by David Parham ofHuntsvilleAdventurer.com
Whether you're looking for waterfalls, caves or a leisurely walk through the woods, no matter where you live in North Alabama a stunning hike is right in your backyard. Get lost in nature in these top 5 North Alabama hikes.
Walls of Jericho
Walls of Jericho is one of the most sought out hikes in North Alabama. It’s a rigorous but beautiful 6.5 mile down and back hike with 1300 ft elevation change. It is located north of Scottsboro, AL near the Tennessee/Alabama boarder. For this hike I highly suggest sturdy ankle-high boots, plenty of drinking water, and lunch. The hike takes an average person 6 hours. Going down the mountain is fairly easy, passing by a sinkhole, a river, and along massive cliff sides. At the end of the hike you’ll find an Alabama Oasis with a swimming hole and small waterfall. You can cross the creek and hop over the hill following the creek upstream to find massive walls on each side. You’ll find a unique little cave that the water is always flowing from, and when the creek has high flow you’ll find another small waterfall. If you’re sturdy and there isn’t any water flowing over the waterfall, you can carefully climb up the waterfall and find a very photogenic waterfall (pictured). The hike out is mostly uphill and very difficult. There are a few benches along the path for you to rest on. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time before nightfall to hike out!
Walls of Jericho also offers other recreational options like horseback riding and camping.
Let’s start this off by mentioning that this hike requires a free permit from SCCi. SCCi maintains dozens of caves in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia and each is stunning and free to visit. Be careful when visiting ANY cave, but especially this one. This has a large sinkhole at the top as well as a steep decline to get into the cave. Always wear a helmet when entering a cave.
Stephen’s gap is located north of Gurley, AL and is a moderate 1.5 mile roundtrip hike. Stephen’s Gap is one of the most “Instagrammable Spots” in North Alabama. On a sunny day, this cave has some amazing beams of light shining down into it. Most of the year you can find a small waterfall in the back of the cave that comes out of the wall and down into the sinkhole creating some of the most beautiful photos you can take in Alabama. I suggest going multiple times, seeing it different times of year. During summer is the best time to catch the amazing rays of light and during winter and spring is the best time to catch the amazing waterfall.
Sougahoagdee Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in Bankhead National Forrest. Bankhead is located in Northwest Alabama just north of Smith Lake and offers hundreds if not thousands of waterfalls. Sougahoagdee Falls is a 4-mile roundtrip, fairly flat hike that follows a long winding river passing cliffs and waterfalls along the way. The best time to hike this is between January and June when the water is flowing heavily and the water along the river is a beautiful blue color.
Desoto Falls is located in Mentone, AL. At 90 ft tall it is one of the tallest waterfalls in Alabama. This waterfall is somewhat accessible to view it from the top. You can access the accessible view by parking in a paid parking lot and walking down a flight of stairs, but the best views of the waterfall involve a short hike. There’s a dirt parking lot right next to the power line trail near the parking lot that has 2 hikes. The hike on the left stays on top of the plateau and has an amazing view of the waterfall and the gorge from the ridgeline. This hike is a fairly easy, 1-mile roundtrip hike. The hike to the right of the parking lot takes you down to the bottom of the waterfall where you are free to enjoy a view from the bottom of the falls and if its warm enough, you can swim. This is a local’s dream swimming hole allowing plenty of places to sit in the sun and enjoy the cool water coming off the falls. The hike to the bottom of the falls is around 1.5 miles round trip and is a bit more difficult than hiking to the top. There are trail markers for hiking both to the top and bottom of the waterfall.
Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk
Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk is located near the Huntsville International Airport. This is a stunning boardwalk with a completely different experience from most of the hikes in Alabama. It is a super short (less than .5 miles round-trip), easy stroll along the boardwalk. I highly recommend only going after the first frost of fall until around April. It is a swamp, and the mosquitoes can get terrible. If you do decide to walk it during warmer weather, be sure to bring plenty of deet with you. That being said, it is an absolutely beautiful hike any time of year!