The Ultimate Alabama Climbing Road Trip


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

20180831-Alabama-Moss Rock Preserve-Climbing

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 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 free shipping on orders over $29.99 or free in-store 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

Top 5 Outdoor Adventures Near Florence


Nestled in the heart of Alabama, the charming city of Florence beckons outdoor enthusiasts with a plethora of exhilarating adventures. From rugged trails to serene waterways, North Alabama offers an array of outdoor escapes that cater to every adventurer’s soul. Let’s embark on a journey to uncover five of our favorite outdoor adventures near Florence. 


  1. Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall

    Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall in Florence is a must-visit and a unique spot for some quiet time or a nice picnic. Why? Well, a local man named Tom Hendrix spent over 30 years building a stone wall in memory of his great-grandmother and her journey on the Singing River. We recommend reading further before you visit as the story is powerful and will make the visit that much better. Visitors have expressed the wall is healing and peaceful, and the surrounding nature only adds to the tranquility. If you want to keep your adventure going, check out our blog on other notable spots along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Please note that the Wichahpi Stone wall area is private property which the public is allowed to visit, but your furry friends must be left at home.

  2.  Dismals Canyon

    Dismals Canyon is a hidden Alabama gem and a popular bucket list item for Alabamians and other travelers. Located an hour south of Florence in Phil Campbell, AL this National Natural Landmark is a sandstone gorge filled with diverse plant life and wonder. There is a 1.5 mile hiking trail, Rainbow Falls, and the best of all- Dismalites. Dismalites are larvae that glow fluorescent blue at night to attract food, and the canyon offers night hikes to see them glow. Dismals Canyon also has stunning campsites and cozy cabins if you enjoy glamping. On site, there is also a soda fountain and a spa for a little extra r&r.

  3. McFarland Park

    McFarland Park is an easy staycation or day adventure as it is located right in Florence on the shores of the Tennessee River. McFarland Park has 60 campsites, fishing piers, playgrounds, a driving range, jogging trails, and more! This river-front home for the weekend will be fun for the whole family without going too far. So set up your camping site and enjoy a sunset on the river while lounging by the fire.

  4. Wildwood Park 

    Wildwood Park is located just minutes from downtown Florence. While known for its mountain bike trails, the park also has good walking/hiking trails for all to enjoy its beauty. Want to hit the water and beat the heat? Rent or bring a kayak and float along Cypress Creek. Want to help support the park? Buy a Wildwood t-shirt from Alabama Outdoors and part of the proceeds will benefit the park!

  5. Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve

    Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is a 713-acre property near Tuscumbia that offers hiking trails, a waterfall, stunning rock formations, a canyon overlook, and more! As this is a nature preserve, please make sure to follow all Leave No Trace principles when visiting to conserve its beauty and “naturalness”. Check out their website for directions, hours, and a full trail map and enjoy the outdoors!


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Guide to Camp Cooking: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Food forms a major part of the memories of and around camping. It’s the cooking part that’s fun and a little challenging. Good cooking will enhance the whole camping experience. Sometimes, we imagine and ‘cook up’ a scenario in our minds, and the experience turns out to be way different. Camp cooking is quite different from cooking at home.

Source: Pixabay

You wouldn’t want to spoil the food and the mood with cooking that’s gone awry. Whether you are a seasoned camping enthusiast or a beginner, learning some camp cooking tips and tricks should help you. First and foremost, make sure to tackle these five common camp cooking mistakes:

  1. Planning mistakes: No planning, insufficient planning, and excessive planning are all mistakes when it comes to camping cooking. However, over-planning might just be a lesser evil compared to the others. No planning is an ingredient for disaster and disappointment. Insufficient planning might lead to some inconveniences. Overplanning can be adjusted a little when you are implementing the cooking process. Plan your meals to avoid hungry group members and unnecessary delays. With the right quantities of ingredients and tools on hand, you’ll dodge emergency store trips. Stay prepared and enjoy seamless mealtime!


  1. Not giving the campfire its dues: This is with the assumption that you are cooking in the conventional camping style over a campfire. A campfire needs care and attention, as well as the right technique. Additionally, it requires patience and good materials. If you are starting a campfire in an existing ring, do take a few minutes to scrape away the old (often soggy) ashes. It’s best if you pack a jet flame torch lighter or a propane trigger torch for your camping trip. With either of these, you’ll find it easier to get a sturdy fire going. Gather sufficient tinder to light the kindling. Don’t smother your fire with the ashes of papers that burn out quickly. Split the wood, and it will burn more quickly and completely. Start early and nurture your campfire with patience until it turns into a steady and safe heat source. We recommend bringing a Pocket Bellow to help you start the fire with ease and be sure to check out our blog: Pro Tips on Building the Perfect Campfire.

    Source: Pixabay

  1. Cooking equipment mistakes: If you bring along other cooking equipment like stoves, you’ve avoided a camping cooking mistake, namely, relying solely on a campfire. But, consider this scenario: you brought along the required cooking equipment but did not check if it was working properly beforehand, and it failed you right on time. It is definitely a scenario you’d like to avoid. Clean and test your cooking equipment before heading out on your camping trip. If something is missing, broken, or damaged, do remember to purchase it, replace it, and get it repaired before the trip. Make sure you carry the required pots, pans, cooking spoons, and other tools required for preparing the meal items you have planned. For example, even though you prepare fresh lobster, you’re still going to need tongs to pick it up and a lobster cracker to enjoy it. Plan your meals, make a list of the equipment and tools you will require, and pack them with due diligence.


  1. Forgetting about food safety: It is equally important (if not more) to take care of food safety while camping in the great outdoors. When the conversation comes to food safety, most people assume it is about the handling of food. Although there are safety concerns around the handling of food, safely storing food is an equally large concern. You don’t want the camping trip to be ruined because someone fell ill due to food that was improperly stored or handled. Always remember to separate raw food from other food items. If you are carrying perishable poultry or meat products, carry them along with a cold source for safety. Even while you are out in the wild, washing your hands prior to handling and eating food is a must. Keep hand sanitizer and disposable wipes handy. Take all necessary precautions related to food safety, even while camping.


  1. Experimenting with complicated recipes: The issue with complicated recipes is that they require numerous ingredients and elaborate steps for preparation. They are also often quite time-consuming. When you go camping, we recommend making the most of limited ingredients and supplies. Leave the complicated recipes for experimentation at home and stick to basic, simple, and easy-to-prepare recipes for camping cooking. You can find some delicious s’mores recipes right here.


Final Words

One of the biggest mistakes is approaching camping cooking with the same kind of expectations that one has for home-cooked food. It’s going to be different; it is supposed to be different. And this difference is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated. When cooking while camping, enjoy the process to enjoy the results.


Author bio: Kevin Fagan

Kevin Fagan is a food & travel writer, based in New England. He likes to (try to) cook gourmet food at home, and travel to far-flung destinations.





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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

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Featured image provided by Marshal Hedin

4 Alabama State Parks you won’t want to miss this winter



  1. Monte Sano State Park

    A small and accessible park, Monte Sano State Park is a great winter getaway. Be it a secluded weekend or a day trip, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails. Try the South Plateau Loop as well for a scenic overlook on the south side of the park. Check conditions before hiking though, and avoid using muddy trails in the winter. Relax in the North Alabama Japanese Garden or try something new and check out the Disc Golf Course!



  2. Lake Guntersville State Park

    While a frigid day on the lake may not sound ideal, there’s plenty more to do at Lake Guntersville State Park. From superb fishing to 36 miles of hiking and biking trails, you can see everything the park has to offer. The real fun this winter is their Eagle Awareness Event. This series of 3-day long events run every weekend from January 21 to February 13th. The guided eagle safari field trips show you local eagles in their natural habitat. And the indoor educational programs include live eagles and raptors up-close. So take advantage of the season and don’t miss this spectacular event!


  3. Cheaha State Park

    The state’s highest peak isn’t just a great day trip, it’s the perfect spot for a winter weekend getaway. From cabins, chalets, and resort rooms to the incredible views in the primitive campsites, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this scenic wonderland. Soak in the views from hiking trails like the Bald Rock Outlook or swing by Laurel Falls. Bring the whole family, including the dog, and enjoy some fresh air at the Bosarge Memorial Dog Park!


  4. Oak Mountain State Park

    Recently expanded, Oak Mountain State Park is the perfect spot for winter hikes. From the Green Trail that takes you by Peavine Falls to Maggies Glen, there are serene and spectacular views everywhere. But Oak Mountain is more than trails. With expansive fishing spots, a Treetop Interpretive Nature Trail, the educational Oak Mountain Interpretive Learning Center, and a world-class BMX course, you’ll want to stay for a while. Don’t miss out on special events like bird-watching, a polar plunge, or a scenic 5K this winter!


Wanting to get out and explore? Find what you need for your next winter adventure hereWe 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

Definitive Guide to Cheaha: Part 1

By Cameron Sullivan

(Cameron Sullivan is a member of Alabama Outdoors’ eCommerce team and enjoys contributing his creative writing talents to our blog. He is also an avid trail runner and outdoor enthusiast.)

Trekking to a state’s highest peak often sounds like an arduous trip. In many states, that peak can soar from 6,684 ft. at Mount Mitchell in North Carolina to 14,417 ft. at Mount Rainier in Washington or 20,310 ft. at Mount Denali in Alaska. The peaks in many states are coveted destinations that take planning and skill to reach the top. The peak of Alabama, at Cheaha Mountain, is no different. 

At 2,413 ft. high, Cheaha Mountain, nestled in the heart of Talladega National Forest, ranks 35th out of the 50 highest peaks in the United States. It is often called “the Island in the Sky” due to the dense fog that often forms in the region. It is wedged in northeast Alabama towering over the southern tip of Cleburne County. From the peak, you actually can’t see much due to the blunt tip of the mountain and the forest that surrounds it, but from the iconic Bald Rock, you can stare across one of the most incredible views in Alabama and get a glimpse of the state from a literal birds-eye view. 

Cheaha State Park is truly a gem, just isolated enough for a quiet getaway, and accessible enough for a weekend with friends and family. And that’s where my journey begins, traveling to Cheaha with a group of four friends, as part of an ad-hoc bachelor party for my 1st anniversary of my wife and mine’s elopement after delaying our original wedding due to Covid. Hardly roughing it, we promised ourselves we’d hike the toughest trails and spend more time outside than indoors to make up for it.  

So what does it take to get the most out of your trip to the top?

Where to camp + what to bring

For some, a journey to Cheaha State Park could be a layover from thru-hiking the legendary Pinhoti Trail. For others, it could be a day trip or a weekend escape. No matter what trail you take there, you’ll want to stick around for a bit. Some of the biggest sites like Bald Rock, Pulpit Rock, the Observation Tower, and Cheaha Lake are worth a day’s adventure. Either way, you want to make sure you have the appropriate gear for where and how long you plan to stay.

Cheaha State Park offers various improved and primitive campsites, most with water and bathhouse facilities, or you can even rent a cabin. 

Improved and primitive campsites:

The primitive campsites are close to the front and can be driven to easily. Picnic tables, fire pits, and water spigots were abundant and the spots were well-groomed and maintained. Despite the heat, the primitive spots sported robust tree coverage and shrubbery which kept the spots private. Some even featured incredible views over the side of the mountain.

The rentals at Cheaha State Park include: 

  • Rock cabins 
  • Rooms at the hotel
  • A-framed, fully renovated Chalets 

On our trip, we stayed in a two-bedroom chalet with 5 people, and fit comfortably. The chalet had a main living room with a tv and dining table, plus a kitchen, full bath, and two bedrooms. It even included an expansive porch where we spent most of our time. As a result, our gear needs were simple. We mostly packed food, drinks, games, and some essentials. 

From Alabama Outdoors, I rented two Nemo Astro sleeping pads and brought along two sleeping bags so myself and a friend could sleep comfortably on the floor. We spent two long nights on the porch playing card games lit by a Black Diamond Moji Lantern and some Black Diamond Headlamps

Gear for the trail:

When we hit the trails, I headed out in some well-worn Smartwool Light Hiking Crew Socks and trusty Keen Venture Mids, and carried everything in an Osprey Hikelite. And by everything, I mean a Hydro Flask 40oz Wide Mouth Bottle and 3 backup water bottles, plus a map and a portable fan. In an effort to pack light, I brought one pair of Patagonia Baggies that I wore almost the entire time. While all of our gear was for one full day of hiking, it was necessary. 

Cheaha State Park features over 10 miles of trails with various elevation changes and weather. So be sure to pack supplies like water, snacks, and sunscreen to stay safe. The essentials will ensure you get to enjoy everything the park has to offer.

What to do

So what is there to do in Cheaha? A surprising amount for such a small park.

Views at Bald Rock

The numerous trails are perfect for any level hiker, and the lookouts provide incredible views. Some of the easiest trails take you to cool spots like the Rock Garden or the Walter Farr Native American Relic Museum. Others take you to Bald Rock, Pulpit Rock, or even Cheaha Lake. Thru-hikers can even get on the Pinhoti Trail and mountain bikers can access a different set of cliff-side paths. Suffice to say, hiking and sightseeing are the main attractions here. 

Other activities include:

  • Checking out the cliff-side pool.
  • Did you bring your furry friend? Head to the dog park!
  • Have a picnic or small get-together with a group at the pavilions.


Want to learn more about what we do on a weekend at Cheaha State Park? Check out how we got lost looking for a 1.2-acre lake, summitted Mount Cheaha, and found the best view of a sunset in Alabama. Read it all in my Definitive Guide to Cheaha: Part 2!


Find the best summer 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

Definitive Guide to Cheaha: Part 2

If you are just joining us, my name is Cameron Sullivan and I’ve been a team member at Alabama Outdoors for almost three years and today I’m talking more about Cheaha State Park.

Cameron Sullivan (center) exploring Cheaha Lake Trail with friends

In our last blog, The Definitive Guide to Cheaha Part 1, I went over where to camp, what to do, and what to bring with you for either a day or weekend getaway to Cheaha State Park. Follow along as I go more in depth on our weekend adventures at Cheaha State Park and the what to and what not to do’s.

So that’s where the journey begins, traveling to Cheaha with a group of four friends, as part of an ad-hoc bachelor party for my 1st anniversary of my wife and mine’s elopement after delaying our original wedding due to Covid. Hardly roughing it, we promised ourselves we’d hike the toughest trails and spend more time outside than indoors to make up for it. Let’s go!


Our travel through Talladega National Forest + check-in at Cheaha State Park

On the way out to Cheaha, you pass some incredible sights. From Talladega Superspeedway to the Coosa River, there’s plenty to enjoy on the drive. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Birmingham, going up I-20 to Oxford then heading down into the forest. 

With an elevation of 2,411 ft., a prominence of 1,444 ft. (how high above the other surrounding peaks), and an isolation of about 106 miles (its proximity to a similar-height peak), Mount Cheaha definitely stands out when you see it. 

Pulling off the highway, the mountain towers over some smaller peaks in the area. As you get closer you quickly go from suburban roads to county roads to a narrow mountain pass. The drive up takes you across a winding road about 10 miles from the town into the heart of the forest, and straight up to the park entrance. 

A rustic place built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the park has a distinct look. The vintage stonework and painted wooden buildings are nestled amongst cabins, forest pines, and dotted quartzite. When you get up to the top, you pull into a parking lot next to the mountain store to check-in. 

Going in mid-June, we left Birmingham at about 85 degrees and thick humidity, but Cheaha is alien as it’s somehow more humid and cooler at the top. It was about 60 degrees when we got there, and it’s the first thing you notice when you step out. The thick, brackish air makes you feel like you’re gulping down lake water. Like a lot of climates though, you quickly stop noticing. 

We checked in Friday night, at around 6, and perused the mountain store. The mountain store is incredibly well-stocked, with plenty of food, drinks, supplies, games, guides, gear, and more. We could’ve come with nothing but a credit card and still had a great time. So, with the last remaining sunlight, we checked into our chalet and enjoyed the sunset.

Our A-Frame Chalet home away from home

Driving through Cheaha you go up a one-way road around the park until you hit the chalets. Renovated chalets line the cul-de-sac with open grass and rocky yards separating them. The chalets have a stone walkway leading you from the parking spot to the abode, with an outdoor grill and firepit nearby. Inside, the chalet features two rooms on the side with a queen-sized bed and a full bathroom. The living room features a couch and chairs, plus a dining table and a TV. 

We were able to start up the grill and a fire thanks to the bundle of firewood we got at the mountain store. With night set in, we sat on the porch and stared up at the clouds floating by like they were 10 feet overhead. After turning in for the night, we woke up to an incredibly bright blue, clear sky. 

Cheaha Lake Trail

Venturing on Cheaha Lake Trail

Now, Cheaha has a lot of hiking options, and all of them are interesting thanks to the plentiful views and many sights to see. When mapping out our hike, we mostly went by what seemed most interesting at 9 am on an 85-degree day; the lake.

Cheaha Lake, a 6-acre artificial lake, isn’t that far away on the map. The Lake Trail is a 1-mile hike down the mountain, on the southwest side. For this hike, I came prepared with an Osprey Hikelite Daypack, Keen Venture Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots, some trusty Smartwool Medium Crew Hiking Socks, and a pair of Patagonia Baggies Shorts. We set out with a bevy of supplies, mostly water, snacks, and a portable fan, but quickly met our match. 

While the trail is well-marked, it’s steep and requires some scrambling over rocks. We found that we could get down, but weren’t always sure we could get back up. Eventually, we found ourselves on a cliffside, slightly lost, and not sure how to get back. On this cliff, we could see far out into the valley towards the forest and into Talladega proper. About halfway down the mountain, we still had a great view of the surroundings and stayed here at least an hour soaking it in. We enjoyed the view, decided against continuing down and started looking back. 

We almost immediately found the trail, but finding we had turned off, it may have been a minute before we realized we were lost. So, with a resurgence of energy, we headed back up to the peak. Despite our lack of success, this trail is certainly worth doing, especially in the morning when you’re guaranteed the daylight to get back up. The lake was still appealing, but our lack of water and trail map made it difficult to commit to. 


Bald Rock- a must visit for the panoramic views + handicap accessible

Cameron Sullivan (on left) with friends at Bald Rock

Back at the top, we refilled our waters and found the free trail map, ensuring we made it to our next destination; Bald Rock. This overlook is an iconic part of Cheaha State Park and features a boardwalk and parking area so it’s handicap accessible all year. 

Walking to it from the chalet was possibly the steepest hike we did the whole trip, climbing up the one-way road for half a mile. At the parking lot, we found a well-maintained boardwalk that goes all the way out to the overlook. With informative signs and shady rest spots the whole way, this is a must-see for anyone visiting the peak. 

The peak itself is incredible, with a literal birds eye view of the surrounding mountains it feels like you can reach out and touch the sky. Bald Rock remains an iconic part of Cheaha for a reason, it’s one of the most incredible views in Alabama.

The Observation Tower

Heading from Bald Rock, we decided to go back up to the front gate for lunch. Looking at the map, the road took us right past the actual peak of Cheaha Mountain, at the observation tower. Out of an abundance of curiosity, we decided to stop by as it’s fairly close to Bald Rock. 

Walking up, the heavy-looking stone building features an observatory next to some radio towers, with a pavilion across the street. As we walked up, the building was open to the public and led us into an air-conditioned and incredibly welcoming staircase, easily 15 degrees cooler than the outside. From the observatory, you can see over the mountain, with a view to the south that can’t be found anywhere else. 

The observatory is a nice rest-spot, but if you’re rushed it’s not worth sacrificing other sights for this spot. The nice thing is that the observatory is nestled in the middle of the primitive camping spot, so thru-hikers and campers will find it easy to stop by.

DO have a bite to eat at the Vista Cliffside Restaurant

From the observatory, we continued to the Vista Cliffside Restaurant. Trekking through the primitive campsites we were impressed with the layout and amenities each site had. From the primitive sites, it was a short walk to the Vista Cliffside Restaurant. 

Catching the sunset on the Lake Trail

When we arrived, we were greeted at a front desk where they took our orders and pointed us to the expansive dining room with a deck. The menu features grab-and-go classics like burgers, pizza, and hot dogs. We were able to order and sit in the air-conditioned dining room and wait. While I always appreciate a good burger, these were truly phenomenal. Far from a gross cafeteria, the Vista Cliffside Restaurant was arguably the best part of the hiking experience. Refreshing and rejuvenating, we were able to continue from here in good spirits.

You can find their menu here if that made you wanting to know more. Did we mention the views are spectacular here, too? It’s called Vista Cliffside for a reason.  

Final trip notes

From the restaurant, you can see the main resort, pool, the overlook, some of the cabins, and the Walter Farr Native American Relic Museum. Outside of the gate, this museum is a great place to learn the history of the Creek Nation that originally lived in the region, and look at some of the remarkable artifacts they’ve found in the area. 

From lunch, we journeyed back to our chalet for more water before heading back out. We finished the day heading out to the Rock Garden overlook, getting a clear view of the giant quartz pieces jutting out of the mountainside. We waited out on a nearby ledge until sunset.  

While we missed some of the landmarks like Pulpit Rock and the lake itself, the trip was unforgettable. From the incredible sights and sounds to the remarkably well-maintained park, everything was the perfect balance of remote, accessible, and beautiful. If you get the chance to visit this gem of a park, try and stay for a night or two. 

Safe and happy travels and always remember the 7 Leave No Trace Principles when you go out and explore our beautiful parks and public lands! 


Find the best summer 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

Introducing the all-new On Cloud 5


Whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer to the On Running craze, the new On Cloud 5 Shoes are a great choice! Simple, stylish, and supportive, they’re fully-cushioned running shoes. The perfect sneakers for business casual outfits and brewery outings, they go with anything and everything. As if new colors weren’t enough to love, the brand-new On Cloud 5 is the ultimate do-it-all shoe. So let’s break down what’s new and why you will love it! If you’re looking for our On Shoe Size Chart click here!



New, breathable antimicrobial mesh for odor-free style made from 98% recycled materials. Great for you, better for the planet.

The whole shoe is constructed of 44% recycled materials so you can feel as good as you look, while doing good. Plus, the no-sew taped reinforcements secure the sockliner without any abrasion. The closed-channel forefoot ensures a friction-free fit with a clean finish. What does that mean exactly? That means these shoes fit perfectly, breathe effortlessly, and eliminate rough elements that cause chafing. We’re sold already.


Updated Speedlace configuration ensures the perfect fit for easy-breezy comfort every time you wear them. Say it with us, “ahhhh”.

The bungee cord Speedlaces feature an updated configuration for a more customizable lacing. With a perfect slip-on style and adjustable fit, they’re as versatile as ever. The new upper keeps the clean lacing loops through the forefoot for a supportive structure. And if you need extra support, they still come with athletic laces in the box, so you can step to your own beat.


A redesigned midsole ensures your shoe stays in place and locks in at the heel. So you can step with confidence.

On Running redesigned the shoe’s interior to maximize your control. The updated heel hold locks the shoe into place directly under your center of gravity. Basically, that lets you control the shoe like a natural extension of your foot, without slipping or sliding. As a result, your forefoot strike hits exactly where it should, every time. It’s really all in the details.

Zero-Gravity Foam

The new outsole with specialized Zero-Gravity foam delivers top-notch shock absorption and energy return. So you get a light, powerful bounce that keeps you moving forward. So like…moon shoes?

Close, cloud shoes. The newly designed outsole provides max cushioning without extra weight, so you can step light. And they’re not kidding when they say light. Weighing in at only 250 grams (203 grams in the women’s style), these are one of the lightest fully-cushioned running shoes on the market. Hence…cloud shoes. 🙂


The iconic CloudTec cells on the outsole feature an updated Abrasion pad for next-level traction.

Don’t go away just yet, the fun doesn’t stop there! The iconic CloudTec cells on the outsole feature an updated Abrasion pad for next-level traction. The titular CloudTec cells incorporate a fluid and flexible structure directly underfoot that disperses impact while retaining your natural gait. This design keeps you propelling forward while supporting your feet without slowing you down.


The On Cloud 5 Shoes feature an updated Speedboard custom-designed for the Cloud with a full-coverage CloudTec sole.

Unlike previous styles that had dual-soles with a full-length channel and Speedboard, the Cloud 5 wraps under the forefoot and heel to capture the Speedboard energy return while minimizing space for hazards to get stuck. That may not make a ton of sense or it may sound too good to be true, but trust us, this update is stellar.

Other helpful links to help you find your new favorite pair:


Now that you know all about the new Cloud 5, pick your color and shop online now or come visit one of our locations and be one of the first to try them on! We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. #BeOutdoors

3 Tools to Help Young Skiers Learn


Don’t hesitate to introduce kid-friendly tools that can help your young skier progress faster and have fun doing it.

Teaching your young kids to ski can feel daunting. Heck, getting young kids to the mountain, dressed properly, and clicked into their skis can be daunting, let alone teaching them to ski. We’re here to help.

But first things first: How do you know your kiddo is ready? We asked Brian and Aleks Smith, PSIA instructors at Aspen Snowmass and parents of two daughters. The Smiths work with the youngest sliders all winter, and what’s more, they went through the process of introducing the sport to their own girls not too long ago. In other words, the instructor pair is a wealth of information when it comes to the how and when to get the groms sliding.

Most kids are ready to hit the slopes between the ages of 3 and 4, says Aleks Smith, but some 2-year-olds may already be interested and able. One thing to look for is the ability to balance, says Smith, e.g., riding a push bike or playing soccer or other sports. The other thing is interest: Do they want to try skiing?

Once you’ve determined that your child is ready, one option Smith recommends is using props. “Many parents choose to use tools to aid in their children’s skill development,” Smith says. “If used properly, these tools can be useful.” The props Smith reaches for most often are the harness, the Edgie Wedgie, and the Hula Hoop. Here, Smith walks us through how to use each prop safely and successfully.

Prop: Hula Hoop

Ski Magazine
  • Age : 2-3
  • Indication : Child is struggling to maintain balance while sliding

The idea here is to teach young kids to stand independently while sliding forward and resist the urge to lean back. Slip the hoop around the child’s waist and hold onto the back of it. You’re in control, while the child feels the sensation of sliding.

  • _ No longer needed : When the child isn’t leaning against the front of the hoop_

Prop: Edgie Wedgie

  • Age : 2-5
  • Indication : Child is having trouble keeping his tips together
Ski Magazine

Making a wedge can be difficult for kids five and under, as they often don’t have the leg strength to hold their skis in that position. That’s where the Edgie Wedgie comes in. This device easily attaches and detaches to the tips of the child’s skis. Ashe stretches the Edgie Wedgie, his skis will naturally form a wedge; the bigger the stretch, the wider the wedge. Once the child understands the shape and knows what it feels like to arrange his skis just so, he should be able to start to wedge without the Edgie Wedgie.

  • No longer needed : When the child isn’t stretching it while turning or stopping

Prop: Harness

Ski Magazine
  • Age : 2-6
  • Indication : Child can’t stop on her own or is nervous

A harness is a great tool for very young kids who haven’t figured out the wedge stop. It can be tricky to put on properly, so be sure to read the directions. The idea is to keep your little skier in front of you as you descend very gentle terrain, holding the straps with some slack. Don’t ever tug on the straps, or you can throw the child off balance.

  • No longer needed : When the child can stop on her own


Now that you have the tips, tricks, and tools, shop with us in-store or online for all of your ski gear essentials! 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 Samantha Berman for Ski Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to


Introduction: Carl Stanfield sets off to hike 11,000 mi in 2022


I’m Carl Stanfield, former Alabama Outdoors Store Manager and employee for the last 3 years. After a season of life most of us are ready to stop talking about, I’m starting my next chapter with the biggest adventure I could fathom during the quarantine days. In 2022, I will be attempting to spend my entire year backpacking. And I just might break a record along the way.

Hiking Background

I spent the latter half of my twenties gathering experiences in wilderness travel and alternative living. In 2018, I spent 4 life-changing months thru hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. Good fortune proceeded to spit me out of another successful thru hike the following year at the Canadian Border in Washington, having traveled 2,650 miles from Mexico by way of the Pacific Crest Trail

These experiences were challenging and deeply rewarding in their own ways. I loved the challenge, the trail community, the healthy mind, and the overall effect on my calves. 


So… What Do You Do After That?

But now, as I creep closer to the beginning of my 30th year of life and an anticipated drop in my body’s peak performance, I want to attempt a truly extreme athletic accomplishment. I know that my body can hold up for 4 or 5 months of wear and tear at a time, but could it take a year? I’d like to find out.

It turns out that the thru hiker lifestyle of living on America’s National Scenic trails and eating freeze dried food for months on end while meeting quirky fascinating people in small mountain towns is where I’ve found the zenith of happiness. I truly love that adventure, more than anything I’ve ever felt. And so far I’ve been quite pleased with how those experiences translate into “regular life” opportunities. I believe it is my trail record that helped my career at Alabama Outdoors, and I expect that expanding on it will continue to open doors for me.


The Goal

And so it is that next year, I will be attempting to travel 11,000 miles on 4 hiking routes through 24 states, pursuing both extrinsic and intrinsic milestones. These routes are the Eastern Continental Trail (Key West to Canada, 4,200 miles), the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada, 2,650 miles), the Continental Divide Trail (Canada to Mexico, 3,100 miles), and the Mountains to Sea Trail (North Carolina, 1,100 miles). I believe the current record for miles traveled on foot in a calendar year to be roughly 10,300, set by arguably the most traveled backpacker in history, Cam Honan. 

The Route

My planned route will begin in Key West, Florida on January 1, 2022. A 200 mile road walk will take me to the southern terminus of the Florida Trail, where I will hike roughly 1,100 miles to the Alabama border. Another multi-hundred mile road walk takes me to the 340 mile Pinhoti Trail, which, after a small connecting trail, will get me to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. 2,200 miles later I will complete the first leg, ideally by mid to late May. Leg 2, the Pacific Crest Trail, will span 2,650 miles traveling north from mid May to early August. I will then hop onto the Continental Divide Trail in Canada and hike back down south to the Mexican border. 


This would complete the famed Triple Crown of Hiking, but I’ll still have one more relatively small trail I’d like to tackle. The Mountains to Sea Trail spans 1,100 miles and the width of North Carolina. I hope to start on the coast and hike west, finishing my trip near my home town of Maryville, Tennessee.

In order to achieve this lofty goal of mine, I will need to average just over 30 miles every day for the entire year. It’s a wild stretch of a goal to say the least, and I really do understand how insane it must sound. But I believe it is just on the brink of what is physically possible for me, and I want to try while I can.


Throughout this endeavor, Alabama Outdoors will be partnering with me, so you can expect to stay in touch through them! If you’re interested in following my personal account, you can do so on Instagram @prof_carl. 

Happy Trails!