Find out why this part of Alabama is called the 'Land of 1,000 waterfalls'
Editor's note : The American South’s Unexpected series explores unique and unusual destinations across the Southeast. We will take you off the beaten path to highlight artistic, historic, and quirky locales. To kick off the series, Unexpected will focus on outdoor destinations where it is possible to safely social distance. Come explore with us!
Correction: The location of Noccalula Falls in Northeast Alabama was incorrect in a previous version of the story. This story has been updated.
The return of warm weather in the South seems to spark a desire to find water to cool down in. Fortunately, options abound— especially if you’re a nature lover.
Drive through parts of northern Alabama and you’ll see why the region is often referred to as the “Land of 1,000 waterfalls.”
The area is home to a surprisingly high density of canyons, caves, and waterfalls. While some places are harder to access and require more hiking, there are also less taxing options for people planning a short day trip or traveling with young children.
The American South compiled a list of several unique waterfalls across the state and directions on how to get to them. Some of these locations are easier to travel to than others and may be less accessible depending on the time of year. For more information on these locations and the hundreds of other waterfalls across the state, visit alapark.com or alabamawaterfalls.com.
Note : The number of visitors in state and national parks has skyrocketed during the pandemic, leading to overcrowding and damage to wildlife. For information on how to responsibly enjoy the outdoors visit: http://lnt.org/
7104 DeSoto Parkway NE
Fort Payne, Alabama
Located in DeSoto State Park, these waterfalls are among the most accessible if you are planning a day trip. This 100 ft waterfall is one of the tallest in the state and is especially impressive after it rains. There’s a fenced-in overlook that is easy to walk to from the parking lot for a view of the falls. Make sure to take precautions when traveling with small children.
There’s also a network of trails that lead you to the base of the falls if you’re interested in exploring other views. The Desoto Falls Bottom and Bluff Overlook Loop is a 2 mile moderately trafficked trail that takes you to the base of the falls.
If you have time you can also visit Laurel Falls and Lost Falls, which are two smaller waterfalls also located in Desoto State Park.
Located off of Highway 35 next to the bridge in Gaylesville, Alabama
Located near Desoto State Park, Little River Falls is a 45 ft waterfall that is accessible all year. It’s one of three named waterfalls in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. Water levels are significantly lower in the Summer and Fall, but make it easier to wade through above the falls.
There is also a nice swimming hole at the base of the falls.
The best way to get to the falls is through the boardwalk from the parking lot. There is a wheelchair-accessible path leading to the falls. No camping is allowed in the area and the park closes after dark.
Fort Payne, Alabama
Located in the Little River Canyon National Preserve, Graces High Falls is technically Alabama’s tallest waterfall. The 133ft waterfalls are usually not visible in the summertime due to low rainfall.
Rainbow Falls, Dismals Canyon National Natural Landmark
901 Hwy 8, Phil Campbell, Alabama
Rainbow Falls is located in Dismals Canyon, a small privately-owned natural preserve located in northwest Alabama. The property was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1975 and is known for its rich diversity of plant life and geological features. There’s a 1.5 mile trail on the canyon floor that takes you past Rainbow Falls and a variety of rock formations. Tiny bioluminescent insects, better known as glow worms, light up the canyon at night. If you plan to camp or stay in one of the property’s cabins overnight, you can take a guided night tour.
1500 Noccalula Rd., Gadsden, Alabama
Located in Northeast Alabama, Noccalula Falls and the surrounding park is one of the more family-friendly destinations. There’s a year-round campground, botanical garden, and picnic areas. The 1.7 mile gravel Black Creek Trail takes you from the campground to the waterfalls.
Caney Creek Falls and Upper Caney Creek Falls
Bankhead National Forest
Caney Creek Falls is possibly one of the most photographed waterfalls in Alabama. Be prepared to hike about an hour in and out to get to the falls. Located at the southwest corner of the Bankhead National Forest, it’s about a 1.7 mile hike from a small parking area to the falls. It’s a relatively steep climb down to the falls, but once at the bottom, you can walk behind the falls or swim. The trek is well worth it.
Click here for more information to plan your trip.
Read more from the Unexpected series, including this story on the once-hidden Navy munitions depots near New Orleans that give 'nature trail' new meaning.
Maria Clark is a general assignment reporter with The American South. Story ideas, tips, questions? Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @MariaPClark1. Sign up for The American South newsletter. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.