Travel Guide: Best National Parks in Alabama

Travel Guide: Best National Parks in Alabama

When you’re RVing around Alabama, we recommend dropping by the National Parks that the state has to offer. These beautiful stopovers offer a nice relaxing place for you to camp, take photos, and enjoy the state’s rich history. The National Parks in Alabama are abundant in history, culture, knowledge, breathtaking sites, and exciting excursions that every family member would enjoy!

12 National Monuments and National Parks in Alabama that Every Campers can Travel To

Here we’ve listed the Historic Sites and National Parks in Alabama that are worth a visit. Alabama is rich with Native American and African-American history, making it a state with diverse cultures and traditions. This state is filled with a lot of nature’s photogenic beauty, ensuring a relaxing and great trip.

Image by Little River Canyon National Preserve via (20+) Little River Canyon National Preserve | Facebook

The Little River Canyon Preserve is on top of the Lookout Mountain near Fort Payne. It was created by an Act of Congress in 1992 and spanning over 15,288 acres of protected land, composed of sedimentary rocks and sandstone, weathered by water over millions of years. The preserve provides a unique scenic spot in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

The Little River Canyon Preserve offers a wide variety of activities, enjoyable to any group, age, and family member. Activities like bird watching, cycling, hiking, and hunting are the main attraction of this preserve. However, there are certain requirements to do some activities, such as getting permits or licenses from the state of Alabama for fishing or hunting. Do note that they do not permit camping within the preserve; however, many nearby locations or hotels offer tent, RV, and trailer lodging options.

The whole area has three parts: Backcountry, Scenic Drive, and Canyon Mouth Park; the Backcountry area boasts 23 miles of unpaved paths, great for horseback riding, hunting, and fishing. This venue includes High Rock, which is a popular swimming area for tourists.

The Scenic Drive is an eleven-mile drive that provides eight overlooks and picnic tables, great for drivers planning a visit during fall or spring.

Lastly, the Canyon Mouth Park is a popular place during summer, as it is close to the water, beloved by tourists who like taking photos and picnicking. Do take note that summer is their busiest season, so there might be more people here than anticipated; also, if you love kayaking, we recommend dropping by during winter, which is when the water level is up, great for experienced kayakers.

Address 4322 Little River Trail #100, Fort Payne, 35967
Contact Details +1 256-845-9605
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/HFnVWVbEwvhHs3vWA
Hours of Operation 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Image by Russell Cave National Monument via (20+) Russell Cave National Monument | Facebook

The Russell Cave National Monument, located in Northeastern Alabama, was established on May 11, 1961, and donated by the National Geographic Society to America. It is a shelter that has been used as a shelter for thousands of years by cultures of Native Indians, from roughly 6500 BCE, one of the earliest known human settlements in the United States. Surrounded by a lush forest, the place provides something that the settlers have relied on for their food supply and hunting game tools and foraging.

The national cave itself has a mapped area of 7.2 miles, making it the third-longest mapped cave in Alabama. Caving is no longer permitted to preserve the site’s natural photogenic beauty is for generations to enjoy. The national monument offers many activities, including trekking, hiking, birdwatching, and ranger-led tours; they have a visitor center where you can view and take photos of the artifacts extracted from the cave and learn more about the history of it.

This national park permits picnicking and other activities; despite not permitting campers to barbecue, there are first come, first served picnic benches available for people to use. There is no entrance fee to gain access to the area; however, do note that it is not permitted to bring fly drones in the area. The national monument’s rangers provide demonstrations of old weapons and cave tools upon request.

This national location is a solid choice to visit when you’re traveling through Alabama. More so during May, when the Russell Cave National Monument hosts a Native American Festival to honor the early settlers that this site had thousands of years ago. Extra activities are available during this period.

Address 3729 County 98, Bridgeport, 35740
Contact Details +1 256-495-2672
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/4MDVnEQyzNbfdDCz5
Hours of Operation Open from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Image by Horseshoe Bend National Military Park via (20+) Horseshoe Bend National Military Park | Facebook

Managed by the National Park Service (AKA National Park System), this 2,040-acre park is the site of the last battle of the Creek War back in 1814 where over 800 Upper Creeks died in an attempt to defend their homeland; this event was the largest loss of life for Native Americans in the national history of the United States. A peace treaty signed after the battle, the Native Americans were forced to give the United States over 20 million acres of native land, which is modern-day Alabama and Georgia. The great battle here brought country-wide attention to Andrew Jackson, who helped him win the national presidency in 1828.

This battle-worn area now serves as a wildlife conservation area, permitting tourists to watch wildlife and observe the whole national park’s interconnected ecology. The rangers here offer different activities fit for any camper; this includes a three-mile tour, a solemn commemoration to the 557 Creek warriors, and 49 US soldiers who died on this ground. They also offer two picnic spots that have tables available for use on a first-come, first-served basis. 

People can enjoy other activities such as boating, shore fishing (requires State Fishing License), and cycling. The management does not permit hunting and trapping as the resources – wildlife, plants, relics, and artifacts here are protected by law. This site has many beautiful sights to see, filled with rich history echoing between the trees, which every traveler should see.

Address 11288 Horseshoe Bend Rd, Daviston, 36256
Contact Details +1 256-234-7111
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/ibUM2gG1T98Sckjg7
Hours of Operation Open from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Image by Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site via (20+) Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site | Facebook

The Tuskegee Institute National, located 40 miles east of Montgomery is part of the National Park Service (AKA National Park System) since October 2, 1974. This site preserves the Tuskegee Institute’s legacy and historic structure, a national college for African Americans founded in 1881. It started with 30 eager students, mostly children of former slaves, who celebrated their first taste of freedom by holding their first official class. 

The main features of this institute are The Oaks, the house and home of the school’s head Booker T. Washington, and the building which housed George Washington Carver’s lab, now known as the G.W. Carver Museum. These buildings, with an office, are directly owned and managed by the National Park Service. This site garners over 26,000 tourists yearly who enjoy guided tours of the Oaks, the National Historic Campus District, and the museum’s exhibits and AV programs.

The Oaks, the home of Booker T. Washington, offers free ranger-guided tours available through Tuesday to Saturday at multiple time slots. The site can accommodate physically limited people as they are wheelchair accessible; if they need assistance, they immediately contact the national institute’s ranger. There is no entrance fee to gain entry to the institute, and there is no need to reserve for groups of people below 15 pax. 

Their busiest season is February, so they encourage guests to contact their hotline during this peak season to avoid long waiting times. Surely, this site will provide a great experience for any camper planning to visit and should be on every checklist when visiting.

Address 1 Booker T Washington Blvd, Tuskegee, 36088, USA
Contact Details +1 334-727-3200
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/KpLM1qiLGuTBSG9p8
Hours of Operation 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Image by Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site via (20+) Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site | Facebook

The Tuskegee Airmen National Site, located at the Moton Airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama, officially commemorates African-American pilots’ contributions in World War II; it is where the primary flight training for the Tuskegee Airmen, in preparation for the war, took place. Named after the former Tuskegee Institute head Robert Russa Moton, who died a year before, was constructed in 1941 as a training base,

Before 1941, African-Americans were banned from flying for the country. Civil rights organizations pressured the Government, resulting in the formation of an African-American squadron. Visiting this national historic site will provide you a blast to the past, back to the time when racism was rampant, and back through the time when awarded honors and citations for African-American airmen were a rare sight.

The site has different displays of old aircraft, tools, and exhibits used by the Tuskegee Airmen, including historic knowledge displays. Surely, this is a fun way to learn about history and be part of everyone’s road trip.

Address 1616 Chappie James Ave, Tuskegee, 36083
Contact Details +1 334-724-0922
Google Map Link https://g.page/TuskegeeAirmenHome?share
Hours of Operation 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Image by Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument via (20+) Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument | Facebook

Established in January 2017, the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument honors the nonviolent protesters who battled against discriminatory laws and racist practices. This place is where the SCLC leaders (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth from the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights took residence in the A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham to brainstorm strategies and make decisions that would push the civil rights movement forward.

The confrontation brought nationwide attention to Birmingham as police dogs, and high-pressure water hoses threatened the nonviolent protesters. The events that occurred resulted in heavy pressure that ensured the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s passing. As this is a new national monument, Birmingham Park is still in progress, and the services are limited.

Nonetheless, this is still a monument that you should consider going to.

Address 520 16th St N, Birmingham, 35203, United States
Contact Details +1 205-328-9696
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/o17WykiRKLy9UiaT8
Hours of Operation 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Image by Freedom Riders National Monument via (20+) Freedom Riders National Monument | Facebook

The Freedom Riders is a tiny interracial band of people who set out to fight discriminatory state laws and traditions that separate races on buses and bus facilities like lunch counters, restrooms, and waiting areas. The white supremacists highly-opposed this journey by attacking them on multiple occasions.

The world witnessed violent images of the firebombed bus burning outside Anniston; this shocked the American people, which created political pressure, forcing the Government to ban segregation in interstate bus travel. From a tiny group of thirteen, it inspired hundreds of people to take a stand and join their cause, ultimately succeeding in pressing the Government to act against such injustice. This event is one of the first struggles of the American people to fight for equality.

People mustn’t forget what the Freedom Riders once stood for with such a rich history. The former bus station is not open to the public; however, they can check the adjacent building’s side, which features a mural filled with information panels about the events of May 14. 1961. The exact site of the bus burning can be seen, marked with an Alabama Historical Marker.

This place is surely another great spot to drop by in the State of Alabama, a place where people stand up to fight oppression and defend equality.

Address 1031 Gurnee Ave, Anniston, 36201
Contact Details +1 256-237-3536
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/rMmtn9j7aJ4wYwhH7
Hours of Operation Open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY

Image by Natchez Trace Parkway via (20+) Natchez Trace Parkway | Facebook

Driving around the Natchez Trace Parkway is something that one should experience when traveling to Alabama. This park is one of the most scenic drives in the state, and spending even just an hour driving through it will surely fill your eyes with beautiful scenery. This two-lane path goes through 450 miles of protected land spanning from Nashville, Tennessee, through Alabama.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is rich in wildlife and has the best waterfalls, and due to its history, it ensures that each hike is a memorable, knowledge-filled one. The whole Trace area follows the original Natchez Trace trail path, cleared by prehistoric wildlife who went through the prairie lands and the Mississippi River in the past. Eventually, the Native Americans followed, living through the lush forests, providing them with sustenance.

There are several points of interest in Natchez Trace, such as Leiper’s Fork, Jackson Falls, Fall Hollow, and the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, all of which have great historical background and heritage. The Natchez headquarters has a tourist center where you can find added information about the Parkway. It is just so amazing to drive through beautiful scenery, which would surely be eye candy for everyone.

Address 2680 Natchez Trace Pkwy, Tupelo, MS 38804
Contact Details +1 800-305-7417
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/d4vGpjJBwSTuE3Wv7
Hours of Operation Open 24/7
SELMA TO MONTGOMERY NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL

Image by Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail via (20+) Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail | Facebook

The Selma To Montgomery March happened on March 21 to 25, 1965, led by Dr. Martin Luther King. A march that amassed approximately 25,000 people, making it a landmark event in the Civil Rights Movement. The national historic march brought attention to the racism, injustices, and bigotry that African-Americans experienced in voting.

The route spans 54 miles and starts at the Mount Zion AME Zion Church, continuing through Edmund Pettus Bridge and following the US Route 80 through US Highway 80, ultimately reaching Montgomery. Throughout the route, there are markers to point out where the marchers camped and different moments of history from the march transpired.

There are no designated safe paths for people who opt to walk the path, so we recommended to follow it using your camper or by bicycle to ensure safety. There are a lot of things to learn, making it a landmark that you should visit. The trail stands as a testament to the people’s sacrifices to preserve the right to vote as a huge foundation of American democracy.

Surely, this is a nice route to follow; discovering the sites filled with history across the way is a great way to spend the day!

Address 7318 US-80, Hayneville, 36040, United States
Contact Details +1 334-877-1983
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/MkDqmcfAFKHP3LpaA
Hours of Operation Open from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area

Image by Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area via (20+) Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area | Facebook

The Muscle Shoals Heritage Area promotes culture and heritage in the Tennessee River basin; it is home to many places wherein you and your family can take photos and learn the rich history of the whole place. The UNA manages this park, which focuses on promoting three main themes: Native American heritage, Music, and the Tennessee River. This national park has been home to one of the earliest settlements to the Native Americans since it is close to the river, a rich source of food and life.

Modern-day structures such as the Florence Indian Mound Museum and the Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center pay homage to the rich culture of the Native Americans that used to live here. They celebrate the Oka Kapassa, which means “cold water,” an annual event celebrating the traditions and culture of Native Americans who once thrived here. They provide learning services to tourists through storytelling, dancing, traditional cuisine, music, and live demonstrations. They also have the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, which also is known as Te-lah-nay’s Wall, which commemorates Tom Hendrix’s great-great-grandmother’s journey of marching through the Trail of Tears.

The music is also another thing to enjoy in the Muscle Shoals Heritage Area; the Native Americans named the modern-day Tennessee River as the “Singing River” because of its melodic-sounding waters. Enslaved people who worked on cotton fields carried their work and spiritual songs from their homelands, which laid a foundation for the modern-day Muscle Shoals music scene. Surely, this is quite a learning experience for anyone who drops by and should be part of your tour checklist.

Address 468 N Court St, Florence, 35630, United States
Contact Details +1 256-765-5028
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/Sbf2nXKHUyc6nVgh6
Hours of Operation N/A
Trail of Tears, National Historic Trail

Image by Trail of Tears National Historic Trail via (20+) Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Facebook

The Trail of Tears is a national historic trail that commemorates the forceful removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands back in 1836, lands that they have cultivated for generations. White settlers who wanted to grow cotton on these bountiful lands worked with the Federal Government to force the Native Americans to leave their land and walk hundreds of miles to a designated “Indian territory” across the Mississippi River. This painful and deadly journey is known as the Trail of Tears.

The national historic trail spans over 5,043 miles across Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky,  Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Some portions of the path are accessible by horse, bicycle, on foot, or by car. The path passes through at these points: Waterloo Landing, Tuscumbia Landing, Little River Canyon, Lake Guntersville, and the Smokerise Trail. There is a yearly motorcycle ride in the Trail of Tears that started in 1994; this is to honor the Cherokees, Creeks, and other Native Americans who got forced out of their land; this event has drawn more than 150,000 riders in recent years.

This history-rich national area is something that everyone should see and is a solid learning experience for the whole family.

Address AL-165, Fort Mitchell, 36856, United States
Contact Details +1 505-988-6098
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/HbuidxCRVpEmfsbn9
Hours of Operation N/A

The William B. Bankhead National Forest, located in the northwestern part of the state in Double Springs, is also known as the land of a thousand waterfalls. It covers 181 230 acres and is home to the Sipsey fork, Alabama’s only National Wild and Scenic River. There are multiple adventures scattered about the forest, each providing a unique experience.

These adventures include picnicking, fishing, hiking, and swimming; all of these facilities are designed with forest enthusiasts in mind, providing different challenges for everyone, novice and experts alike. Each area has its unique persona that changes depending on the season, ensuring that each tour is a unique experience, permitting tourists to enjoy it no matter what season they decide to come. Canoeing through the Sipsey Fork will astonish you with its magnificent, photogenic rock formations, which have been carved by the water’s erosive power, spanning thousands of years.

The Sipsey Fork offers a slow-paced canoeing experience, which grows even smoother as it merges with Smith Lake, permitting you to enjoy and take photos of the beauty of the whole park. This slow-pace is great for fishing as it doesn’t disturb the fishes, giving you time to rest, relax, and enjoy the whole experience first hand.  This venue surely is a solid choice for RV enthusiasts who want to enjoy nature with their families.

Address 1070 AL-33, Double Springs, 35553, United States
Contact Details +1 205-489-5111
Google Map Link https://goo.gl/maps/AjXTpXuumwrWSqUW9
Hours of Operation Open from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM

Exciting Road Trips to Alabama’s National Parks: What to Expect?

When driving to a specific location, you need to be well equipped, and in this state, it is hot and humid in the summer and has very mild winters. You should expect light rains in the area, so better come prepared with raincoats! It tends to be warmer in the southern portion because it is close to the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes, there are hailstorms; however, don’t fret as they are seldom destructive.

As far as this goes, this state is home to rich culture, tradition, history, and scenic spots that are important parts of what shaped America today. When dropping by a national park, one should expect there to be rules and regulations that everyone has to follow; these rules are set in place to protect you from being hurt and saving the national park from damage or vandalism. Some exhibits show old relics from the past, and these are quite sensitive to the touch; you should respect the ranger’s wishes so that future generations can come and experience, learn and enjoy the national park.

Some reviews from online websites say that they experienced long queues when suddenly dropping by without any reservations. So we recommend contacting the park’s hotline or website to book a reservation; this would help avoid the long waiting time. Booking through websites provides stress-free touring around these national tour centers; this gives you a seamless experience and more time to enjoy the place.

Basic Travel Checklist for Alabama’s National Parks

Now we know that you’re prepared to take on any journey that comes your way. However, we still felt that it is important to add a checklist for you to see cause you never know when you might forget something. Here are some basic travel needs when traversing through the best parks in the great state of Alabama.

Special Use Permits

These permits are for recreation uses that help promotes safety and protect the environment. These permits cover a wide range of activities such as Off-Highway Vehicle usage, river access, wilderness trekking, rifle range, group activities, and recreation events. Such activities have required Special Permits, which might or might not include a fee. 

The state will determine if the activity complies with regulations and permit such an event to occur. Doing such activities without the said permit could cost you hefty fines should it warrant a penalty.

State Licenses

Hunting and fishing licenses are required for all enthusiasts regardless of state residency (resident and non-resident). We recommend getting one online or personally if you’re planning to drop by a national park that offers hunting and fishing to avoid any inconvenience and permit you to enjoy your vacation. Some reviews say that some places might permit you to perform hunting and fishing with licenses, but we don’t recommend taking that risk.

Personal Items

Now not everyone is an expert in outdoor excursions, and some of you might find yourself either packing too light or too heavy. Here are a few personal items that everyone should have in their pack whenever you drop by a national park.

  • Insect Repellent – we’re pretty sure that you’re planning on spraying some at the beginning of your trip; however, this wears off over time, that is why you should bring an extra can for reapplication during the hike.
  • Water Bottles – hydration is always a must! And you must always have a water bottle for everyone in your group. Please do not purchase plastic water bottles as these can generate trash and might even be banned by some national parks to prevent littering. You can easily purchase reusable water tumblers in convenience stores.
  • Sunscreen – much like the insect repellant, we recommend carrying a bottle of sunscreen for reapplication during the tour. If you’d like to save some money, there are insect repellent variants out there that offer UV protection too!
  • First Aid Kit – even though the rangers in a national park often have a first-aid area, we recommend carrying a simple first-aid kit in your pouch for a quick fix. A simple kit may include a disinfectant, band-aids, and cotton balls.

RV Essentials

Traveling essentials in your camper may need an upgrade, especially if you’re planning on traversing through multiple states in one go. Road trips to different places may require different appliances or equipment to ensure that your trip is comfortable and stress-free. Since the state’s climate is as humid as some subtropical countries, you might need the following items to keep you comfy for the duration of your travels.

  • RV Dehumidifier – to keep your RV cool and free from stuffy humidity, we recommended getting the best RV dehumidifier. Utilizing this item will keep your vehicle properly ventilated and prevent humidity from building up inside.
  • RV Air Conditioner – the great state of Alabama is known for its humid temperature, which can get to a high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep you nice and cool at all times, we recommend getting the best RV air conditioner. This device helps you stave off the heat and provide a relaxing night’s sleep.

RV GPS – since most national parks do not permit overnight stays, there might be a need for you to search for hotels or RV parks that can provide lodgings for the night. We recommend grabbing the best RV GPS available in your RV store, as some of these devices can download and provide directions to RV hotels, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Alabama’s streets.

FAQS and Information for Alabama’s National Parks

Am I permitted to park my camper on-site?

Yes, most of these locations permit you to leave your camper in a specified area for the duration of your itinerary. However, some do not permit overnight parking, and you might need to find a nearby RV accommodation. If you’re not sure if they permit overnight stays, we recommended contacting their offices. In addition to that, if you need to find RV accommodations, you can also check out utilizing some of the best RV GPS, which can download and locate nearby parking areas for your camper.

Do National Parks in Alabama permit Camping?

Not all of the National Parks in Alabama permit overnight stays, though there are nearby RV parks that can accommodate you and your family. Some parks are protected as it is home to wildlife that might get disturbed if there is too much human contact, in addition to that, some even have wild bears that are dangerous if you get too close. These sites are protected to ensure that it is maintained and conserved for the future generation to enjoy.

Conclusion

This state has a lot to offer; they have a rich culture and history. Though some of these national parks aren’t a suitable place to camp, these are surely the best places to be when driving. We hope that you’ve enjoyed our article and that we’ve given you ideas of places to visit on your road trip. So there you have it, the best parks located in Alabama! Every site that we’ve listed here are go-to places and are best enjoyed with friends or family.

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