"Take a Hike"

Hiking the Wilder Edge of Alabama 

Hikers that choose the Northeast corner of Alabama will find plenty of challenge and beauty in Jackson, Marshall, and DeKalb Counties.  Little River Canyon (National Preserve) atop Lookout Mountain is one such stop.  Carved for thousands of years, the canyon resonates with the thunder of the river, culminating in a spectacular 60-foot waterfall.  The views from the canyon rim are something to behold. This is a popular location for whitewater rafters, kayakers, and rock climbers.

The Eberhart Point Trail provides more views of the canyon, but mainly it takes you from the raging river for a little rock hopping and views of the canyon from the bottom.  DeSoto State park is also located here with a multitude of trails and sites.  In addition to the many panoramic views, several falls are encountered including Lost Falls, Azalea Cascade, and the rapids of the west fork of Little River.

The Russell Cave (National Monument) Trail combines history, hiking, and cave exploration all in one.  The trail travels up the side of Montague Mountain and culminates at Russell Cave.  Although this is the 50th anniversary for this National Monument, over 10,000 years of Native American habitation and history are documented here.

 

 Thanks to the Alabama and Tennessee chapters of The Nature Conservancy, the newest hiking trail is now saved from development for the enjoyment of many future generations.  As of today, the Walls of Jericho Trail is officially open to the outdoor enthusiasts, birders, and geo-tourists everywhere. What the hiker receives is extraordinary and pristine beauty in the rock formations as well as the much-anticipated flora and fauna. As many of the thousands of travelers that have already been there will tell you, the visit is much the same as what the first Native American saw and you will just have to see it for yourself. Some, if not most, are now calling the Walls "The Grand Canyon of the South".

Lake Guntersville State Park is a favorite with tourists, hikers, and residents year-round, and this is not surprising.  The park has 31 miles of trails around the peaks, lake, and rivers. Among the trails is a half-mile nature walk, behind the newly renovated park lodge, which serves up an overview of the local geology and natural life. Trails within the park are well maintained and clear of downed trees, limbs, and brush.  Hikes are easy to moderate in difficulty.

A summary of many of the more prominent hiking trails of NE Alabama follow:

Hiking Area:      Lickskillet Trail
Starting Point:   From the camp store on Audrey J. Carr Road (this is main road that circles the park) off AL 227
Length:             5-mile loop
 Hiking Time:     2.5-3.5 hours    
Difficulty:          Easy to moderate over wide, leaf-and-needle covered paths, with some rocky portions and steep drop-offs.
Trail Surface:     Dirt path
Lay of Land:     Mixed forest, with hickory, maple, chestnut, upland willow oak, and pine
 
 
Hiking Area:      Cascade Loop Trail
Starting Point:   At the Terrill trailhead on Audrey J. Carr Road (this is main road that circles the park) off AL 227
Length:             2.3-mile loop
 Hiking Time:     2-3 hours
Difficulty:          Moderate, with some steep sections up a rock wall and along a rocky creek.
Trail Surface:     Rocky at the start; then dirt
Lay of Land:     A mixture of oak, hickory, maple, and pine trees; lichen-covered boulders and fern-lined pathways; 200-foot cliffs
 
 
Hiking Area:      Tom Bevill Interpretive Trail
Starting Point:   From the parking lot at the Lake Guntersville State Park Office
Length:             3.8-mile loop
 Hiking Time:     2-3 hours
Difficulty:          Easy walking on dirt footpaths, except for a moderate tenth-of-a-mile rocky section at the start.
Trail Surface:     Dirt path; short rocky stretch
Lay of Land:     Mixture of oak, hickory, maple, and pine trees; lichen-covered boulders and fern-lined pathways.
 
 
Hiking Area:      Cutchenmine Trail
Starting Point:   From the Cutchenmine trailhead on AL 227
Length:             4.2-miles out-and-back
 Hiking Time:     2-3 hours
Difficulty:          Easy walk around the base of berry Point and along the banks of Lake Guntersville; Prime location for spotting eagles
Trail Surface:     Dirt footpath
Lay of Land:     Mixture of hickory, maple, and large beech trees, with some loblolly pines
 
 
Hiking Area:      Camp Road
Starting Point:   From the parking area of the Buck's Pocket State Park Office
Length:             2.6-miles out-and-back
 Hiking Time:     1.5-2.5 hours
Difficulty:          Easy, over dirt road and footpath
Trail Surface:     Dirt road
Lay of Land:     Sandstone cliffs; blue beech and white walnut trees
 
 
Hiking Area:      Point Rock Trail
Starting Point:   From the parking area of the Buck's Pocket State Park Office
Length:             3.5-miles out-and-back
 Hiking Time:     2-3 hours
Difficulty:          Moderate, due to large boulders and ascent to Point Rock
Trail Surface:     Dirt path; some rocky trail
Lay of Land:     Butternut and Blue beech trees; wildflowers. Including Jack-in-the-pulpit and trout lily
 
 
Hiking Area:      Eberhart Trail
Starting Point:   From the Eberhart Point parking area on AL 179
Length:             1.8-miles out-and-back
 Hiking Time:     1.5-2.5 hours
Difficulty:          Difficult due to steep hiking into and out of Little River Canyon
Trail Surface:     Grass path on the way down; rocky along the river
Lay of Land:     Sandstone cliffs; thick rhododendron
 
 
Hiking Area:      Rhododendron Trail
Starting Point:   Take DeSoto Parkway (turns into CR 89 to park entrance) Go straight for 2.1 miles to the country store parking lot on left
Length:             1.3-mile loop
 Hiking Time:     2 hours
Difficulty:          Easy, over gentle rolling hills; over rocks & some downed trees Past Indian & Lodge Falls
Trail Surface:     Primarily dirt path
Lay of Land:     Rhododendron bushes, plus live oak and longleaf pine forest
 
 
Hiking Area:      DeSoto Scout Trail
Starting Point:   From the south trailhead at the end of the road that leads to DeSoto State Park lodge and cabins
Length:             4.6-miles out-and-back
 Hiking Time:     4-6 hours
Difficulty:          Moderate, due to rocky areas; may be some downed trees on the trail
Trail Surface:     Rocky footpath
Lay of Land:     Thick Rhododendron bushes, and pine 
 
 
Hiking Area:      Lost Falls Trail
Starting Point:   From the hiker's parking lot 2.1 miles past the entrance to DeSoto State Park
Length:             3.2-mile loop
 Hiking Time:     2.5-3.5 hours
Difficulty:          Mostly easy, with some moderate sections due to downed trees and limbs
Trail Surface:     Dirt path; some rocky slopes
Lay of Land:     Azaleas and mountain laurel, waterfalls, unusual rock formations
 
 
Hiking Area:      Russell Cave Trail
Starting Point:   From the back of the visitor center at Russell Cave National Monument
Length:             2-mile loop
 Hiking Time:     1.5-2 hours
Difficulty:          Moderate due to steepness on the path up Montague Mountain; easy over the wooden boardwalk to Russell Cave
Trail Surface:     Asphalt footpath; wooden boardwalk
Lay of Land:     Hickory and chestnut forest, wildflowers, and boulder-strewn landscape
 
 
Hiking Area:      Walls of Jericho Trail
Starting Point:   From trailhead off North State Highway 79
Length:             6.1-miles out-and-back - Primitive camping available at base of the trail
 Hiking Time:     6-7 hours
Difficulty:          Moderate, dirt footpath and rocky terrain; some steep trail
Trail Surface:     Dirt path studded with rocks & boulders
Lay of Land:     Hickory and chestnut hardwood forest, wildflowers, and rock outcroppings
 

As one can see the northeast corner of Alabama has many hiking and outdoor adventures to choose from. And as always, there are a few "rules" to remember even with the "Art of Hiking". They are: 1) Leave no trace. - Leave the area you hiked in just as you found it; this is a legacy we all want to leave to future generations.  2) Stay on the trail. - Paths serve an important purpose; they limit our impact on natural areas.  Straying off the designated trail could cause damage to sensitive areas - damage that may take years to recover. 3) If you bring a dog, keep them under control. 4) Yield to horses. - They are a lot larger animal than you are. 5) Bring enough water.  And lastly, 6) Arrive prepared to have fun and enjoy the great outdoors!

 Happy Hiking! - - J.P. Parsons

 

 

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