5 of the Best Scenic Drives in Alabama for Fall Foliage and Amazing Views
October 10, 2023 | Travel Destinations
While Alabama may not be as well-known as some other states for its fall foliage, it still has scenic byways offering a kaleidoscope of colors. The state is home to various leafy hardwood trees, including dogwood, southern yellow pine, sycamore, beech, maple, and a wide variety of oak trees. All provide stunning fall foliage displays when their leaves change color in autumn.
Moreover, Alabama has a diverse tapestry of natural beauty, from the pristine beaches along the Gulf Coast to the lush forests of the Appalachian foothills. The state is also steeped in rich history, with sites like the Civil Rights Memorial and battlefields from the Civil War. A deep connection to the land contributes to Alabama’s unique blend of history and natural splendor.
For your next Sunday drive or weekend getaway, we’ve got a few of Alabama’s most beautiful scenic drives that showcase vibrant fall foliage.
Little River Canyon National Preserve Scenic Drive
The Little River Canyon Scenic Drive is located in northeastern Alabama, near the town of Fort Payne making it a convenient drive for those in the Chattanooga, TN, and Birmingham, AL, areas. This 23-mile drive takes you through the Little River Canyon National Preserve which is often called the “Grand Canyon of the East.” The drive offers numerous overlooks and viewpoints where you can take in the deep canyon, sandstone cliffs, and vibrant foliage but be prepared for winding roads and steep drop-offs in some sections.
The hardwood trees along the canyon walls burst into red, orange, and yellow shades in the fall. The scenic drive follows the canyon’s rim, offering numerous overlooks and opportunities for leaf-peeping. Because it’s a relatively short drive, try to allocate extra time for stops, hikes, and taking in the scenery. The Little River Canyon Center, located near the beginning of the scenic drive, serves as a visitor center and offers information about the preserve, educational exhibits, and restrooms.
Natchez Trace Parkway
The Alabama portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway spans approximately 33 miles, offering travelers a serene journey through the state’s natural and historical treasures. This scenic byway is an excellent option for fall drives. In the autumn, the parkway is lined with towering trees that burst into vibrant hues during the fall months. Be sure to stop at Colbert Ferry Park and other points of interest along the way to fully appreciate the fall beauty.
Historic sites like the Buzzard Roost Spring and Colbert Ferry Park provide insights into the region’s past. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a road trip aficionado, the Alabama Natchez Trace Parkway promises a memorable and scenic adventure.
The Cheaha Skyway is a 21-mile scenic drive in the Talladega National Forest in eastern Alabama. This route takes you through the southern Appalachian Mountains. It offers breathtaking vistas, particularly in the fall when the surrounding hardwood forests are ablaze with fall foliage. The highlight of the drive is Cheaha State Park, where you can take a short hike to the highest point in Alabama, Mount Cheaha, for panoramic views of the colorful landscape.
Lookout Mountain Scenic Byway
Lookout Mountain is located in northeastern Alabama, near the border with Georgia and Tennessee. Throughout the drive, you’ll encounter numerous scenic overlooks that provide stunning views of the surrounding valleys, forests, and, in the fall, colorful foliage.
Scenic highlights include Little River Canyon, which features sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, and lush forests and is a highlight of the drive.
Also located along the drive is DeSoto State Park, offering a chance to stretch your legs on hiking trails with waterfalls and beautiful views of the surrounding area. It’s an excellent spot for outdoor enthusiasts.
William B. Bankhead National Forest Tour
William B. Bankhead National Forest Tour is a scenic drive that runs from Moulton to Jasper in north Alabama. This 54-mile scenic road trip packs a lot of beauty into a short-distance drive. It’s well-traveled for its diverse landscapes, including lush forests, rolling hills, and pristine waterways that offer an opportunity to explore Alabama’s natural beauty and outdoor recreation.
Sometime in October and November, the forest’s leaves begin their annual transformation to fall colors. At the heart of the forest is the 25,000-acre Sipsey Wilderness, one of the state’s most beautiful natural areas. Be sure to check off your list of a few of the area’s waterfalls during the drive. Sougahoagdee, Kinlock and Parker Falls are good places to start.
If you’re out for a Sunday drive or planning a weekend getaway in Alabama, remember that peak fall foliage can vary yearly and depends on local weather conditions. Checking for fall foliage updates is a good idea to plan your trip accordingly. Additionally, consider combining these scenic drives with stopovers at historic towns and other outdoor activities to fully immerse yourself in Alabama’s autumn beauty.
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