Featuring over 50 photos from the state parks in northeast Alabama
Any visit to an Alabama state park is a great Southern outing. I hope you enjoy my photo galleries and information about the special places in my part of the South. The state parks feature below include:
It doesn’t get any better than the waterfront mountains you find at Lake Guntersville State Park
Lake Guntersville State Park is one of Alabama’s top three state parks. It has so much going for it including a great lodge with a restaurant, meeting rooms, patios and a pool that all overlook Lake Guntersville from atop a small mountain.
Other features include chalets, cabins, semi-tame whitetail deer, over 35 miles of hiking trails (officially) with many more when you include the newer horse trails and mountain-biking connectors, a gorge known as Town Creek Canyon, a challenging golf course, zip lines, an RV campground and a beach.
Naturally, it’s a great place to launch a watercraft for just about any kind of boating or fishing endeavor.
It’s easy to get to from the cities of Guntersville, Albertville, Fort Payne and Huntsville.
On the day of the tornado outbreak of April 2011, the majestic pine trees at the RV campground and the primitive campsites at Town Creek were wiped out, and some of the forested areas were decimated. But even if it’s now missing some great trees due to the storm, it’s still a great place to spend a few hours, a weekend or a full vacation.
Lake Guntersville State Park gallery
My favorite thing about Lake Guntersville State Park is how easy it is to enjoy the natural beauty of the woods. Whether you park at a trailhead, lodge or near the RV campround, you’ll be only steps away from walking into a canopy of trees.
There are areas of hiking trail where you’re making your way through boulders, or past big rock formations. You’ll cross rocky streams. You can choose to hike where there’s a view of the lake or where there’s steep rolling hills in dense hardwood forest.
You will often see deer, whether it’s on a hiking trail, the campground or the golf course. You may see bald eagles anywhere on the lake side of the park including the gorge.
See also, my article: A hiker’s guide to the trails at Lake Guntersville State Park.
You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a wild forest-lake setting thanks to Buck’s Pocket State Park
Buck’s Pocket is a captivating gorge made by South Sauty Creek as it carved it’s way from Sand Mountain to the Tennessee River.
The center of the park where the RV camping, playground and office are located was closed from 2015 to June 2020 following the tornado outbreak of April 2011 and some state budgeting decisions that came soon after.
But, it’s time for a comeback, and thanks in part to a great group of volunteers, a grand reopening on June 15, 2020 marked a historic day for this park.
Around 2016, the park received a $526,000 grant to help establish an off-road vehicle (ORV) trail. That new 6-mile winding path and the restored RV campground are the main things that are new.
Buck’s Pocket is a great place for hiking, sightseeing, fishing, outdoor photography and birdwatching. The tornado and the budgeting decisions didn’t affect most of the woods, or the creeks or waterfalls.
The tornado damaged mostly trees, and it’s heartbreaking to see the tall pines and hardwoods that once supplied a wonderful canopy either broken or gone, especially along the road to Point Rock. But the park’s best features like the creekside campground, the trails where several rock formations and cascading mountain streams are found, and the creek and lake views, make for an unforgettable setting. I never grow tired of visiting the park’s amazing geological marvels such as creekbed boulders that are bigger than blue whales, and the rocky bluffs.
It’s only about 11 miles from Lake Guntersville State Park to the Morgan’s Cove part of Buck's Pocket, so it makes a good side trip if you’re a hiker, bird watcher or outdoor photographer spending time in the area. It’s easy to get to from Guntersville, Albertville, Scottsboro or Fort Payne.
My favorite Buck’s Pocket hikes are the Point Rock trail and following South Sauty Creek to Morgan’s Cove on the rugged dirt road or along the creekbed if the water level allows. Since the fall of 2019, I have enjoyed several hikes on the paths that are now part of the ORV trail system.
The Morgan Cove boat ramp area features a stop on the wonderful North Alabama Birding Trail.
Buck’s Pocket gallery
For more about the park, see my featured article: A guide to the trails at Buck’s Pocket State Park.
There’s something special about the river, streams and wildflowers at DeSoto State Park
Near Fort Payne and Mentone, DeSoto is one of the best places on Lookout Mountain for hiking, camping, nature photography and bird watching (I have seen kingfishers and pileated woodpeckers in the park). It’s also good for mountain biking or for enjoying a couple of nights in a cabin, chalet or lodge room.
The west fork of Little River flows all along the park’s eastern edge. A few cascading mountain streams are scattered around the densely-wooded park. One easily-accessible stream in the center of the park provides four named small waterfalls.
The park also features some large sandstone formations, a playground, some picnic pavilions and a nice pool. There is now a zip line course, as well.
A centrally-located store serves as an RV check-in post, the park’s information center and a place to get supplies.
Over at the lodge there is an excellent restaurant in an old part of the building that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.
The varied terrain and geological features results in a diverse set of hiking trails. You can hike through riverside rhododendron and mountain laurel blooms in May. You can hike on a boardwalk. You can hike on a trails that stay within earshot of the cascading stream. You can hike to the highest-elevated point of the park and back. You can discover a hidden waterfall, a ravine or an old rock quarry.
DeSoto State Park oversees the magnificent DeSoto Falls which is located almost six miles north of the park. The falls with its dam and lake is a popular place for hiking, canoeing, and, in the summertime, swimming.
DeSoto State Park gallery
Desoto Falls gallery
I discovered an amazing new video featuring DeSoto Falls. It was produced by Ron Burkett. Check it out:
My favorite thing about DeSoto State Park? A river runs through it. And the streams that make their way to the river feature some nice cascades and waterfalls.
If you're a hiker, DeSoto is a great place for enjoying a variety of points of interest while exploring the woods. Check out my other article to learn more about its best trails: A hiker’s guide to DeSoto State Park’s best trails.
There’s more than an epic cave to be explored at Cathedral Caverns State Park
The state government acquired Cathedral Caverns in 1987, but it wasn’t until about 2000 that it was designated as a state park.
It’s known for it’s huge cave entrance and it’s extraordinary stalagmites. One stalagmite is over 200 feet in circumference, and another is only 3 inches wide.
Access to the cave is only available on paid tours. Details.
The park is just under 500 acres, and it’s ridgeside location makes for a picturesque setting. They have a few sites for RV camping and also a primitive camping area. There are about 5 miles of hiking trails.
See my hiking trail article: From pictureque valley to timbered mountaintop: Hiking at Cathedral Caverns State Park.
Fall colors at the parks
When you mix hardwood trees, ridges, rivers, lakes, gorges and ravines at the state parks of northeast Alabama, you get some amazing places to view fall colors. Even years when the overall autumn hues are a little disappointing in this part of the South, the colors around bodies of water can be amazing.