Since we work full time, and use our weekends to travel, we love finding fun day trips to take. As we are not early morning people, we also love when that road trip doesn’t require us to leave home very early. Noccalula Falls Park is one of those places we love to visit because it is only a 2 hour drive from Huntsville.
Noccalula Falls Park is the perfect place to spend a few hours or to spend the night at the campground. The campground offers something for everyone as it offers over 120 sites, from primitive tent camping to RV hookups and even cabin rentals
It’s always a good idea to contact the park first to ask if there is an active water fall. The first time we visited, we were disappointed to find out the Falls area was completely dry. It’s still absolutely worth visiting for other activities, but ideally you’ll want to visit when there is one.
Interesting Fact: Noccalula Falls and Park was added to the Register of Landmarks and Heritage on May 12, 1976.
When you arrive, the first entrance you will come to is the entrance for the Falls and Campground. We usually pull in and park here first. Parking is free and it’s a short walk to the waterfall.
When exiting the car, you normally see a pond of water covering limestone rocks with a pedestrian bridge. Families of ducks and geese can usually be found here as well. To get to the Falls, just walk across the bridge.
The Falls are a 90 foot drop. This picture taken at the top of the Falls shows the railing that runs along the paved walking area of the viewing area for the Falls. This is a fantastic safety feature, making the area family friendly and appropriate for all ages.
Furth down the path, stop to read about the sculpture of Princess Noccalula. There is a plaque that details what is thought to have happened to her and why the sculpture shows her leaning over. Just a warning-it is not a story with a happy ending!
When the Cherokee Indians were pushed into North Alabama, they encroached upon the Creek Indians territory. This led to battles between the two tribes. As a peace offering, Princess Noccalula was promised in marriage to a Creek sub- Chief. She could not bare the thought of marrying outside her tribe as she was in love with a warrior from her own tribe. On the day of her wedding, rather than go through with the ceremony, she jumped to her death in the area her sculpture now stands.
After viewing the falls, to head to the park entrance, we usually get back in the car and head to the second entrance. To enter the park area, depending on age, there is a small fee collected. You can find more information at the link below:
You pay the entrance fee outside to a worker that sits in a windowed area in the arched entryway. The building contains a small gift shop and restrooms. It’s the perfect opportunity for everyone to use the restroom before moving on.
The entrance fee gives you access to the gorge (1.7 mile) trail that runs along the Falls, an aboriginal fort, an abandoned dam, replicated pioneer homestead, the Gilliand-Reese Covered Bridge. You can either choose to walk everywhere, or take a ride on the train around the park.
Watch out for the train tracks you’ll see layed around the park area!
The last time we visited, we rode the train to the animal habitat and petting zoo first. There is both an outdoor and indoor part to the area. You’ll see two llamas, a few goats, a tortoise, a lion, arctic and black foxes. Inside, you’ll see a lot of birds, fish, hamsters and rabbits.
To enter the indoor part, you enter the barn on the other side of the fence.
It was a great day outside, so we walked around first there before coming inside.
I only got one pic of a bird inside. There were turtles, guinea pigs and I believe, even some snakes.
After spending about 45 minutes in the area, we made our way to the pioneer homestead.
We really had a great time exploring this area. We were the only ones there at the time. The sign states that the buildings are all originals that were taken from Tennessee, where they were built about 190 years ago.
We decided to explore the Pioneer Home first. The buildings were furnished with pieces appropriate for the original time period, but were not necessarily originals. You could also only look in the buildings, not go inside them.
Below are just some of the buildings we viewed. The area is a great spot for kids to run around and also learn about how people use to live. It’s always fun to see when people are amazed that cooking use to be done in another building separate from living quarters when today the kitchen is an essential room in a modern day house.
There are two buildings that provide insight how people made their livings with the blacksmith shop and loom room.
When we were finished viewing the homestead, we moved on to find the rock garden and covered bridge. The rock garden is a fun area for kids of all ages to run around.
The last stop of the day was the covered bridge. We all have a fascination with finding new covered bridges, so we were super happy to learn about this one. We have a goal of one day visiting everyone of them in North Alabama. This bridge was built in 1899 with rough-hewn lumber and weathered shingles. It was moved to the pioneer setting in 1968, where it was restored.
We spent around two hours in the park area. We did not participate in every activity or see every area possible. It’s a place we can see ourselves returning to over and over again.
-There are picnic tables and grills available
-If you would prefer to buy lunch, there is a Jack’s fast food restaurant right outside the park, which the train will take you close to.
-Appropriate for families of all ages and abilities
-Wear comfortable walking shoes
-Decide what activities you are interested in doing ahead of time, so you allow enough time to do it all.