It’s free to see these 5 northeast Alabama treasures

Plan to see one or more of these beautiful, free-to-enjoy places on your next road trip across northeast Alabama

Thanks to features such as mountains, lakes, waterfalls and canyons, the top right corner of Alabama is blessed with gorgeous scenery. A good number of captivating historic landmarks can also be found in a variety of settings.

If you are looking for things to do within a one- or two-hour drive of Atlanta, Birmingham or Chattanooga, make sure to consider visiting these locations, which are some of the best sights in northeast Alabama. Not only are the places shown below free to see, they are also very easy to get to since each is on, or only a few yards from, the road that got you there.

Whether you’re a tourist or resident, you’re sure to find a streetscape or scenic vista below that will inspire you to drive to one or two of them the next time you are in the region.


Downtown Huntsville’s public square and Twickenham historic district


Above: The Southside Square portion of Huntsville’s historic public square

The Huntsville historic public square, which is mostly commercial buildings, and the Twickenham Historic District, which is mostly residential, sit adjacent to each other in the downtown area.

This trip idea is on this list because of how easy it is to take a look at some of the Deep South’s most visually appealing historic streetscapes. If you think you might enjoy a walking tour that includes seeing dozens of homes that are between 140 and 210 years old, spectacular 19th-century churches and what may be the state’s best historic courthouse square, you should love it.

Map to Southside Square

For more information or to see more historic Huntsville streetscapes, see the articles:

Huntsville historic places part 1

Huntsville historic places part 2: Twickenham Historic District

Summertime in beautiful historic downtown Huntsville


 The deep gorge scenic overlooks at Little River Canyon

Above: Looking downstream at the Wolf Creek Overlook

At least seven of the nine overlooks at Little River Canyon provide amazing panoramic scenery. But as the river carves its way deeper and deeper towards the Coosa River valley, the more jaw-dropping the views become.

I would always recommend a visit that includes all nine scenic overlooks, but taking in the views from the four that allow you to see the gorge from at least 250 feet above the surface of the river is a must for anyone who is looking for an easy way to explore the great outdoors. As a group, those four will make every year’s list of must-see sights of northeast Alabama. They include:

  • Canyon Overlook
  • Wolf Creek Overlook (MAP)
  • Crow Point
  • Eberhart Point

For details, a scenic overlook map and more photos, see Little River Canyon: A first-time visitor’s sightseeing guide.


Downtown Gadsden historic places

Less than an hour’s drive from Birmingham, and an easy two from Huntsville, Chattanooga or Atlanta, downtown Gadsden would surprise most historic place tourists with its size and scope. The historic commercial district spans over a dozen big city blocks, and the adjacent historic residential neighborhoods feature some striking late 19th-century houses spread across several square miles.

It’s easy to take in the best historic sights with a couple of self-guided walking tours. Parking is easy throughout the downtown area.

See my feature article about downtown Gadsden: Gadsden Alabama’s enduring historic downtown.


Find a place or two to enjoy the best scenery at Guntersville Lake

Above: Guntersville Lake at Honeycomb

Guntersville Lake, the state’s largest impoundment, features countless scenic vistas. It’s such a prominent part of the northeast Alabama landscape, something must be said about it in a list like this. 

Of all the locations at the lake that are open to the public — if I have to narrow it down to one — I would give the edge to the lakefront at Honeycomb. The layered look of the mountains — some are close and some are a good distance away — provides unsurpassed lakescapes whether you are on the shore or in a boat.

There’s a campground, condos, a large boat storage facility and a boat dealership at Honeycomb. There’s also a TVA-owned public boat launch area and hiking trail. (MAP)

Other top places to take in some great lake scenery include, but are not limited to, the Scottsboro City Park, the Guntersville Sunset Drive parks, Morgan’s Cove and Town Creek.

Of course, there are many other locations along the expansive shoreline. And, there are a few mountain bluff locations where you can enjoy the lake from a higher point of view.

To find out more about various locations where you can enjoy Guntersville Lake’s scenery, and to see more photos, see my article: Top 16 public spots for enjoying Guntersville Lake.


 Noccalula Falls in Gadsden

The amazing waterfall is the main attraction of the park’s free-admission area. It also features hiking and mountain-bike trails, and some nice creekside green space. Hike a little to enjoy the falls from underneath its massive rock overhang, and some amazing creek vistas downstream from the falls.

You can easily get a good look at the waterfall from different angles, all within walking distance of a couple of large parking lots right off Hwy. 211 less than 2.5 miles from I-59 at exit 188. (MAP)

See also: Where to enjoy some waterside fun on your next trip to Gadsden.