The Ultimate Alabama Bucket List for Fall: 13 Must-Do Autumn Adventures

Please note: due to local and state guidelines surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, some information below may not be accurate. Before you travel and plan your next adventure, make sure to check each business/park/campsite for any closures or guidelines and for the most up to date information. Enjoy your next Alabama Fall adventure!


In Alabama, fall seems to hit suddenly. One morning, around mid-October, you walk outside and realize that the humid weight of summer has lifted, and cool, crisp air fills your lungs. Like an alarm clock, it’s everyone’s signal to get outdoors and make the most of the South’s best season.

But once fall arrives, you have just a few weeks until the rain and cold winds blow in. So, you need a plan to score as many autumn adventures as possible. To help you map out the season, we’ve compiled an Alabama bucket list for the fall—15 outdoorsy pursuits, bike rides, hikes, festivals, and some Halloween-themed fun.

Let this bucket list be your guide for a spectacular fall full of outdoor fun. Otherwise, you could wind up in a dark field waiting in vain for the Great Pumpkin, while your better-informed pals grab all the candy. Hey, don’t be that kid. Use our list, and have an awesome fall.

1. Climb world-class boulders at Horse Pens 40.

Climb world-class boulders at Horse Pens 40.
Climb world-class boulders at Horse Pens 40. Gail Reich


No sweltering heat and no sweaty palms: In fall, the cool, dry air creates ideal conditions for scaling the sandstone boulders at Horse Pens 40 in Steele. Situated atop Chandler Mountain, northwest of Birmingham, Horse Pens 40 boasts one of the most concentrated boulder fields in the world, with hundreds of problems ranging from V0 to V12. To add some stoke to your trip, visit in October when top climbers gather for the Triple Crown Bouldering competition.

2. Hike through spectacular fall colors.

Hike through spectacular fall colors.

Hike through spectacular fall colors. Alby Headrick


From late October to early November, the trees in Alabama glow as the leaves shift from green to bright yellow and blood red. When the oaks, maples, and hickories show their colors, the trails in Alabama are spectacular, and few things are finer than a brisk fall hike. At Little River Canyon, and other parks across the state, you’ll find backcountry trails that hug high bluffs and provide great views of forests that form a patchwork of orange, bronze, and scarlet.

3. Camp at the Gulf Shores Outpost.

For a wild and unique Gulf Shores experience, avoid the concrete condos and camp in an Outpost tent at Gulf State Park. In the fall, evening temperatures hover in the high 60s, so you don’t need air conditioning to sleep comfortably. Surrounded by trees, each secluded tent includes cots and accommodates four. Plus, there’s a portable toilet nearby. And don’t forget a swimsuit, since the ocean is still warm enough for swimming.

4. Relax in a mountain cabin.

Relax in a mountain cabin.

Relax in a mountain cabin. Bart Everson


Looking for a serene escape during the fall season, but not up for a full-on camping excursion? A weekend in a state park cabin provides the perfect antidote. During the day, you can hike, ride or run park trails to get the endorphins pumping, and then retreat to your cabin for evening drinks beside a crackling fire. At Monte Sano State Park, 14 rustic cabins perched on the side of the mountain come equipped with amenities like kitchens, fireplaces, separate showers and baths, cable television, outdoor grills, picnic tables, and porches where you can enjoy the sunrise. You also find rustic cabins at DeSoto State Park and Cheaha State Park.

5. Battle zombies in a corn maze.

In the fall, dozens of farms in Alabama offer pumpkin patches and Halloween entertainment. But every October, Magnolia Farms in Summerdale takes it up a notch with hayrides through a haunted corn maze. In the dark of night, you’ll board a hay wagon and ramble through an eight-acre corn maze armed with a paintball gun to shoot encroaching zombies.

6. Camp in a hammock.

Camp in a hammock.

Camp in a hammock. rebamesir


Hammock camping is wildly popular because it puts you closer to nature. From a high perch on the Pinhoti Trail, you can relax in your hammock and watch the sunset, without a tent obstructing your view. From the Cheaha Trailhead, near Cheaha State Park, climb a little more than three miles to McDill Point, a west-facing outcrop with dramatic views and ample trees to support your hammock.

7. Kayak to see eagles at the Coastal Bird Fest.

Each fall, hundreds of species of birds migrate to the Alabama Gulf Coast. During the Alabama Coastal Birdfest in early October, you can join experts on birding trips to the woods and beaches on the coast. Some of the field trips take place at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge on Fort Morgan Peninsula, a world-class birding location. During the festival, you can also join a kayaking trip at Meaher State Park to visit an eagle’s nest accessible only by water.

8. Hunt ghosts on the streets of Birmingham.

You’ll feel a nip in the air and a chill in your spine while strolling the haunted streets of Birmingham. Beginning in October, the Birmingham Historic Touring Company leads two-hour walks that include tales of spiteful murders, haunted hotels, hidden cemeteries, and the legend of May Hawes, the “Mermaid of the Lake.” In 1888, the body of 7-year-old Hawes was discovered in Birmingham’s East Lake, and people still claim to see her apparition wandering the shoreline.

9. Explore an ancient culture at the Moundville Native American Festival.

Spanning 185 acres beside the Black Warrior River, the Moundville Archaeological Park has a majestic and mysterious vibe. From A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1450, Native Americans occupied this land and created some of North America’s tallest earth mounds. Today, 29 mounds still stand, including one 58 feet high. Each fall, descendants of the Moundville inhabitants gather at the site to share their customs and traditions. During the festival, Native Americans demonstrate traditional dances and share techniques to pit fire pottery, weave baskets, and carve a hunting longbow.

10. Bomb down the Bomb Dog Trail.

For the ultimate riding experience in Alabama, bomb your way down the Bomb Dog Trail, one of state’s top-rated mountain biking trails. Located in Anniston, this 2-mile route is one of the state’s longest downhill runs. For a real challenge, park at the Anniston Trailhead and climb through beautiful hardwood forest to the top of Bomb Dog. From here, you’ll begin a classic descent with plenty of rollers, table-top jumps, and a few optional black-diamond lines.

11. Run the Monte Sano Mountain Mist Trail.

Run the Monte Sano Mountain Mist Trail.

Run the Monte Sano Mountain Mist Trail. Shannon McGee


A top-rated trail run in Alabama, the Mountain Mist explores the hardwood coves and hilltops near Huntsville’s Monte Sano State Park. Beginning at Bankhead Parkway, the 7.5-mile route climbs to O’Shaughnessy Point at 1,500 feet and scrambles through the “stone cuts”—a narrow corridor of split boulders. In winter, this route is part of Alabama’s toughest trail race, the Mountain Mist 50K, which is a bucket list competition for U.S. trail runners.

12. Ride the zip line at Red Mountain Park.

Don’t just stare at the fall colors—immerse yourself in the foliage with a zip-line tour. During Red Mountain Park’s 90-minute tour, you’ll zoom through the forest on zip lines, traverse bridges, swing on ropes, and climb walls. On the 1,300-foot Mega Zip, you’ll reach 30 miles per hour as you fly through the sky head-first like Superman.

13. Immerse yourself in subterranean spookiness in a haunted cave tour.

Join a Cathedral Caverns Haunted Cave Tour.

Join a Cathedral Caverns Haunted Cave Tour. Tennessee Wanderer


As darkness falls, you step into Cathedral Caverns State Park and the massive entrance—126 feet wide and 25 feet high—swallows you whole. During the tour, guides share spooky tales as you wind through dimly lit stone corridors with stalagmites measuring 45 feet tall and more than 240 feet around. While Cathedral Cavers offers daytime tours all year, these special night tours, from 6:30 to 11:30 pm, are only offered for a few days in October, so plan ahead to take advantage.

Find your favorite Fall gear at Alabama Outdoors. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors


Written by Marcus Woolf for Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Alby Headrick

Pre- and Post-Game Day Adventures Around Alabama

Hiking Alabama’s Pinhoti Trail.

Please note: due to local and state guidelines surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, some information below may not be accurate. Before you travel and plan your next adventure, make sure to check each business/park/campsite for any closures or guidelines and for the most up to date information. Enjoy your next Alabama game day adventure!


Each year, as summer wanes and fall arrives, two spectacular things occur in Alabama. First, cool, dry air breezes in, providing a respite from the sweltering heat and perfect conditions to explore the outdoors. And second, college football returns and grabs the attention of fans throughout the state.

But for football fans who love the outdoors, fall weekends pose a challenge: How to balance the time watching the game with their drive to hit the trail, crag, or river?

However, with some savvy planning, you don’t have to sacrifice either. Whether your game-day festivities are in Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Birmingham, or elsewhere to watch a game, your outdoor fix is within easy reach. For a quick pre-game or post-game getaway, consider this list of convenient places to hike, bike, paddle and climb around the state.

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Nicol

Paddleboarding on Lake Nicol is a great pre-game activity.

Paddleboarding on Lake Nicol is a great pre-game activity. Tuscaloosa Paddleboard

For decades, University of Alabama students have made the short road trip to Lake Nicol to sunbathe on the cliffs that tower over the water. But, in recent years, stand-up paddleboarders have flocked to this 384-acre lake, which is located 20 miles northeast of Tuscaloosa. Because jet skis and water skiing are not allowed on the lake, SUPers and kayakers can enjoy some peace and quiet, and they don’t have to worry about avoiding speedy watercraft and the wake from a passing boat.

Even though Lake Nicol lies near a residential area, it still feels like a natural place, as the forest and 60-foot bluffs provide an attractive backdrop. Plus, you can paddle a couple of miles to the north or south to see bald eagles or osprey. If you need gear, Tuscaloosa Paddleboard provides board rentals on weekends.

Auburn University, Auburn

Mountain biking at Chewacla State Park

Mountain biking at Chewacla State Park.Mountain biking at Chewacla State Park. Leah Parker

Located less than 5 miles from Auburn University, Chewacla State Park is one of the best mountain biking areas in Alabama. This is partly due to the fact that the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers (C.A.M.P.) put great effort into developing and managing more than 15 miles of trails that traverse Chewacla’s rugged terrain. To sample some of the park’s best offerings, link together the Kick Six, Rocky Bottom, and Tiger Woods trails in Upper Chewacla. For the biggest thrill ride in the park, take Dell’s Trail and head for the Great Wall of Chewacla. At first, you’ll ride up a wooden bridge and then make a steep and swift descent, gaining necessary speed to traverse the wooden wall at a height of 10 or 15 feet above the ground. After you negotiate the wall, you’ll cross a series of serpentine bridges, skinnies, and a few pumps and jumps.

University of Alabama (UAB), Birmingham

Climbing at Moss Rock preserve

Moss Rock Park is an excellent add-on to any game day weekend.
Moss Rock Park is an excellent add-on to any game day weekend. Will Gurley

UAB fans in Birmingham don’t have to travel far for a great day of climbing. In the heart of Hoover, Moss Rock Preserve has about 40 bouldering problems ranging from V4 to V8, providing good options for beginners as well as experts. When the cool, dry air of autumn arrives, you’ll have ideal weather for exploring the high concentration of sandstone boulders in the south-central portion of the park. From the parking lot and trailhead on Preserve Parkway, you only have to walk about a hundred yards to reach easier problems for beginners, as well as moderate to difficult problems ranging from V4 to V8, plus a few V10s. If you would rather do roped climbing, head to the Bolt Boulder, which has a few bolts for a top rope anchor and a handful of 5.10 routes.

University of Alabama (UAH), Huntsville

Hiking Wade Mountain Preserve

The Wade Mountain Preserve has 11 miles of trail.
The Wade Mountain Preserve has 11 miles of trail. Shannon McGee

When you take your seat at Louis Crews Stadium to watch the Alabama A&M Bulldogs, you’re only about three miles from a great trail system. Covering 843 acres, the Wade Mountain Preserve includes 11 miles of unpaved trails that wind through quiet forest. While plenty of people walk and bike the preserve’s paved greenway path, this is still the least visited of the five land trust preserves in north Alabama, and Wade Mountain’s unpaved trails are rarely overcrowded. Two loop hikes—a 4-mile route on the east side of the preserve, and a 5.3-mile trek on the west side—wind among rock gardens and streams, and climb above 1,000 feet of elevation to offer good views of north Huntsville. On really clear days, you can even see into Tennessee.

University of South Alabama, Mobile

Mountain Biking at University of South Alabama

As you speed through dense forest on the Red Rock Trail, you’ll forget that you’re riding in the middle of a college campus. In total, there are 12 miles of bike trails that wind through the heart of the University of South Alabama. Because Mobile is so flat, these trails have little change in elevation, but that doesn’t mean that every ride is easy. While the 3.5-mile Orange Loop suits beginners, there are plenty of fast singletracks, including Eric’s Trail, which stretches for a mile. If you like technical obstacles, hit the Bottoms trail where you’ll encounter tree roots, ditches and dives. Also, the 8-mile Red Loop will challenge intermediate riders, while the White Loop and Yellow Loop are best for advanced riders.

University of North Alabama, Florence

Paddling Cypress Creek

Cypress Creek beckons with flat water for relaxed paddling.
Cypress Creek beckons with flat water for relaxed paddling. Marcus Woolf

With a morning start, you can easily get in a few hours of paddling on Cypress Creek and still make an afternoon tailgate for the UNA Lions. Winding through the west side of Florence, this tributary of the Tennessee River has easy currents and flat water, so it’s great for beginner paddlers, anglers, and folks who just want to relax and float the day away.

If you put in at Cox Creek Parkway (off of Waterloo Road) and take out at Wildwood Park, you’ll cover about 4 miles, which can be done in a couple of hours. Though the creek does run past housing tracts, farms, and a park, it also snakes through wild corridors with forested banks and high bluffs. Along the way, you’ll see a wide variety birds, turtles, and other wild creatures. In many parts of the creek you can land smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, and catfish. If you have time, continue past Wildwood Park and go downstream another three miles to Savannah Highway Bridge. In this lower section of the creek you’ll see large cypress trees and great blue herons.

Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville

Hiking the Pinhoti Trail

One of Alabama’s most rugged trails lies less than 30 minutes from Jacksonville State University in Anniston. Stretching 171 miles through the Talladega National Forest, the Pinhoti Trail passes through the Dugger Mountain Wilderness and other large tracts of contiguous forest that actually support populations of bears. If you’re a Gamecock fan in Anniston, you can escape for several hours with heart-pumping day hike that climbs Dugger Mountain and exceeds 2,000 feet of elevation. Beginning at the Pink E. Burns trailhead on Rabbittown Road in Piedmont, the trail ascends through towering mature hardwoods. Near the 3-mile mark, the forest changes dramatically, as mosses, ferns, and deep-green mountain laurel line the trail. At 4.8 miles, on the upper reaches of Dugger Mountain, a break in the canopy allows you to look north and see the broad rural landscape far below. While the Pinhoti continues to climb, this is a good spot to turn around and retrace your steps.

Find your favorite Fall gear at Alabama Outdoors. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Written by Marcus Woolf for Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by ktrussell15

7 of the Most Coveted Alabama Campsites

Gulf State Park is the home of arguably the most popular campground in the state.

Please note: due to local and state guidelines surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, some information below may not be accurate. Before you travel and plan your next adventure, make sure to check each business/park/campsite for any closures or guidelines and for the most up to date information. Enjoy your next Alabama camping adventure!


“Location, location, location.” While that’s the mantra for investing in real estate, it’s also a guiding force when you’re choosing a place to camp. There’s no doubt that a trip outdoors is even better when you score the campsite with the sweeping mountain view, the perfect spot on the lake, the prime position near the beach, or even the site that sits near the restroom or other creature comforts. We all have our own definition of what makes a campsite the best. But, no matter how you define it, Alabama’s state parks and other natural areas boast several ideal campsites, from the rocky outcrops of Cheaha Mountain to the Gulf Coast.

The trick is knowing just exactly where to find the best campsites at your destination. To give you a leg up, we’ve highlighted seven destinations and specific, highly coveted campsites at each place. Just remember, you’ll need to plan and book early to score the best location.

Gulf State Park

No matter what season you plan a trip to visit Alabama Gulf Coast you had better make your reservations far in advance if you want a campsite at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.

The park is the home of arguably the most popular campground in the state. Even with 496 improved campsites it’s difficult to reserve a spot. The reason? The Gulf beaches, of course. The campground is located only 1.5 miles north of those sugary white beaches and turquoise waters. But, that’s not the only reason the campground is popular. There’s hiking at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, walking and biking on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, restaurants, nightlife, you get the picture.

The campground has 11 air-conditioned bath houses (a must along the coast almost year round), swimming pool, laundry, even tennis courts. The best sites? On the water, of course. Sites 11-37 and even numbers from 220 to 226 are right on the beautiful shimmering waters of Middle Lake, while site numbers 469 through 496 are along the narrow Boat Canal that feeds the lake. Either way, you’ll have great views and an easy put-in for you canoe or kayak.

Joe Wheeler State Park

Beautiful, tranquil, serene. These are just a few of the words used to describe the campground at Joe Wheeler State Park.

Located on the banks of Wheeler Lake between Florence and Huntsville, this resort-style state park and campground features 116 improved and 30 primitive campsites with plenty of shade and more-than-adequate spacing for a restful night’s sleep.

While there, hike one of the park’s three trails, grab a racket and hit the tennis court, or maybe hit the links on the 18-hole course.

And, if you get tired of S’mores (but really, who would?) take in a beautiful sunrise breakfast or sunset dinner at the park’s lakeside restaurant.

The campground has three loops, and each has wonderful waterside sites. In Section A, try to get sites 24, 25, or 26. In section B, the best sites are 17, 20, 22, 24, and 26 through 28. The absolute best is site 9 in Section C—it’s right on the water. Each loop has its own clean bathhouse with three hot showers and plenty of space.

Cheaha State Park

You can’t go wrong with any of the tucked away in the forest campsites at Cheaha. André Natta


Cheaha State Park has one of Alabama’s highly desirable campgrounds because it makes the perfect basecamp for exploring the miles and miles of trails, thundering waterfalls, and awe-inspiring overlooks of the Talladega Mountains.

Atop the state’s highest mountain there are 72 improved sites in two campgrounds, 25 semi-improved sites at the CCC tower, and plenty of primitive sites. The stone bath houses are the original facilities built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, updated, of course, with more modern fixtures. Both are heated, which is a welcome touch if you camp here in winter.

In the spring, the is hopping as people flock to enjoy the blooming wildflowers and flowing waterfalls. It’s also a popular place in summer when the swimming is cool and relaxing in Cheaha Lake, and in fall when the leaves put on a dazzling show. Things really get busy the weekend of the Talladega 500 NASCAR race. During winter, visitation drops significantly, but it’s still a good time to spend a night or two, when a dusting of snow enshrouds the mountains.

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the improved sites at Cheaha. Tucked away in the forest they’re all pretty nice. But, you might want to be closer to the bathhouses if you have kids or if it’s very cold out (they are heated, after all). Sites 3, 8, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, or 25 in Campground #1 are each located next to one of the bathhouses. If you visit in the summer, check out the 30 sites in the lower Campground #2, which is only a short walk or drive to Cheaha Lake for some swimming.

Wind Creek State Park

Wind Creek along the shores of Lake Martin is touted as the largest state-operated campground in the United States with 586 improved campsites. Of those, 156 are waterfront.

Of course, the lake is the big draw here for fishing and swimming, and most of those 500+ sites are reserved well in advance. The campground itself has beautiful, clean and modern bath houses scattered throughout, as well as two laundries.

The park is located only a few miles from the remarkable hiking trails that were built by the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association, including the Smith Mountain Fire Tower Trail and the new John B. Scott Forever Wild Trail. But, within the park, there is plenty to keep you and your family busy like the archery range, paddle boats and kayaks, a visit to “Creem on the Creek” for a sandwich, pizza, or maybe some ice cream, and the brand new Zipline Canopy Tour.

Choice sites are located near the camp store in the Orange loop, including sites 22, 24, 25, 29, 30, and 32 through 40. Odd numbered sites 13 through 32 in the Red Loop are located near the swimming beach area. Sites 122 to 128 in the Blue are nice waterfront sites as well. All of the loops are located at the tips of fingers that jut out into the lake.

Meaher State Park

The real draw of this park, is the delta itself. Stephanie Pluscht


Small in size but not in popularity, the campground at Meaher State Park in Spanish Fort is coveted for its location—right smack dab in the middle of Mobile Bay, less than 10 miles from Mobile and right at the gateway to the second largest delta in the country, the Mobile-Tensaw.

The park has nice renovated bath houses and boasts 61 improved RV sites and 10 improved tent sites. It’s a cozy setting, maybe a little too cozy for some. The park itself is only 1,300 acres in size, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in nearby activities. You can head to Mobile for the nightlife, museums, or even experience Mardi Gras at the birthplace of the celebration.

The real draw, however, is the delta itself. Just across U.S. Highway 98 from the park is the Five Rivers Delta Resource Center, which has an exciting and educational exhibit hall, a theater where outdoor- and nature-related movies play almost constantly, and a gift shop. The Center also has pontoon tour boat or kayak rentals so you can view alligators in the wild.

The best sites to catch a beautiful sunset on Mobile Bay are the odd numbered sites from 7 to 35, and also numbers 52 and 54. A real favorite is site 52, which is furthest away from the Causeway and more secluded.

Deerlick Creek

If you’re looking for something more downscale from a resort-style state park—a more traditional camping experience—then one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds will be to your liking. All USACE campgrounds combine peaceful, beautiful landscapes with clean facilities and plenty to do.

One of the most popular is Deerlick Creek, tucked away in the oak, beech, and pine forests along the banks of Holt Lake in Tuscaloosa.

Deerlick has 46 sites in all, and 6 of those are primitive. While primitive sites are normally an afterthought at most parks, these are phenomenal and are located on a bluff overlooking the lake.

The campground has several short hiking trails, a road biking trail, laundry, and a nice, clean central bath house.

Keep in mind that this place is hopping during college football season when the Alabama Crimson Tide have a home game. The campground is closed November through February.

Some of the best sites are actually not directly on the banks of the lake. Instead, they’re up just high enough where you get a good, unobstructed view. These sites are 5 through 9, 13 through 18, and 34 through 39. The best part for tent campers is that the facility doesn’t restrict the number of tents per pad.

Corinth Recreation Area

One of the most fascinating areas to explore in Alabama is the Bankhead National Forest and the Sipsey Wilderness, also known as the “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls, ”which lies within the national forest. The most popular site to pitch camp and explore this wonderland is the USDA Forest Service Corinth Recreation Area.

Located 7 miles from Double Springs, the campground has 102 campsites in 4 loops, each with ample room between sites and plenty of shade from the hardwoods. The bath houses are nice and clean, with one located in each loop.

Of course, being on the banks of Lewis Smith Lake there is great swimming and fishing, with striped bass being the main catch. There are also basketball and volleyball courts, and you can swim in the lake. And, of course, you are only a short drive away from the waterfalls and canyons of the Sipsey.

The best sites include 15 and 18 in the Yellow Hammer loop, and 38 through 41 in the Firefly loop. All of these sites have good shade (a blessing in summer heat), and they offer a view of the lake. Of course, some views are better than others. The best is Yellow Hammer 15, which sits on a bluff above the water’s edge.


Find what you need for your camping adventure here! We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Written by Joe Cuhaj for Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Stephanie Pluscht

The Ultimate Alabama Climbing Road Trip

20180831-Alabama-Moss Rock Preserve-Climbing

Moss Rock Preserve

Please note: due to local and state guidelines surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, some information below may not be accurate. Before you travel and plan your next adventure, make sure to check each business/park/campsite for any closures or guidelines and for the most up to date information. Enjoy your next Alabama climbing adventure!


Sitting at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountain chain, Alabama is home to an array of crags and boulder fields that offer climbers many options for bouldering and sport climbing. Because many of Alabama’s best climbing areas are concentrated in the eastern and northeastern parts of the state, it’s possible to hit several of them without driving great distances. Really, it’s an ideal place for an epic climbing road trip, and fall will be here soon, bringing lower humidity and prime conditions for spending time outdoors. So, if you need to escape for a week, alert your friends, gather your gear, and check out our itinerary for an excellent Alabama climbing road trip.

Day 1: Moss Rock Preserve

Start your trip just south of Birmingham at a site that was nearly overtaken by development almost 20 years ago. Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover has become one of the most popular and well-climbed boulder fields in the state. Close to 50 bouldering problems dot the preserve, and you’ll find everything from highballs to sloping mantles. There may be some light graffiti to break up the natural beauty, but the preserve is home to some of the best bouldering in Alabama.

Cap off a great day of climbing with a trip to one of the may area brew pubs, including local favorites Avondale, Good People, Cahaba, and Trim Tab breweries. You can stay the night at Oak Mountain State Park, which has 60 primitive tent camping sites, and six tent sites with electricity.

Day 2: Horse Pens 40

Horse Pens 40 draws climbers from around the world. Curtis Palmer


From Moss Rock Preserve, drive approximately 60 miles to reach your next destination, Horse Pens 40, a mecca of bouldering. It’s privately owned by the Schultz family, who live on the property and make HP40 one of the most hospitable bouldering destinations in the world. Everything you need for this stop on your road trip can be found on-site, including camping, cabin rentals, a bath house, a convenience store, and restaurant. You can even rent crash pads here. The boulder field has been meticulously detailed in a guidebook compiled by Alabama climber Adam Henry.

There are nearly 300 climbs at HP40, and many of the problems are in the V5 range, making this one of the best moderate bouldering sites in America. It’s also known as a great place for fall and winter climbing and hosts a few bouldering competitions each year.

Day 3: Hospital Boulders

From Horse Pens 40, head back to I-59 and travel north toward Gadsden. After you go about 25 miles you’ll reach Hospital Boulders, which is owned and managed by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC). For SCC-owned climbing areas you will need a gate code to enter. You can get the code by request on the SCC webpage for each respective area. The 39 acres that make up Hospital Boulders consist of high-quality bouldering, plus some short trad, sport, and top-rope climbs. From the area parking lot, you’ll take an easy hike to reach the boulder field, which sports more than 200 problems.

Camping isn’t allowed at Hospital Boulders, but there are good campsites at Noccalula Falls, less than five miles away. Plus, Gadsden has several chain hotels. During your stay, check out the Back Forty Beer Company, Blackstone Pub and Eatery, or Merrill’s BBQ. Blackstone is a popular late-night pizza kitchen with occasional live music, more than a dozen unique pies, and 42 beers on tap. For quintessential Alabama barbeque, Merrill’s is where it’s at. It’s usually busy, and you might have to wait a while, but they serve some of the best barbeque you’ll ever taste.

Day 4: Cherokee Rock Village (Sandrock)

Cherokee Rock Village (or Sand Rock) offers trad and sport climbing, as well as bouldering. Alan Cressler


Now that you’ve had your fill of bouldering, it’s time for the trad and sport climbing leg of the road trip. From Hospital Boulders you’ll drive about 24 miles northeast to reach Cherokee Rock Village (climbers call it Sand Rock) in Centre.

Climbers have flocked to Sand Rock for decades, but for years they had to share the area with local partiers, and it wasn’t known as the most comfortable spot to climb due to litter and graffiti. Fortunately, site ownership now resides in the hands of Cherokee County, and the park has managers on-site, along with bathrooms, a playground, and camping sites.

You can trad or sport climb here, and also tackle solid boulder problems. It’s known as a spot where beginners can gain experience and veterans can find a new challenge. There is enough room here to spread out to avoid crowding, and the first climb you approach is a mere 100 feet from the car.

Day 5: Little River Canyon

Little River Canyon boasts the toughest sport climbing routes in Alabama. Alan Cressler


Now that you’re warmed up, it’s time for a bigger challenge, so leave Sand Rock and head about 20 miles northeast to Little River Canyon. Not for beginners, Little River Canyon is home to steep sandstone walls that offer the toughest sport climbing in the state. (For more beta, visit, and get a copy of the “Little River Canyon Climbing Guide.”) Most routes are rated at least 5.11, making this crag a challenge for even the most seasoned climbers.

Little River Canyon is one of the most pristine and scenic areas of the country, but camping isn’t permitted in the canyon itself. Nearby DeSoto State Park has primitive campsites, and you can use the showers in the Improved Campground. If you’re not in the mood for campground cooking, head to Fort Payne and get a belly full of Alabama barbecue at Sally’s Smokin Butt BBQ, or Bar-B-Q Place.

Day 6: Jamestown

On the other side of Little River Canyon, about 15 miles away, is Jamestown, another SCC-owned site. If you’re into trad climbing, this is your go-to destination in Alabama. Bolting is only allowed with SCC approval, and there is a tight concentration of two- and three-star routes across more than 1,500 linear feet of sandstone rising 80 to 100 feet. While no camping is allowed in the climbing area, you can camp at DeSoto State Park or Cherokee Rock Village. Your best bet may be to head to Yellow Bluff, the final stop on your ultimate Alabama climbing road trip.

Day 7: Yellow Bluff

From Jamestown you’ll drive 85 miles to reach Yellow Bluff, a sandstone cliff that stretches nearly 1,500 feet. Formerly private property, Yellow Bluff became so popular that the former owners closed it to climbing, but the SCC purchased the land in 2009. Fortunately, climbers once again have access to over 70 climbs, more than half of which are sport climbs rated above 5.7. You can also find trad and boulder climbing here—just make sure you stay within the SCC boundary.

Yellow Bluff is located 20 miles east of Huntsville and is one of the most popular crags in Alabama for good reason. Since the SCC took over maintenance of Yellow Bluff you will find fresh quickdraws, anchors, and bolts, all less than a five-minute walk from the parking lot. Camping and fires are not allowed at Yellow Bluff, meaning that Huntsville will be your best bet for accommodations (try Monte Sano State Park). When you’re in Huntsville, take advantage of the thriving craft beer scene.


Find what you need for your climbing adventure here and do not miss out on our other top gear deals! We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Written by Hap Pruitt for RootsRated in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to
Featured image provided by Will Gurley