What is one part of the country we have not spent a lot of time discovering? Oddly enough, that would be our own backyard. We set out recently to visit Little River Canyon National Preserve, located in northeast Alabama, as part of Lookout Mountain. The canyon itself is twelve miles long and in some areas, almost six hundred feet deep. It has a storied past, used by Native Americans and by the Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. The river was categorized as a State Wild and Scenic River in 1969 because of its uniqueness of being the only river that flows entirely on a mountain. In 1992 it was designated as part of the National Park Service. It was also named in a 2014 Huffington Post article listing it as one of Cheapflights.com’s g best swimming holes around the world.
Our first stop was to the Little River Canyon Center, which is open for tourism suggestions 7 days a week from 10:00am-4:00pm CST. There is also a gift shop which is closed on Mondays. We stopped by to get a map of the general area and receive pointers for the best lookout areas for the falls.
After our stop at the Canyon Center, we drove down the road to see the Little River Falls, which is a 45 foot waterfall. The amount of water that you will see depends on the current rainfall amounts. There is typically higher water levels during the winter and spring months, which also make for an ideal kayaking time. The water is warmer in late spring and summer though, which makes it an ideal time to swim. The Little River Canyon is easily accessible for viewing for all as it is only 1000 feet from the parking lot and a boardwalk makes for an easy walk. We decided to only view it from the boardwalk, but for the more adventurous there is a trail that leads to the entry of the water behind the falls.
After spending some time viewing Little River Falls, we went to Martha’s Falls. There are two ways to get there from Little River Falls: walk a trail for 3/4 mile or drive and take a chance on finding an available parking space in a gravel lot at the site. The day we visited, it was a blistering 97 degrees, so we decided to drive. We were happy to find a close parking place, but not so happy to discover that we were blocked in later… (more on that later)
Martha’s Falls is a popular swimming area, so expect crowds on hot summer days. The trail from the parking lot is roughly a mile long. Nearly half of the trail is rocky and steep, so it is necessary to have some fitness ability to make it to the end. The little kids seen along the trail seemed to handle the hike well, bouncing and jumping from rock to rock and keep up with the more frequent visitors/experienced hikers. For those with less experience, taking breaks and wearing shoes with traction is recommended. Alcohol is not allowed, but leashed pets are. Though, when we were there, the leash rule was not enforced. Be sure to bring lots of drinking water to stay hydrated.
As most people who exit the river area and hike the trail back to the parking lot, we were tired and ready to leave. When we got to the parking lot, it was evident that a truck had parked in the last available spot, which blocked the entire back row of cars in. The park rangers were called, who waited a bit before ticketing the car and finally calling a tow truck. We were assured that incidents like this one are not a usual occurrence, but it was definitely frustrating to many people there. Parking tip-Park on the front row, if at all possible! There are also other side lots on the side of the road other people were parking in.
If you’re looking for a day trip from north Alabama, this is easily doable. If you are in the Fort Payne area visiting the Alabama Fan Club and Museum, stop by!