to my next destination, Cathedral Caverns State Park, located off the beaten path near Woodville, Alabama. Because of its rural location, this park is one of those places that require effort and desire to visit. After passing verdant farms, grazing cows, and an occasional tractor on the road, I arrived. The cavern is well-kept and offers guided tours several times daily. The 90-minute tour was the perfect amount of time to admire the dramatically lit stalactites and stalagmites. Although the journey to the destination was relaxing on its own, the tucked away cavern was a happily discovered gem.
Lake Guntersville State Park was the final destination of my three-night odyssey through north Alabama. I overnighted in the park lodge with a lovely patio overlooking the lake. As tempting as it was to sit back and enjoy the view, I didn’t linger; I had to explore. Although the zipline called my attention, I chose a more sublime experience. I rode past the 18-hole golf course on the way to the lake below. My goal was to arrive at the water’s edge before sunset; however, there were too many pleasant distractions along the way including a family of deer enjoying their early evening dinner on the roadside. After meandering through the campground and boat launch area, I arrived at a remote spot on the lake just in time to catch a beautiful sunset. In this exquisite moment, my quest for serenity was complete.
Three state parks and a national preserve in four days are a lot to see. I could have easily stayed four days in a single location. There’s so much to enjoy for the entire family in such a small region. With easy access from two major interstates, well-maintained lodges and plenty of campgrounds, plus an abundance of diverse natural beauty, it’s as worthy as any global destination I’ve visited. I’m thankful I had time and space to enjoy it for myself.
This story was sponsored by our friends at the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. Learn more at northalabama.org.