20 eye-catching natural wonders of Alabama everyone should see at least once

Peter Watson

From towering mountain ranges to pristine beaches, natural wonders abound in Alabama. Here are 20 of the most magnificent marvels the Yellowhammer State has to offer.

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Alabama has some stunning natural wonders such as the Sipsey WildernessJason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock

The state’s navigable rivers and beautiful landscapes are home to a variety of flora and fauna that make it one of the most biodiverse states in the nation.

Although we could go on and on about all of the natural wonders you could find in Alabama, here are 20 to inspire your next trip.

Natural wonders of Alabama

So when the time is right, grab your favorite travel buddy and embark on a journey through Sweet Home Alabama.

1. Mount Cheaha

Looking for a spectacular view? At the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Mount Cheaha, in Cleburne County, is Alabama’s highest natural point at 2,407 feet above sea level.

2. Gulf Coast Beaches

Walk on some of the most beautiful, sugar-white beaches in the world, created from centuries of white quartz crystal washed down from the Appalachian Mountains and ground into soft, fine, white sand by the Gulf of Mexico.

3. White Cliffs of Epes

Formed at about the same time as the famous White Cliffs of Dover, the White Cliffs of Epes and White Bluffs in Demopolis along the Tombigbee River, are chalk cliffs: pure white limestone cliffs around a mile in length.

4. Cathedral Caverns

See one of the largest stalagmite columns in the world.

The appropriately named 45-foot tall, 243-foot wide Goliath at Cathedral Caverns State Park in Marshall County, is just one of the cavern’s many fascinating formations.

Check out others too: the “frozen waterfall," the “pipe organ” and the “cave bacon.”

5. Dismals Canyon

Besides seeing its countless rock formations such as natural bridges and a 16-inch-wide squeeze known as “Fat Man’s Misery,” on nights in May and June in this Franklin County canyon, you can see dismalites, the only bioluminescent insect in North America.

6. Natural Bridge

Just outside William Bankhead National Forest in Winston County, you can see the longest natural bridge east of the Rocky Mountains, a rock arch 148-feet across and 60-feet high.

7. DeSoto Caverns

The main room of these Talladega County caverns is longer than a football field, more than 10-stories high and has one of the world’s largest continuing accumulations of onyx-marble stalagmites and stalactites.

It’s also filled with history from when Hernando de Soto met Native Americans outside the caverns in 1540 to when the cave was an illegal speakeasy in the 1920s during prohibition.

8. Walls of Jericho Trail

If you are willing to take this gorgeous and sometimes difficult 6.6-mile hike in northern Jackson County, you can see sinkholes, exposed limestone, a cave and waterfalls.

9. Pinhoti Trail

Ready for the longest hike in Alabama?

The Pinhoti Trail runs through Alabama and Georgia before connecting with the Appalachian Trail.

The total Pinhoti Trail is about 337 miles, with 170 miles in Alabama and 166 in Georgia. It’s the longest hiking trail in either state.

10. Mobile-Tensaw Delta

Explore America’s Amazon.

One of the largest river delta and wetlands in the country and the Mobile River basin, which flows through it, form one of the richest regions in the world for a number of species and habitats.

It contains about one-third more than any other state of all the country’s known freshwater fish species as well as more species of mussels, snails, turtles and crawfish.

11. Alabama Coastal Birding Trail

Whether you are a serious birder or a novice, you will enjoy these six birding loops in Baldwin and Mobile counties.

The trails, which cover more than 200 miles, wind along the main bird migration corridor that attracts more than four hundred different species of birds.

12. Red Mountain Park

Even if Vulcan, the largest cast-iron statue in the world, wasn't standing atop it, Red Mountain and Park would symbolize Alabama’s largest city.

Iron ore not only turned this mountain red but when mined, created growth in the area from around 3,000 residents in the 1880s to more than 210,000 residents today.

13. Rickwood Caverns

Located in Rickwood Caverns State Park, this cave features fossilized marine animals embedded in its walls, remnants of a time 260 million years ago when it was part of a prehistoric ocean.

Besides fascinating formations, such as the Frozen Castle and the Bridal Column, there is a subterranean lake featuring endangered blind cavefish.

14. Bankhead National Forest

Located in northwestern Alabama near the town of Double Springs, this 181,230-acre forest contains the Sipsey Wilderness and is known as the "land of a thousand waterfalls."

It also has some of the best hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing and horseback riding in the state.

15. Wetumpka Crater

See the natural wonder that had the biggest impact on Alabama. With an impact 175,000 times greater than the nuclear bomb detonated at Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, this comet created this natural wonder of Alabama 83 million years ago.

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The Wetumpka Crater in AlabamaAlabama Travel

It is the 11th-largest impact crater in the United States and one of only six above-ground impact crater locations in the world.

You can still see remnants of what is called the Wetumpka Impact Crater just off U.S. Hwy. 231 about 12 miles northeast of Montgomery.

16. Little River Canyon

See one of the nation's longest mountaintop rivers. Almost the entire length of The Little River, in northeast Alabama, flows down the middle of Lookout Mountain with the river creating the spectacular DeSoto Falls and Little River Falls.

17. Sipsey Wilderness

The Sipsey Wilderness, 24,922 acres in the heart of the Bankhead National Forest, is a hiker’s paradise.

The largest and most popular wilderness area in Alabama, the Sipsey Wilderness features 45 miles of trails that pass so many water cascades that the area is often called the “Land of 1000 Waterfalls.”

18. Noccalula Falls

This Gadsden site combines the romantic legend of Noccalula, the young Cherokee maiden who reputedly threw herself to her death into the falls rather than forsake the man she loved for one her father ordered her to marry, and a beautiful waterfall with a gorgeous 90-foot drop.

19. Cahaba River

One of the longest free-flowing rivers in the Southeast, the Cahaba River is also one of the country’s most biologically diverse with more fish species per mile than any other river in the country.

The 190-mile river is home to not only the famous Cahaba Lily but an ever-expanding list of newly discovered species of plants and snails.

20. Cahaba Lilies

These flowers, which bloom in May and June along the Cahaba River, the Tallapoosa River and Hatchet Creek, are found in only three states – Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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