Fall time is here and with it some of our favorite things, like Thanksgiving dinners, football, piles of scarlet leaves, crisp cool air, and those gorgeous sunsets. While some of these are things you can get right in front of your TV, others are best experienced out in nature! From 10,000-acre forest reserves to picturesque vistas in local neighborhoods, there are so many types of fall trips to take. This list of the best locations for Alabama fall foliage will help you make your choice!
Hikes and Drives for Alabama Fall Foliage
While all of the places on this list are absolutely beautiful all year round, they just become magical and explode with color during fall. In order to get the most out of your autumn travels, it’s important to check for the best month to visit each of these places.
Generally, fall colors will begin to show up in North Alabama in early October and then sweep across the region. They usually reach their peak by late October or early November. However, sometimes it starts a bit sooner or later so do check before beginning your adventures!
Noccalula Park is stunning this time of year! The location offers the 90-foot Noccalula Falls, a historic bridge, a botanical garden, and several nature trails.
Noccalula Park is accessible by taking exit 188 off Interstate 59 and following Highway 211 until reaching the destination, or by taking U.S. Route 431 S from Guntersville.
One nature trail to definitely explore while there is the Black Creek Trail. It’s a scenic 1.7-mile stone path along the Black Creek Gorge, starting at Noccalula Falls Wedding Chapel.
Lookout Mountain Parkway
Lookout Mountain Parkway is a scenic drive that stretches across Lookout Mountain and spans over three states-Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Over its 93 miles, you will find waterfalls, canyons, interesting towns, and mesmerizing colors the entire way.
The Lookout Mountain Parkway starts at Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama. To begin your scenic journey, you will need to take exit #188 off Interstate 59 and follow Highway 211 to Noccalula Falls Park.
Next, take a left onto Tabor Road at the Shell Station across from the park. Tabor Road (also County Road 89) eventually merges with State Route 176 after it intersects with Highway 68 in Cherokee County.
To access all of the gorgeous scenic vistas and country roads, continue along SR 176 until reaching the intersection in Dogtown. To continue on the Parkway head straight onto County Road 89 once more.
In Mentone, take a right off CR 89 onto State Route 117 and continue to the Georgia state line.
This route is beautiful and is also the main connection to many other destinations (even some on this list). So, whether you choose to make it a day trip or a week-long road trip, this one is so worth it!
Little River Canyon Rim Parkway
Little River Canyon Rim Parkway is a drive that, in my opinion, shouldn’t be missed in the fall. Having recently driven it myself in early autumn, the colors were already gorgeous. When it peaks, it will be over the top!
In addition to the 22-mile scenic drive, there are many overlooks from which to view the incredible canyon and get astronomical views of the Alabama fall foliage. Don’t miss Mushroom Rock along the drive or hiking down to Little River Falls!
Little River Canyon Rim Parkway can be accessed by taking a right at the intersection in Dogtown (vs going straight onto County Road 89 to DeSoto State Park) and continuing on SR 176. The scenic drive ends when you reach SR 35.
To view the falls, take a right onto SR 35 from the Parkway and you will see them as you cross the bridge. Take the next right into the trailhead parking lot and follow the signs to the falls.
DeSoto State Park
DeSoto State Park is absolutely breathtaking when the leaves change color! Although still part of the park, you will find DeSoto Falls seven miles north towards Mentone. Featuring over 30 miles of hiking trails, the park has so many activities to entertain the outdoor enthusiast including kayaking, fishing, cycling, and rappelling.
At a length of 360 yards, Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail is one that trekkers of all abilities will be able to enjoy. Ending at the Azalea Cascades, this trail is truly most spectacular in the fall. On account of it being part of the Alabama Birding Trails, you might even catch glimpses of some of the state’s woodland bird species.
Make your way to DeSoto State Park by driving Lookout Mountain Parkway along State Road 176 and County Road 89. It will eventually become DeSoto Parkway NE on the other side of State Route 35. The drive here is a treat for the eyes as much as the park itself!
Talladega Scenic Highway
Nothing beats a birds-eye view when it comes to taking in the brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds of fall, right? Well, this drive gives you just that! Spanning 26 miles, the Talladega Scenic Highway follows State Route 281 near Heflin and ends at Adams Gap. It takes you through Cheaha State Park, atop Cheaha Mountain which is the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level.
While driving through Talladega National Forest you’ll encounter several rock outcroppings, streams, and so much more. The whole drive will only take about an hour to complete but if you want to make it longer, choose to stop at a couple of the six outlooks (such as Bald Rock pictured above) and take in the incredibly striking views!
Monte Sano State Park
Monte Sano State Park is a 2,140-acre mountaintop retreat near Huntsville. Its mountain vistas, rich history, and beautiful period homes make the perfect backdrop for the fiery Alabama fall foliage you will find!
With dynamic cascading views, Monte Sano Mountain makes a great place to camp during the autumn season. If you want to immerse yourself right into the rainbow of colors, consider taking a hike through the park. There are more than 22 miles of trails available to visitors but Stone Cuts Trail is an easy and beautiful option. Another nice feature of this trail is the gigantic boulders you can see and even climb! The easiest way to access Stone Cuts Trail is through Sinks Trail.
Green Mountain Nature Preserve (The Land Trust of North Alabama)
Encompassing 500 acres of property bursting with vibrant oranges and reds, the Green Mountain Nature Preserve is anything but green during autumn! Located atop Green Mountain, it features streams, waterfalls, and five miles of trails to explore. There are quite a few natural and historic features to see while hiking. One of the highlights is the prehistoric Native American camp and Alum Cave, an impressive overhang they used as a shelter during the Middle Woodland Period.
Alum Hollow Trail is definitely worth exploring. The trail begins at the Alum Hollow Trailhead, approximately one-half mile past the entrance to Madison County Nature Trail. Following the bluff line, it’s an easy hike for the most part – with the exception of a final steep climb down to Alum Falls. After reaching the falls, you’ll find Alum Cave right around the corner.
Natchez Trace Parkway
This non-commercial, purely recreational road commemorates the historic Old Natchez Trace and spans a total 444 miles, while cutting through three states – Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. In the autumn months, the hardwood trees along the Trace begin to change leaving you with a splendid display of colorful Alabama fall foliage to behold!
There are plenty of engaging attractions and recreational activities to check out along the way. A few of these are hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping. Obviously, this one’s got the whole package!
The middle part of the Natchez Trace Parkway travels through northwest Alabama with its 33-mile length crossing the Tennessee River. Entering Alabama from the Tennesee border at mile marker 341.8, it travels west of the Florence-Tuscumbia area. Continuing on, the Parkway eventually exits the state via the Mississippi border at mile marker 308.9. Although there are a few different points of access, a popular point to join the Natchez Trace Parkway is by Highway 20 at mile marker 336.
Stop at Freedom Hills Overlook at mile marker 317 for an impressive view of a hardwood forest with beautiful Alabama fall foliage. You could also take a short walk along the Rock Springs Nature Trail, located around mile marker 330. Breathe in the fresh forest air while your eyes feast on all the magnificence around you. Fall at its best!
Located near Phil Campbell in Franklin County, the Dismals Canyon is hands down one of the most beautiful places to visit in Alabama year-round. During the fall however, it is simply stunning!
Within the 85-acre Natural Conservatory, there is a 1.5 mile hiking trail on the canyon floor that is absolutely enchanting during autumn. Winding through boulders and past two waterfalls, it takes you into a secret mossy-green world of ferns and massive trees.
Dismals Canyon is one of a select few places you can find bioluminescent creatures called dismalites or glowworms. There is also a winding natural rock stairway at the top of which you will find Pulpit Rock. From there you will get a fantastic panoramic view of part of the canyon. Panoramic views during fall? Yes, please!
Lake Guntersville State Park
Located in Guntersville, this park is very well maintained and absolutely beautiful to drive through during fall. Take Highway 79 or Highway 431 into Guntersville to see all the colorful Alabama fall foliage along the way. Once inside the park, definitely drive along Aubrey J. Carr Scenic Drive. The breeze and beautiful landscapes will not disappoint!
Seasons change so quickly and fall foliage in Alabama is one thing you don’t want to miss. That’s why I hope this list helps you choose the perfect autumn destination to hike, stroll, or drive this year…one that is just right for you!
Have you been to any of these locations in Alabama? Which one was your favorite? Do you think I’ve missed any spectacular places? I would love to hear all about it!