It won’t be long before the greens of summer surrender to fall foliage in Alabama, and those beautiful 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. Your best planning resource to see the vibrant colors is the 2023 Fall Foliage Prediction Map (available here). The interactive map lets you look at predictions for the best fall colors across the United States, spanning early October through late November.
In Alabama, the peak fall foliage season first arrives in Northeast Alabama before moving south and westward. Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promises that “Alabama offers fall color that rivals any place in America.”
So let’s take a look at Sweet Home Alabama, and the prime spots to see the leaves change in the state of Alabama. Alabama highway road trip anyone?
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, 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.
Buck’s Pocket State Park
One of the most secluded of Alabama’s 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. There are plenty of perfect places for fall color 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.
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 trails, birding, and an 18-hole golf course, but gorgeous fall colors 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.
Cheaha State Park
Surrounded by 400,000 acres of the Talladega National Forest and Cheaha Wilderness, it’s impossible to pick the best spot for viewing peak color 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 this time of year.
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.
That’s Cheaha State Park in the photo up top.
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.
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.
King’s Chair Overlook at Oak Mountain State Park
Legend has it that this 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 a great place for the views, 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.
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.
Cathedral Caverns State Park Campground
The cave tours take center stage year round at Cathedral Caverns, but the patchwork quilt of color pushes them into the spotlight each autumn. In addition, the drive to Cathedral Caverns offers some spectacular views, especially from the scenic overlook in nearby Grant.
The new 25 full-service campsites offer everything an RV camper needs, and the surrounding forest offers gorgeous fall color. The park has also added The Cabins at the Caverns, providing a “tiny home” experience for adventurous travelers.
More About Alabama State Parks
Fall colors can be found at all 21 Alabama State Parks, including ones outside of the Appalachian foothills.
There are plenty of options for a weekend trip to get the best views of fall foliage. 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 ziplining courses, allowing visitors to see those yellow poplars and orange maples from overhead.
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. Wi8th plenty of places to stay, and lots of opinions on the best spots to enjoy the amazing fall foliate, you’ll need to starting making decisions today!
Alabama State Parks is a division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and maintains 21 State Parks encompassing more than 50,000 acres of land and water in Alabama. The parks range from Gulf Coast beaches to the Appalachian Mountains and provide opportunities and facilities from basic day-use activities to resort convention lodging, restaurants and golfing areas. These parks rely on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. Learn more at www.alapark.com.
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Photo credit: Alabama State Parks
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Mary Jo Manzanares is a founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine proving informational and inspirational travel recommendations for curious Baby Boomer travelers. She has been a speaker at various industry events and has a personal travel blog at Traveling with MJ. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Mary Jo’s top travel destinations are Italy, Portugal, and the Caribbean.