6 Day Trips in Alabama for First-Time Kayakers

In scenic northwest Alabama, the Elk River weaves through a diverse ecosystem.


Kayaking is a perfect way to see nature from a different perspective, things look a lot different from atop the water rather than standing along the shores. Alabama’s 130,000 miles of rivers and streams give beginner paddlers plenty of opportunity to get their feet wet (or hopefully not!) with a new sport and fresh way of looking at things. Whether you’re on a mission to finally get that elusive photo of the Cahaba Lily in bloom or are just looking for a warming paddle with friends along the Flint during a sunny fall day, paddling can open up a new way to get outside solo or socially. If you are new to kayaking, don’t worry, it is an easy and rewarding sport to pursue, and the multiple outfitters along the waterways will help ensure you have the gear and knowledge you need to get started.

Here, six spots that offer easy kayaking day trips perfect for beginners to experience Alabama from the water.

1. Flint River

Flowing south through Madison County before emptying into the Tennessee River, the Flint is the perfect river for a beginner day trip in Alabama’s wilderness. The current runs less than two miles per hour and it’s shallow enough for you to stand for the majority of it. There are also plenty of bridges and roads to break up the paddle into manageable floats.

Most paddlers work their way south from the Highway 72 bridge put-in. Along this route you’ll find several islands, creeks, and even a few caves to be explored. The Flint is also known for the diverse array of fish that call it home, including different species of bass, and you can even find a few smallmouth in the bends. For inside info on the Flint, contact the experts at North Alabama Canoe and Kayak (NACK), where you can rent your gear and plan a trip.

2. Elk River-Limestone County Canoe and Kayak Trail

In scenic northwest Alabama, the Elk River weaves through a diverse ecosystem with untamed forest, lush fields, and sandstone bluffs. Part of the Limestone County Canoe and Kayak Trail, the Elk is nearly 22 miles long, and has five easy access points along its length. Depth is controlled by the TVA, making it navigable even during a dry summer season. If you don’t feel like packing a lunch, there are restaurants at the Maples Bridge and Mills Park sections of the river.

3. Cahaba River

The Cahaba River is a draw to photographers trying to grab a photo of the Cahaba Lily. Alan Cressler

Starting in Trussville and ending 194 miles south in Selma, the Cahaba River is known for being one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the country and is home to more than 60 rare species of plants, including the Cahaba Lily. Photographers from across the country load up their watercraft for a chance to catch a photo of the lily, which is only found in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, in bloom every spring.

The Cahaba offers a variety of paddles, from a light float, where you can stop and use one of the rope swings, to slightly more technical areas where you will need to navigate shallow shoals.

There are many public access points a short distance from downtown Birmingham. Check out the Cahaba River Society for more information.

4. Tallapoosa River

Part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the Tallapoosa River stretches 265 miles from the southern Appalachians in Georgia, through eastern Alabama, until it joins the Coosa River in Wetumpka. There are four dams along its path.

For your day trip, explore floating the Lloyd Owens section of the Tallapoosa. This 40-mile stretch, about an hour east of Birmingham near Helfin, is mostly flatwater and has five access points, making it a perfect spot for your first foray into kayaking. Check out the Tallapoosa River Outfitters or Southern Canoe Outfitters if you need to rent or plan a float.

5. Escatawpa River

Get away from the crowds and into Alabama’s backwoods on a paddle down the Escatawpa River. Stephanie Pluscht

If you are looking to get extremely adventurous and deep into backwoods Alabama away from the crowds, the Escatawpa River, one of few blackwater rivers, is your spot. Located in beautiful, yet remote west Mobile County, close to the Mississippi border, the Escatawpa’s contrast of the blackwater with white-sand banks makes this a memorable and unique float.

6. Terrapin Creek

Located east of Gadsden in Piedmont, Terrapin Creek is one of the most popular summertime floats in the state. At 8 miles, the creek is split into two sections, both of which can be done in one day. It’s an easy, quick paddle, where you can pull up on the bank of the creek and soak in the sun, relax, cool off with a swim, or refuel with a picnic in Alabama’s wilderness. There are outfitters nearby, like Terrapin Outdoor and the Redneck Yacht Club, that you can rent from, and they will also drop off and pick up at the put-ins, leaving you to enjoy a relaxing float.

Written by Hap Pruitt for Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

We have the Summer outdoor gear you need to get you back outdoors! Where will you go? 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 in-store pickup! #BeOutdoors

Featured image provided by Marshal Hedin

5 Stunning Sunset Hikes in Alabama

Sunset on Ruffner Mountain

Ruffner Mountain hosts some of the best sunsets in and around Birmingham. Photo by Rain0975.

Alabama is blessed with more than a few spots in the great outdoors with vistas that are perfect for watching a sunset. From an easy walk on the Gulf Coast to a challenging trek in North Alabama, we have five favorite sunset hikes around the state.

A quick heads-up before you head out: Take caution when hiking during the sunset hours. Prepare for low-light conditions with flashlights, headlamps, and other essentials like a compass. The hikes listed here are all well-maintained and popular, yet hikers should always arrive prepared and navigate cautiously when visiting after dark.

1. Ruffner sunset hikes

Ruffner Mountain at Sunset

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is popular with Birmingham residents for many reasons. It’s accessible enough for a quick after-work hike; its 14 miles of interconnected trails give hikers and trail runners plenty of recreational opportunities, and the mountain’s abandoned mines recall an era of forgotten history.

The sunsets, though, are among the best around Birmingham. Ruffner Mountain offers numerous west-facing viewpoints for watching the sunset beyond the downtown skyline; a recommended favorite is the quick (yet moderately challenging) Overlook Trail. At less than a half-mile, the trail ends at a viewpoint above a quarry, where hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the sunset. The trail’s popularity and distance make it a safe bet for quickly returning to the car—even after dark.

2. Dauphin Island sunset stroll

Dauphin Island offers several beaches and viewpoints for watching the sunset. 

It’s almost impossible to talk about Alabama’s best sunset hikes without mentioning Dauphin Island, which bills itself as the “Sunset Capital of Alabama.”

Three miles south of Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island is the southernmost point in Alabama. The 14-mile-long island (population: 1,300) has become a popular, albeit low-key, tourist destination in recent years, thanks in part to its white, sandy beaches and numerous walking trails.

Hikers won’t have to go far—or work hard—for a breathtaking sunset. The island offers miles of mostly flat walking and cycling trails, with unobstructed viewpoints aplenty in East End Park, Magnolia Park, West End Beach, and Dauphin Island Public Beach.

3. Vulcan Trail at sunset

The mostly forested Vulcan Trail offers numerous clearings and viewpoints for enjoying the sunset. Photo by Lee Adlaf

The paved Vulcan Trail contains all the ingredients for an idyllic sunset hike. It gains less than 200 feet, so hikers won’t be too out of breath to enjoy the views; the path follows the ridge of Red Mountain, giving visitors a glimpse of the region’s natural beauty; and the short length (a mile each way) means that it’s a relatively easy jaunt to return to the trailhead after dark.

Trees line the vast majority of the Vulcan Trail, but the occasional viewpoint promises wide-open views of downtown Birmingham, nearby mountain ridges, and more. If you have time beforehand, head to nearby Vulcan Park to learn about the region’s rich mining history and enjoy other panoramic vistas.

4. McDill Point sunset trek

Ambitious hikers, this one’s for you: McDill Point offers an overnight trek near Cheaha State Park, so you can extend that sunset hike into a longer adventure. Hikers making the effort will be rewarded with gorgeous sunsets behind the tree line, not to mention starry night skies above.

Hikers start the 3.2-mile hike on the Pinhoti Trail, pass through the Cheaha Wilderness in the Talladega National Forest, take the McDill Point spur trail, and eventually arrive at their destination: a series of boulder cliffs at McDill Point. (Note: This area is protected from the wind and is an ideal spot to set up camp.)

A quick scramble up the boulders takes hikers to a west-facing outcrop with views of the surrounding forest and the wide-open night sky as the sun dips—quite a memorable way to end the day.

5. Gulf State Park sunset walk

Gulf State Park hosts two miles of sandy beaches for relaxing and watching the sunset. 

The Gulf Coast hosts dozens of viewpoints, parks, and trails for enjoying the sunset, but one that’s especially awesome is Gulf State Park. The picturesque park hosts two miles of white, sandy beaches and a fishing pier that extends more than 1,500 feet into the Gulf—both of which offer plenty of room and unfettered views as the sun descends behind the horizon.

Hikers and cyclists looking for added adventure can hit up the park’s 15-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system. Gulf State Park’s seven, well-graded paths take hikers through a lush maritime forest, windswept sand dunes, and inland lakes. Along the way, hikers might spot a bobcat, white-tailed deer, or sunbathing alligator.

Written by Matt Wastradowski for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.

Need to upgrade your summer adventure gear? We can help! Alabama Outdoors wants 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 convenient in-store pickup! #BeOutdoors



Rent Backpacking and Camping Gear!

rent- equipment-for backpackingHiking, backpacking, and camping are wonderful, enriching outdoor hobbies that can become lifelong passions. But they require an investment of time and money, especially when you start out.

If you are a beginner, you may decide hiking or backpacking isn’t the hobby for you. Wouldn’t it be great to try out the sport and some equipment to see if it fits you and your lifestyle?  We want you to love the outdoors. That’s why we offer a rental program to help you ease into your outdoor hobby.

Rent packs, tents, and sleeping pads

Alabama Outdoors rents a variety of packs, including ultralight and heavier packs for men, women, and children. We also rent men’s and women’s trekking poles as well as sleeping pads and tents. Packs, tents, and sleeping pads tend to be the most expensive equipment, so renting equipment first may help you decide if you like the activity and what you want to own for future adventures.

For your safety, we sanitize all of our rental gear. When a customer returns rented equipment, we place it in a holding area for 24 hours, then sanitize them before they can be issued to another customer.

It’s a great way to try out packs and different types of equipment.

If you are interested in renting hiking, backpacking, or camping equipment, drop by or call an Alabama Outdoors near you for more details about availability, options, and exact pricing for your trip! 

Pricing estimates (per day cost):

  • Trekking Poles: $6 – $8
  • Sleeping Pads: $5
  • Backpacks: $10 (Kids, Men’s, and Women’s sizes available)
  • Tents (2-6 person options): $12

*Ultralight tents and backpacks available.

Stop by any of our locations for your rental equipment!


Ready to be outdoors more this year? We have the camping + outdoor gear you need to get you on the trails!  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

2023 Top Graduation Gifts


Graduation is an important milestone in one’s life, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter. It’s a time to celebrate achievements and honor the hard work put into reaching this point.

When it comes to finding the perfect graduation gift, why not choose something that combines style, functionality, and a touch of adventure? Read below and explore the top graduation gifts that are sure to impress any graduate as they embark on their next journey.


Yeti Cooler

A Yeti Cooler is the epitome of durability and performance. Whether your graduate is heading off to college, planning a road trip, or simply enjoys outdoor adventures, this cooler will keep their food and drinks cold for hours. With its rugged construction and excellent insulation, a Yeti Cooler ensures that every outing is accompanied by refreshing treats and chilled beverages. If you’re graduate likes tailgating or car camping, we recommend a hard cooler like the Roadie 24. And, if they like to go to the beach or spend a day on the river, we recommend a soft-sided cooler like the Hopper Flip 12 or Hopper Flip 18.


A duffel bag for their adventures

A Patagonia duffel bag is not just a bag; it’s a symbol of wanderlust and exploration. Crafted with sustainability in mind, these duffel bags are made from recycled materials without compromising on quality. With spacious compartments and sturdy straps, they are perfect for weekend getaways, outdoor excursions, or even as a gym bag. Your graduate will appreciate both the style and the ethical choices behind this thoughtful gift. Shop duffel bags here.


A tent for a summer under the stars

For the adventure-seeking graduate, a high-quality tent is an essential gift. Whether they’re planning a camping trip, a music festival adventure, or simply love spending time in nature, this tent will provide them with a comfortable and reliable shelter. Brands like The North Face and Nemo are known for their durability, innovative designs, and attention to detail, ensuring that your graduate can enjoy their outdoor experiences to the fullest. Shop all tents and accessories here.


A hammock for ultimate relaxation

There’s nothing quite like relaxing in a hammock, swaying gently between two trees. The Eno Hammock is a must-have for any nature lover or outdoor enthusiast. Lightweight, compact, and easy to set up, it’s perfect for camping trips, beach outings, or lazy afternoons in the backyard. Give your graduate the gift of ultimate relaxation and a cozy spot to unwind after their achievements. While there are 1-person hammocks, we recommend the Eno Doublenest Hammock for maximum room. And don’t forget the Atlas Straps! Shop all ENO Hammocks and straps here.


New shoes for the grad on the move

Comfortable footwear is a necessity for any graduate embarking on new adventures. On Cloud Shoes combine style and performance, making them an ideal gift for someone always on the move. With their innovative design, these shoes provide cushioning and support while maintaining a lightweight feel. Whether it’s exploring new cities, going for a run, or simply strolling around campus, On Cloud Shoes will keep your graduate comfortable and fashionable. Check out the new On Cloudsurfer above and other new footwear arrivals here.


A pair of shades as cool as them

Shield your graduate’s eyes from the sun with a pair of stylish Goodr Sunglasses. These sunglasses are not only trendy but also offer exceptional UV protection and glare reduction. Available in a wide range of colors and designs, they are perfect for any outdoor activity, whether it’s hiking, biking, or simply enjoying a day at the beach. Help your graduate look cool and stay protected with these fashionable shades. Shop Goodr Sunglasses here.

Whatever gift you choose, remember that it’s not just an object but a symbol of your support and excitement for their future adventures.


Find the perfect graduation gift for your high school or college senior 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

Mother’s Day Glamping Getaway Giveaway!

We have teamed up with our friends at The Land of Bohamia to make this Mother’s Day one she will never forget. See details below for a chance to win a cozy glamping getaway filled with nature and quality time, with our Mother’s Day Package Giveaway!


Enter for a chance to win by following these rules:

  • Follow @AlabamaOutdoorsOfficial and @Land_of_bohamia on Instagram
  • Like the post on our Instagram page (@alabamaoutdoorsofficial) that looks like the picture above.
  • Tag a mom in your life in the comments who deserves to win this sweet escape. One person per comment (more comments = more entries) 
  • Share this giveaway to your stories and tag us for 5 bonus entries! (You may have to message us as well with a screenshot if you have a private account).
  • Giveaway begins on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 and ends on May 14, 2023 at 11:59 CDT. Winner must follow entry guidelines listed above.
  • This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Instagram.

The PRIZE (over a $500 value):

The terms + conditions:

  • Giveaway begins on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 and ends on Sunday May 14, 2023 at 11:59 CDT. Winner must follow entry guidelines listed above.
  • The winner will be chosen by random drawing and notified by Alabama Outdoors via Instagram on Monday May 15, 2023.
  • The winner will be able to choose which 2-night glampsite stay they want based on date availability. The 2-night stay must take place by May 31, 2024. 
  • The winner must sign the waiver and follow all rules and policies set by The Land of Bohamia
  • Travel to/from the Land of Bohamia is not included in the giveaway nor is travel reimbursement included.
  • You must personally know the accounts you tag. Tagging celebrities and bot accounts do not count.

Looking for more gift ideas for Mom? Check out all of our Mother’s Day gift ideas 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

4 S’mores recipes to change up your fireside desserts!

Whether you’re camping in the backyard or in the backcountry, you’ll need a fire and some ingredients to make a great s’more. And we’ve got all your campfire needs covered, from fuel and fire starters to the Solo Stove or the MSR PocketRocket 2.

We all love a fireside s’more, but sometimes it’s fun to mix it up. So if you’re a lightweight hiker trying to cut down the food you carry or you just want to wow the campsite, check out some new and easy recipes. 

Peanut Butter S’mores

Peanut butter
Chocolate bar pieces
>>>Or sub both for peanut butter cups
Roasted marshmallows
Graham crackers

  1. Layer peanut butter on one or both of your graham crackers.
  2. Add your favorite chocolate bar pieces on one side.
  3. Or, for an extra treat, swap out the peanut butter and chocolate for a peanut butter cup.
  4. Add your toasted marshmallows directly on top of the chocolate or peanut butter cup.
  5. Sandwich together with the other half of your graham cracker, and enjoy!

Mint Lover’s S’mores

For a minty, easy-going s’more try this.

Thin mint cookies
Roasted marshmallows
Graham crackers (optional)

  1. Option 1: Take your roasted marshmallows and sandwich between two thin mints cookies, and enjoy!
  2. Option 2: Take the prepared sandwich from above and put it in between two graham crackers for a double stack!

Hazelnut and Banana S’mores

Any Nutella or dessert crepe lovers? This one is for you!

Chocolate hazelnut spread
Sliced bananas, or your favorite fruit (strawberries are also great here!)
Roasted marshmallows
Graham crackers

  1. Add a layer of hazelnut spread to your graham crackers (measure it with your heart).
  2. Top one side with sliced bananas or your favorite fruit.
  3. Add your marshmallows to your preferred roasted liking!

Pretzel S’mores

To really cut down on mess or multiple ingredients/snacks on the trail, this is a great one!

Chocolate or yogurt-covered pretzels
Roasted marshmallows

  1. Take your roasted marshmallows and sandwich in-between two chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels. 
  2. It’s that easy. Enjoy an easy and sweet + salty treat!



Find your favorite back-to-school apparel and gear at Alabama Outdoors.  Alabama Outdoors wants 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 in-store pickup! #BeOutdoors

10 Ideas for a Fun Mother’s Day Weekend

We have listed 10 ways to celebrate the mom in your life, make her feel special, and maybe spend some time outdoors this Mother’s Day weekend!


Plan a weekend staycation or getaway

Plan a weekend staycation or getaway. We have put together ideas for a great Mother’s Day Weekend in Birmingham, Florence, and Mobile. Each city offers a wide array of activities for any interest, a needed change of pace from the day-to-day, and most definitely well-deserved relaxation and fun. Click each city for our full blogs on where to go and what to do! From urban outings to outdoor adventures to a relaxing beach getaway, and in between, we are sure to have something fun she will enjoy.


Have a picnic somewhere unique

Maybe the Mom in your life loves being outdoors without having to go far to enjoy nature. If so, find a local park or go somewhere close she hasn’t been and set up a picnic! Surprise her by doing the work and planning the menu with some of her favorite bites. Put down a blanket, put up a hammock, and put out the spread. Relax + enjoy. 

Visit the Gardens 

Don’t just give the Mom in your life flowers for Mother’s Day, take her to where all of the flowers bloom. She will enjoy the peaceful setting and beauty the gardens provide.

Here are a few of our favorites in Alabama:


Start a backyard garden together

May is the perfect time to start a garden. So while you are roaming the sidewalks at the local garden, discover plants and flowers Mom likes and help plan out her garden at home. Having a backyard garden will bring more of the outdoors to her when she doesn’t have time to be in the great outdoors but wants the serenity. Plus- she can grow vegetables which is even more fun!


Explore the trails 

If your mom likes hiking or even a nearby nature walk, explore a new trail or new park together. Whether you head out of town to check out a scenic view or wander through a local urban greenspace or trail, she will enjoy just being in nature. 


Go camping

You have been camping all year in your backyard preparing for this year. It’s time to take what you’ve learned in your trial runs and head outdoors! If you’re just starting, here are some tips for car camping and where to go that offer a more relaxing camping experience. Grab a new weekender bag or other travel gifts for mom here.


Start the day with yoga

If your mom enjoys staying active, invite her to join you for a local yoga class or a virtual outdoor yoga session with you. You can adjust to her preferences with a relaxed flow or muscle-burning poses with tricky inversions. Pair a fun yoga session with a new activewear set she will love! Shop activewear for mom here.

Do something on her list

Whether it is something on her to-do list or her bucket list, pick a couple of things out to help cross them off her list! We know she will love the help with chores. Once that is done, plan an adventure she has wanted to do and go with her! Maybe there is a hobby she has wanted to try, find a class and sign her up! Is there a trail to a waterfall she has been wanting to go to? Pack your water bottles, tell her to gear up, and hit the trails! Like the idea of chasing waterfalls? Check out our list of top waterfalls in Alabama, some that require zero hiking!


Treat her to a special brunch 

Does the Mom in your life cook for you and others a lot? If so, this Mother’s Day treat her to a special brunch out on the town where she can relax. If you will be spending the weekend under the stars, plan out a special fireside brunch to start the day off.


Catch a sunset

Pick out a sunset hike or find a local panoramic view to set up a picnic and enjoy the sunset. Who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of a sunset? Looking for the best spots? Here are 5 Stunning Sunset Hikes in Alabama.



Get Mom something she will love to go with your fun-filled weekend or to show her you care from far away! Click here for the Top Gifts this Mother’s Day. 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