Northeast Alabama’s Guntersville Lake is at its best when the trees are adorned in the colors of summer or fall, the sky is blue, and the sun is brightly shining, rising or setting.
At nearly 70,000 acres, there are many places along the expansive shoreline of the state’s largest lake where you can enjoy the color while fishing, launching a watercraft, bird watching or simply chilling out.
An ideal visit for me is usually as simple as walking about while taking in the lakescapes or watching the sky and treetops for a glimpse of a bald eagle.
See my related articles:
Naturally, people in boats have some of the best views, and there are many beautiful places along the lake’s edge where you must KEEP OUT unless you are an owner, renter, member or registered to be there. And, that’s fantastic. But, this article addresses the public spots where anyone can enjoy the beauty of the lake without being in a boat, without owning or renting a cabin or resort property, and without camping at a gated campground.
Here are the top public spots where you can spend some quality time on the banks of Guntersville Lake.
Jackson County Park in Scottsboro
Location: 2302 County Park Rd., Scottsboro, AL 35769 / map
Owner/operator: Jackson County, Alabama (the shoreline is owned by TVA)
Jackson County Park — 256-574-4719 / web
KC’s BBQ — 256-999-0425 / Facebook
Top things to do: Have lunch or dinner at KC’s BBQ, rent a pontoon boat, fish, camp, kayak or canoe, walk or jog, have a picnic or cookout, birdwatch, swim, lakescape photography, watch sunrises and sunsets.
Dimensions of park: Approx. 67 acres including about 55 acres owned by the county and about 12 acres of TVA-owned shoreline.
The tree-filled park is on a peninsula between the Roseberry Creek and the Dry Creek portions of the lake, and west of the large River Ridge peninsula that separates Scottsboro from the main channel of the Tennessee River. A large amount of free public parking is available. A limited number of free boat slips are also available for those who are visiting the restaurant or other facilities from the river.
Look for the KC’s BBQ sign if you are arriving by boat.
The Jackson County Park has a large campground featuring space for both RVs and tents. A playground and lots of green space are near the street entrance. Other amenities include a walking trail, a fishing dock, a boat ramp and dock, a swimming dock, rental pavilion with kitchen, and new cabins that were built in 2016-17.
A business named Lakeshore Watercraft Rental and Store is located just a few yards from the lake in the heart of the park. It’s an excellent place to rent a kayak, paddle boat, paddle board or even a pontoon boat. It’s also well stocked for boaters who need to buy supplies.
Jackson County Park gallery
The Jackson County Park is a great place to visit whether you’re there to use the walking trail or fish from the banks of the lake for an hour, or you plan to spend a half day, or even for a complete vacation.
See my article, Encounter history in downtown Scottsboro.
In addition, some of Scottsboro’s other popular restaurants are only about 1.2 miles from the park.
City of Guntersville Sunset Drive linear park system
The best small city park system in northeast Alabama, it would be easy to consider this city of Guntersville collection of waterfont properties to be more than just one spot for enjoying the lake. There are a dozen places to park along this 3.4 mile long linear, waterfront greenspace. The curvy paved Sunset Drive Trail spans the entire distance.
Location: 2.4 miles along Sunset Drive and 1 mile along L.B.Wallace Drive between the Sunset Water Plant and the chamber of commerce building in Guntersville, AL 35976
Owner/operator: City of Guntersville (TVA owns the shoreline)
Contact info: 256-571-7590 (Guntersville Parks & Recreation) / Web
Top things to do: Fishing; biking, walking or jogging on the paved trail; birdwatching, including eagle-watching; take children to the playground; kayaking/canoeing; swimming; picnicking; lakescape photography, watching sunsets, enjoying fall foliage (between mid-October and early November).
Dimensions of park: It’s a ribbon of land along the lakeshore that’s very narrow in places. I estimate the entire 3.4 mile span to contain about 65-80 acres.
For this article, I’ll consider the Sunset Drive linear park to be two of the best spots to enjoy Guntersville Lake. I’ll refer to the two spots as simply the north half and the south half. The two halves are divided by the busy intersection at the Hwy. 69 causeway.
The north half has a dramatic view of the U.S. Hwy. 431 bridge, a large fishing pier, a farmers market, Rotary Park, Civitan Park, Dr. J.E. Ogletree Park, a dog park, an epic playground, a skateboard facility and more. The south half has the city’s recreation center (basketball, swimming pools and tennis courts), and a beach.
Both halves are home to baseball/softball fields. Both also feature a variety of places along the shore to walk among the trees, fish, hop in your kayak, swim, soak your feet while watching sailboats go by, have a picnic, or watch for waterfowl such as mallards, Canada Geese or Great Blue Heron.
There are a good number of majestic big-leaf pines in the park, and bald eagles are known to nest in the top of a pine tree.
North half: Guntersville Sunset Drive linear park system gallery
South half: Sunset Drive
The Sunset Drive linear park system is one of the main amenities that leads me to personally consider Guntersville to be the top small city in north Alabama for retirees who are considering relocating to the South.
Enjoying the lake is not the only reason to visit. The city of Guntersville has several other amenities that make it an excellent choice for relocation or just a weekend getaway. There are some good golf courses nearby, and they have a handsome historic downtown. See my article, Mountain-lake setting heightens the wow factor of Guntersville’s historic downtown.
Goose Pond Colony Resort in Scottsboro
Location: 417 Ed Hembree Drive, Scottsboro, AL 35769
Owner/operator: City of Scottsboro
Contact info: Main office—256-912-0592, golf course—256-912-0063, campground—256-912-0075, marina—256-912-0080 / Web
The Docks restaurant: 256-574-3071 / Facebook
Top things to do: Fishing; golfing; walking, jogging or biking on the paved lakeside path; swimming; birdwatching; launching a boat; camping; dining; lakescape photography
Dimensions of resort: 314 acres (the golf course is about half of the acreage)
The last time I played a round of golf, it was on the 18-hole course at Goose Pond Colony Resort. I hit a couple of balls into Guntersville Lake that day, and several more into the trees, streams and ponds along the fairways of the beautiful, hilly course. The lake comes into play on seven holes and, in my case, the scenery makes up for all the double and triple bogies.
The golf course is certainly a dominant feature of the peninsula where the resort sits about 6.5 miles south of downtown Scottsboro at the North Sauty Creek portion of the lake. On an island just south of the golf course, the marina with its five covered docks is another dominant feature. The wide boat ramp can handle five or six trailers at a time. They added a new dock recently, and now offer over 200 wet and over 150 dry slips, plus a repair facility.
They have 11 cottages and a 6-bedroom lodge available for overnight accommodations. The restaurant, cottages and lodge all enjoy lake views as does many of the 140-plus campsites in the RV campground.
There are several places along the lake’s edge where you can fish, birdwatch or picnic. Near the timeworn amphitheater at the southern tip of the resort, you’ll find one of the stops on the North Alabama Birding Trail. Sighting a bald eagle would not be a big surprise for a patient sky gazer.
Lake Guntersville State Park primary waterfront
This article would not be complete if the waterfront portions of Lake Guntersville State Park were not included. And three areas of the park are certainly among the best spots for enjoying the water.
First, the primary shoreline in the park contains a couple of fishing piers, a 4-lane boat ramp, a separate small boat ramp (Trail of Tears Boat Ramp), a beach and a large pavilion that’s available for family reunion type events. Picnic tables are scattered about in a couple of areas.
A big RV campground is also along the banks of the water, and it offers more amenities for the campers. Although 99 percent of the majestic long-leaf pines that were once found there were destroyed on the day of the historic April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, it’s still one of Alabama’s most popular camping destinations.
Location: 24 State Campground Rd., Guntersville will get you to the area
Owner/operator: State of Alabama (TVA owns the shoreline)
Contact info: 256-571-5440 / Web
Top things to do: Eagle and other bird watching, fishing, kayaking/canoeing, swimming (there is a fee for the beach), picnicking, hiking, lakescape photography, watching sunsets, enjoying fall foliage (between mid-October and mid-November).
Dimensions: Approx. 0.58 miles of shoreline south of the campground
Town Creek portion of Lake Guntersville State Park
Location: Town Creek Fishing Center, 11868 Hwy 227, Guntersville 35976
Owner/operator: State of Alabama (TVA owns the shoreline)
Contact info: 256-582-8358 / Web
Top things to do: Eagle and other bird watching, fishing, enjoying fall foliage (between mid-October and mid-November), horseback riding, exploring Town Creek gorge by boat, renting a boat or kayak, picnicking, lakescape photography, primitive camping, buy a fishing license.
Another area of the state park that lost most of its majestic long-leaf pines on the day of the April 2011 tornado outbreak, the Town Creek area’s beautiful cove setting is still great, and it often finds itself hosting dozens of people who are fishing along the shore or under the bridge. The boat ramp and piers stay busy.
The mountain side of the causeway at this location is one of the best spots in northeast Alabama for renting a kayak or canoe. In addition, one of the activities that participants enjoy during the Lake Guntersville State Park Eagle Awareness Weekends held in January and February is when they gather at the pier found here for the Town Creek Eagle Watch.
More Town Creek area photos
The lakefront Scottsboro City Park
Location: 1247 Winn Road, Scottsboro, AL 35769
Owner/operator: City of Scottsboro
Contact info: Scottsboro Parks and Recreation Dept., 256-259-0999 / Web
Although the sign at the entrance reads City Park, both Google and Apple maps show the picturesque park as Scottsboro Municipal Park.
Top things to do: Launch a fishing or skiing boat, kayak or canoe, fishing, walking, birding, picnicking, lakescape photography
It would be difficult to find a better setting for enjoying the lake than a hook shaped peninsula with two fishing piers, a two-lane boat ramp with a dock, a paved walking path and lots of shade.
This narrow tree-filled strip of land offers some unique views in all directions that other spots on the lake are not able to provide. Jutting out into the lake within a residential portion of the city, I’m sure many locals would like to keep this gem a secret.
This park, along with the other spots in Scottsboro listed above, the excellent golf courses and other quality of life amenities, help make the city one of the best small cities for relocating retirees.
Short Creek boat ramp area of Lake Guntersville State Park
Location: Hwy. 227 / Google map
Owner/operator: State of Alabama (TVA owns the shoreline)
Top things to do: The third spot at the state park that’s on this list, it also offers a lovely cove setting for fishing, launching a boat or personal watercraft at the small boat ramp, enjoying a picnic in the shade, enjoying fall foliage, birdwatching or hoping for a glimpse of a bald eagle.
For hikers, a trailhead for the Lower Cutchenmine Trail has recently been reopened here. So, you can park in the lot here and make your way to the main trail without having to park in the small parking space on the side of the road at the main trailhead.
The state park offers much more than the three lakeshore areas above. Learn more at alapark.com/parks/lake-guntersville-state-park.
South Sauty Creek causeway area
The South Sauty Creek Resort, the Langston Boat Ramp and bald eagles are the main features of this area. It’s a nice lake setting for the resort’s RV campgrounds that are found on each side of the causeway.
South Sauty Creek is the boundary separating Marshall and Jackson County, and you pass from one county to the other about halfway across the causeway.
You need to be a registered guest of the resort to visit the spots where some of the best views would be found. But anyone can access the Langston boat ramp or enjoy simply driving through. The Homecoming Cafe & Country Store is also open to the public.
Location: South Sauty Rd. in Marshall County
County Rd. 67 in Jackson County / Google map for Langston boat ramp
Boat ramp owner/operator: Town of Langston
Google maps show the boat ramp as Langston City Park for some reason.
Morgan’s Cove section of Buck’s Pocket State Park
Top things to do: A fantastic spot to enjoy fall foliage, launch any small boat, to kayak or canoe on the smooth section of the creek, hike or birdwatch.
Descend Sand Mountain to the remote Morgan’s Cove boat ramp area and you’ll find one of the more scenic spots to enjoy the lake. It’s one of the best places in northeast Alabama for birdwatching. Canada Geese, mallards and herons are fairly common. Seeing a kingfisher would not be a surprise.
Due to its trails and scenery, Morgan’s Cove is my personal favorite spot for combining a short hike with watching for bald eagles.
Morgan’s Cove is a great stop along the North Alabama Birding Trail. For more info, see this feature page on the birding trail’s website: alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/bucks-pocket-state-park-morgans-cove-and-south-sauty-creek.
Although the lovely RV campground area at Honeycomb requires registration to enter, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the public spots found here. A large grassy area with some large trees provides a nice park setting. The TVA-owned boat ramp and the 9.3 mile trail can be enjoyed without being a registered camper.
With a route that takes you to the Guntersville Lock & Dam, the Honeycomb Trail is very near to the banks of the lake in some spots, and on ridge slopes overlooking the lake in other places.
For those of you in the Huntsville area, it’s only about 17 miles from the Hampton Cove area of the Rocket City!
Top thing to do: Hiking, kayaking/canoeing, birdwatching, lakescape photography, enjoying fall foliage.
Waterfront Bay boat ramp on Hwy. 79
Location: 6955 Scottsboro Hwy, Scottsboro, AL will put you directly across the street
Owner: State of Alabama
Top things to do: Launching a boat, kayaking/canoeing, lakescape photography, fishing, birding, sitting at the dock of the bay
I love this easy to get to spot. It provides a taste of the type of views that can be found at the many other small bays and coves without having to drive down a long and winding road to get to it.
The boathouses on the opposite shore of the small bay, the big hardwood trees and the piers allow for some striking lakescapes.
The Waterfront Bay convenience store/bait shop and rental cottages are across the street.
Marshall County Park #1 near the Guntersville Airport
Not to be confused with Marshall County Park #2 that’s found a couple of miles directly to the west, this park features a big grassy area with lots of trees including majestic pines, a pier, and a great bay setting. There are also several picnic tables, some of which are under pavilions.
Warrenton side of Hwy. 69 causeway in Guntersville
Enjoy the scenery of this area by simply driving across the causeway from Guntersville and stopping at the state-maintained boat ramp (map) or the restaurant when you reach the shore. The photo above, as well as the one at the top of this page show the North Alabama Sailing Marina from the backyard of the Fire by the Lake restaurant. Enjoying lunch or dinner at one of their outside tables is a good way to take in the colorful view.
Just a half mile further to the west, Cha-La-Kee Road (map) offers some amazing scenery.
High spots: Enjoy Guntersville Lake from one of these overlooks
Shown above, from top left, are a view from the Lake Guntersville State Park lodge, Lake Guntersville State Park Mabrey Overlook, Gorham’s Bluff and Section’s Weathington Park.
Viewing Guntersville Lake from an elevation that’s 450 to 600 feet above the water from one of these spots can be a nice addition for any northeast Alabama getaway. Obviously, the soaring views are among the main draws for Lake Guntersville State Park. But you may want to venture out to the small town of Section, on Alabama Hwy. 35 between Scottsboro and Rainsville, to check out the view from Weathington Park (map).
In regard to Gorham’s Bluff, it’s so out-of-the-way, you’ll probably never see the view of the upper part of the lake from there unless you are a bed-and-breakfast guest, a real estate prospect or an attendee at a wedding or other event. See gorhamsbluff.com.
Each of these are good places to witness a sunset.
Best of the rest
Here’s a few other good spots for enjoying an outing at the lake.
Only a few hundred yards from their handsome historic downtown on Hwy. 431, the Guntersville City Harbour (above) is popular among those fishing from the shore or needing to dock their boat for a while. It’s also good for birdwatching, as there always seems to be a large number of waterfowl of the larger variety such as cormorants in the area. (map)
Also easy to get to, the Guntersville Municipal Park (above) features a few hundred yards of shoreline for fishing, a pier, a boat ramp, a nice view of the lake and the busy highway, and lots of free parking. (map)
Upper North Sauty Creek area. If you’re a frequent traveller on the busy U.S. Hwy. 72 between Hunstville and Scottsboro, you are familiar with this beautiful spot just north of the Goose Pond Colony Resort. You’ve seen the big lake view shown above on the south side of the highway, and the old bridge piers, small islands and acres of lily pads of the North Sauty Wildlife Refuge on the north side.
It’s an excellent area for launching a small boat and birdwatching even with the epic traffic noise.
There wouldn’t be lakes along the mighty Tennessee River without dams. If you’re driving between Huntsville and Guntersville, you may want to take a short side trip to enjoy the views at the TVA Guntersville Dam (map). There are some picnic tables with shade and a pier above the dam. A big area with majestic pines and a popular boat ramp are below the dam.
FUN FACT: Technically, the water below the dam isn’t Guntersville Lake. It’s the beginning of Wheeler Lake.
Stevenson Town Park is home of Site 43 of the North Alabama Birding Trail. Due to the smoother water, this location on the Crow Creek section of the lake can be the ideal place for seeing waterfowl, to launch a small fishing boat or personal watercraft, and to fish from the shore.
Also a good place to view sunsets, it’s prone to flooding during times when TVA needs it to. The historical Civil War site, Fort Harker, is only a few hundred yards to the north.
Like historic places? Combine a trip to the waterfront park with a visit to the fort and the striking historic downtown. See my article, Stevenson’s train depot and Main Street are an historic eyeful.
Next, a large tract of land where a TVA coal gasification power plant was started but never finished known as Murphy Hill is an excellent place for bird watching. The place is isolated and a little eerie. In the early fall of 2020, I spotted a raptor while I was riding my bike in a wetlands area and later concluded that it was a 4-year-old bald eagle. I also saw a pair of eagles flying north while I was standing on the large earthen pier that juts out into the river.
The combination of shoreline, manmade reservoir and woods provides a variety of wildlife habitat. TVA keeps the grass/gravel paths mowed. Unless you have your horse or mountain bike with you, you should plan to do some hiking to get to the water.
I wasn’t sure that mountain bikes were allowed, but the sign at the gate says that horses and bikes must stay on the paths, so it must be okay.
For more information, visit the following alabamabirdingtrails.com/sites/murphy-hill.
It’s only a mile from Little Mountain Marina and Mountain Lakes RV Resort, and five miles from Lake Guntersville State Park. Google map.
State-operated boat launch next door to Mud Creek BBQ. Just off U.S. Hwy. 72 about 4 miles northeast of Hollywood and the never-completed Belfont Nuclear Plant, this spot is a good place to access a vast area of shallow water in various coves away from the main channel of the river.
The BBQ restaurant has large windows facing the lake, and their back yard and the boat ramp parking lot are good places for birdwatching and enjoying the view of both a large bay and a small lagoon. Google map
Polecat Hollow. When they flipped the switch at Gunterville Dam in 1939, Polecat Branch suddenly became a scenic bay, and later, a barge port. Nestled at the foot of a 700-foot ridge, and just 2 miles from historic downtown Guntersville, the boat launch found at the hollow offers a beautiful view of the ridge. There’s a lot of traffic noise, but also nice areas of grass and trees.
Only 0.8 mile east of Polecat Hollow, Wyeth Drive Park (Kiwanis Park) is maintained by the city of Guntersville. At first glance looking a little bit like the Manhattan skyline, the noisy processing plants just a couple of hundred yards to the north don’t keep the large, tree-filled greenspace from being a good place for enjoying the lake.
A large flock of Canada Geese, along with several mallards, loons and cormarants, were at the park on the day of my last visit. The stand of giant long-leaf pines makes this a spot where I wouldn’t be surprised to see bald eagles occasionally. Google map.
Enjoy Guntersville Lake without getting out of your car
Many roads take you near the water, so it’s easy to take in many lake vistas without leaving the comforts of your automobile. Of course, the lakeside roads of the state park are one choice. The drive along Hwy. 79 between Guntersville and Scottsboro, the north side of the lake, is another (map). So is the stretch of road on the opposite side of the lake between Scottsboro and around the South Sauty Creek area (map). Both include crossing the Tennessee River on bridges with nice lake views: the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Guntersville and the Bob Jones Bridge near Scottsboro.
Well-renowned for bass fishing, Guntersville Lake is one of the best bodies of water in the South for renting a cabin, camping, or parking your yacht for a few days. But, as you can see, those are not required to enjoy an unforgettable lake outing.
All of the spots featured above are within 35-40 miles for the residents of Huntsville. They are within about 65 miles of Birmingham, 95-100 miles of Chattanooga, and about 140 miles from Atlanta.