MONTGOMERY – It won’t be long before the green summer forests give way to fall foliage featuring shades of yellow, gold, orange, scarlet and crimson.
The Alabama State Parks System offers some of the very best places to see the state’s awe-inspiring fall foliage, and there’s still time to plan a trip to experience the magic of Alabama’s fall colors.
The SmokyMountains.com 2023 fall foliage predictor envisions peak color in Alabama to arrive in late October through early November. The peak fall foliage season first arrives in Northeast Alabama before moving south and westward.
“Gorgeous fall colors can be found here in Alabama, and our State Parks provide some of the most easily accessible areas to view fall foliage,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Some people prefer visiting the Smoky Mountains or going to Vermont or New Hampshire, but I promise you that Alabama offers fall color that rivals any place in America. I invite everyone to stay close to home and see it right here in ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.”
With that in mind, here’s a look at some prime spots to see the leaves change at Alabama State Parks:
1) DeSoto Falls at DeSoto State Park
DeSoto Falls, located near Mentone about seven miles from the main park, features a 107-foot waterfall, picnic area and historic A.A. Miller Dam. For fall foliage, though, walk down approximately 50 steps to the railed overlook, which offers a sweeping view of the falls and the surrounding forest. Don’t forget about the iconic little red boathouse across from the picnic area, which is one of the state’s most photographed fall foliage spots. The 3,502-acre park provides a variety of lodging, including mountain chalets, log and rustic cabins, motel rooms and an improved campground with 94 full-hookup sites. Learn more about DeSoto State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/desoto-state-park.
2) Buck’s Pocket State Park
One of the most secluded of the 21 State Parks, Buck’s Pocket is located in tiny Grove Oak and features some of the most picturesque views of autumn leaves found anywhere in Alabama. Breath-taking fall color can be seen from just about anywhere inside the 2,000-acre park. The park’s campground features 23 RV campsites, as well as 11 primitive camping sites. Other overnight accommodations are available 13 miles away at Lake Guntersville State Park. Learn more about Buck’s Pocket State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/bucks-pocket-state-park.
3) Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge atop Taylor Mountain
The view from the observation deck at Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge offers a panoramic view of the 69,000-acre Guntersville Lake. The park offers plenty of other amenities, including hiking, birding, and an 18-hole golf course, but the breath-taking views take center stage each fall. There are plenty of overnight choices, from cabins near the lake, chalets on the ridge-top, the resort lodge on the pinnacle of Taylor Mountain, and the modern campground for RVs. Learn more about Lake Guntersville State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/lake-guntersville-state-park
4) Cheaha State Park
Surrounded by 400,000 acres of the Talladega National Forest and Cheaha Wilderness, it’s impossible to pick the best spot to view fall foliage at Cheaha State Park, located in Delta. There’s Pulpit Rock that offers a moderate hike to get there. There’s the Bald Rock Boardwalk, which offers easy accessibility. There’s also Bunker Tower, located at the state’s highest point at 2,413 feet. Don’t forget the view from the Vista Cliffside Event Center. Each location at Cheaha offers unique and memorable scenery. Cheaha’s rock cabins and A-frame chalets provide amazing views, and the park also has lodge rooms, primitive camping near the highest point, and primitive camping near Cheaha Lake. Learn more about Cheaha State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/cheaha-state-park.
5) North Plateau Loop Trail at Monte Sano State Park
Fiery foliage can be found throughout the 2,140 acres of Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, but the North Plateau Loop Trail offers an easy hike and amazing views. The trail also provides an especially captivating sight from O’Shaughnessy Point. The Monte Sano Lodge offers one of the state’s most serene settings, and the park also had 14 rustic cabins perched on the mountain and 89 improved campsites available for overnight guests. Learn more about Monte Sano State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/monte-sano-state-park.
6) Joe Wheeler State Park
The park’s location along First Creek of the Tennessee River in Rogersville means the brilliant fall colors begin practically at the water’s edge, and just about any place near the water offers brilliant fall scenery. That includes every lodge room, which features a private balcony and full view of the river. Brilliant colors can also be viewed from the marina, beach area and on the golf course. Don’t forget about the drive from U.S. Highway 72 to the park, which can be one of the state’s most scenic drives each autumn. Joe Wheeler’s campground also offers views of the water, and the park also offers lakeside cottages and cabins. Learn more about Joe Wheeler State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/joe-wheeler-state-park
7) King’s Chair Overlook at Oak Mountain State Park
Legend has it that the site got its name because of the large rock outcropping resembling a chair, which allows hikers to sit on it like a monarch. The hike to get to King’s Chair isn’t easy, but it’s worth it for the long-range view, especially during sunrise or sunset. The park’s cabins at Lake Tranquility also offer beautiful fall colors, as does the switch-back drive up to Peavine Falls along Peavine Falls Road. As the state’s largest state park with 11,632 acres, Oak Mountain offers plenty of other fall foliage viewing opportunities with more than 100 miles of trials, but the vista from King’s Chair often ranks among park visitors’ favorite spot. Learn more about Oak Mountain State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/oak-mountain-state-park.
8) Dam Trail at Lake Lurleen State Park
The two-mile trail takes hikers along the bank of spring-fed Lake Lurleen, which is located near Tuscaloosa. Like at Joe Wheeler, the foliage’s reflection in the crystal clear water makes the view twice as nice. The park offers 91 modern campsites, providing the perfect complement to a 250-acre lake and more than 20 miles of trails. Learn more about Lake Lurleen State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/lake-lurleen-state-park.
9) Cathedral Caverns State Park Campground
The cave tours take center stage year-round at Cathedral Caverns, but the fall colors push into the spotlight each autumn. The new 25 full-service campsites offer everything an RV camper needs, and the surrounding forest offers gorgeous fall color. In addition, the drive to Cathedral Caverns offers some spectacular views, especially from the scenic overlook in nearby Grant. The park has also added The Cabins at the Caverns, providing a “tiny home” experience for adventurous travelers. Learn more about Cathedral Caverns State Park by visiting https://www.alapark.com/parks/cathedral-caverns-state-park
The truth is that picturesque fall color can be found at all 21 Alabama State Parks, including the ones outside of the Appalachian foothills. Keep eye on social media posts to find peak periods in your local area. Glamping is now available at five state parks – Monte Sano, Lake Guntersville, Chewacla, Cheaha and Wind Creek, all of which provide spectacular fall foliage viewing options.
Three parks – Lake Guntersville, Monte Sano and Wind Creek – also offer zip-ling courses, which presents visitors with unique opportunities to actually get up in trees and see fall colors up-close. With more than 700 lodge rooms, 2,600 sites for RVs and primitive camping, and 200 cabins, chalets and cottages, it’s easy to find a perfect place to stay at one of the Alabama’s 21 State Parks to view fall foliage or simply book a family getaway.
“As the weather cools and the leaves change, we know many people will want to visit our State Parks, especially those in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains,” State Parks Director Greg Lein said. “We definitely have some of the best places to see fall colors, and it’s gratifying to see so many families visiting our parks during this time of the year.”