Story By Ann Cipperly
Photos Contributed By Scott Baker for Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association
During autumn, when vibrant scarlet, orange and yellow foliage provides picturesque views along Alabama’s Fall Color Trail, plan a getaway for viewing fall’s spectacular showcase. From Oak Mountain State Park outside Birmingham to Cheaha State Park with the highest point in the state, stunning views can be observed and savored. Combine a colorful foliage tour with stops along the way for viewing waterfalls, exploring covered bridges, enjoying outdoor activities or attending fall events.
Oak Mountain State Park
Located near Birmingham in Pelham, Oak Mountain State Park is Alabama’s largest state park with 9,940 acres atop Double Oak Mountain. A variety of outdoor activities includes mountain biking and hiking with more than 50 miles of trails.
Other areas to explore include the flipside Watersports cable skiing, boat rentals, Peavine Overlook and Falls, Oak Mountain Interpretive Center, 18-hole golf course, beach and swimming area. Fishing, horseback riding and boat rentals provide other adventures.
For general information contact 205-620-2520, for cabins call 205-620-2524 and for campgrounds call 205-620-2527.
DeSoto State Park
Take the scenic drive on Lookout Mountain Parkway to DeSoto State Park for viewing waterfalls. Located atop Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama, Desoto State Park features one of the tallest waterfall in the state, which cascades 107-feet. From the parking lot, a paved pathway goes a few hundred yards and down about 50 steps to the railed overlook.
Hiking and mountain biking trails wind 30 miles through the park. Other outdoor adventures include fishing, kayaking and exploring nature.
Visit the nature center for interpretive programs and to see live animals. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) museum is also housed at the center.
Nestled on a canyon-edge overlooking the West Fork of Little River, the historic Mountain Inn Restaurant was constructed in the original sandstone lodge built in the mid-1930s by the CCC. Additions were made in the 1970s and a motel was built. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but be sure to check seasonal days they are open.
Lodging facilities include a motel, rustic cabins, chalets and improved campgrounds with 94 full-hookup tent and RV sites. Back country campsites are available for adventurous campers.
The 3,502-acre DeSoto State Park is located at 7104 DeSoto Parkway NE in Fort Payne. For additional information call 256-845-5380 for general information, 256-845-5380 for lodging and 800-760-4089 for camping.
Little River Canyon National Preserve
Located ten miles south of DeSoto State Park in the Little River Canyon National Preserve, the Little River Falls cascades 45-feet. Little River flows most of its length atop Lookout Mountain. From the parking lot, a 100-foot boardwalk leads to an overlook.
Grace’s High Falls, Laurel Falls, Indian Falls, Loose Falls and Azalea Cascade waterfalls can also be viewed at the preserve.
Lake Guntersville Resort State Park
With 6,000 acres of woodlands, Lake Guntersville Resort State Park provides water sports at the 69,000 acre lake and outdoor adventures. Free boat ramps are available along the lake. Fishing is popular, and Lake Guntersville has been named one of the top waters for fishing from a kayak.
Recreational attractions include an 18-hole golf course, a beach complex, fishing in Alabama’s largest lake, hiking and biking trails and the Screaming Eagle Zipline. Explore the outdoor nature center.
The Pinecrest Dining Room at the park serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Accommodations include a resort inn with lake views, mountain top chalets, modern campground cabins on the banks of the lake and camping alongside the lake. The campground includes improved campsites as well as primitive campsites.
For general information call 256-571-5440 and for lodging contact 256-571-5440.
Cheaha State Park
On the top of Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama, gorgeous fall views and sunsets can be observed at 2,407 feet. Surrounded by the Talladega National Forest, Cheaha State Park features waterfalls and provides numerous recreational activities, including trails, a lake and cliffside pool.
At the seven-acre Cheaha Lake, families can enjoy the beach, paddle boats, paddle boards, fishing and the playground.
Dining is available at the Vista Cliffside Restaurant. Lodging options include cabins, chalets, hotel and camping. The historic CCC Bald Rock Lodge is ideal for families and groups with 12 rooms and a full-service catering kitchen.
For general information at Cheaha call 256-488-5111, and for lodging contact 1-800-610-5801.
Joe Wheeler Resort State Park
In Rogersville, Joe Wheeler Resort Park features stunning lake views, boating and fishing at the 69,700-acre Wheeler Lake. The park hosts the Fall Rendezvous of boaters. The Nautical Wheeler provides tours, while fishing boats, pontoon and paddleboats are available for rent.
Along with a marina and campgrounds, visitors will enjoy the sandy beach or play a round of golf at the 18-hole golf course.
Lake views can be enjoyed at the Joe Wheeler Resort Lodge and restaurant. Daniella’s restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Along with the lodge, other accommodations includes cabins, lakeside cottages and camping. Campgrounds feature a total of 116 campsites, with 110 having full hookups with water, electricity and sewer.
Hiking and mountain biking trails are popular outdoor activities.
For further information call 800-544-JOEW and for lodging call 256-247-5461.
Cullman Oktoberfest and Ave Maria Grotto
Plan a stop in Cullman to view Ave Maria Grotto, and if it is the first weekend in October, visit the annual Oktoberfest downtown where the town celebrates its German heritage. Bavarian cuisine, music, activities and craft beers are featured.
Vendors, a variety of restaurants and some churches serve German food and other dishes during the celebration. Entertainment includes art and crafts show, children’s activities, a car show, music, a bratwurst eating contest and many others.
On a landscaped hillside, Ave Maria Grotto was constructed with 125 small stone and cement structures on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey, the only Benedictine monastery of men in the state.
Born in 1878, in Landshut, Bavaria, Brother Joseph Zoetl came to the newly formed Abbey in 1892. He was a monk at the Abbey for almost 70 years. After a back injury prevented him from becoming a priest, he served by shoveling coal in the furnaces. He created the miniature replicas using stone, concrete and unwanted materials such as sea shells, broken plates and marble.
Along the path, visitors view the scenes from Bethlehem, Jerusalem, St. Peter’s Shrine, Statue of Christ and the Crucifixion, among many others.
Hours are daily 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Closed major holidays. Call 256-734-4110 for more information.
For a morning snack, Duchess Bakery has been open more than 70 years in downtown Cullman. Try its famous glazed donuts. Another long time restaurant downtown is All Steak that serves its popular orange rolls at the end of a meal.
Driving Routes of Fall Color Trail and Circle of Color Trail
The state tourism department, Sweet Home Alabama, offers information and maps online for the Alabama Fall Color Trail and Circle of Color Trail to drive for viewing brilliant autumn foliage. It starts at Oak Mountain State Park. Go to www.alabama.travel/trail-details/fall-color-trail and www.alabama.travel/trail-details/a-circle-of-colors.