Peavine Falls, Alabama

Peavine Falls (6)

The main drop of Peavine Falls you’ll find

This past weekend, I flew into Birmingham, Alabama to spend some time with some friends. I had a few hours to go and find a waterfall or two, and decided that Peavine Falls would be the closest, simplest option. (I say that when I really had no clue what level of difficulty the hike to Peavine Falls would be.)

Oak Mountain State Park is a beautiful park outside of Birmingham. The views from the outlook along the way to the falls are spectacular. Once you arrive at the parking area for the falls, you’ll have an enjoyable hike to a larger-than-expected waterfall, Peavine Falls. In mid-April, the falls were flowing pretty well. I can imagine that as the summer progresses, that these falls might have a lower volume of water.

The hike from the designated parking area is rather short, though as you approach the falls, it can get slightly confusing. You’ll still end up at the falls, and there are many ways to reach the base. But there are almost too many ways, and too many signs direct you back to parking. We followed one of these signs, only to end up at another drop of Peavine Falls. So…if you have a few hours to explore, you’ll find more than one drop to the falls! (Finding these other drops likely means you’re headed further downhill, and you’ll need to head back uphill to get back to the parking area.)

Directions:

  1. You’ll want to get on I-65 south of Birmingham. Take exit 246 from I-65 (signed as Cahaba Valley Road).
  2. Turn right onto AL-119 South (Cahaba Valley Road).
  3. Very quickly after turning right, you’ll turn left onto Oak Mountain Park Road.
  4. Continue on Oak Mountain Park Road to the intersection with John Findlay Dr. Turn left onto John Findlay Dr.
  5. Continue on John Findlay Dr for 2.6 miles.
  6. Turn right onto Terrace Drive. Drive along this road until you reach the end of the road (essentially), which will be the parking area for Peavine Falls.
  7. Follow the blue or white blazed trails to the falls.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 65′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip

Peavine Falls (140)

A drop downstream that I wasn’t expecting to find

Where in the World is Peavine Falls?

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Noccalula Falls, Alabama

Alabama has some really great waterfalls. Some of these waterfalls are a bit smaller (and less visited), such as Lost Falls and Indian Falls. Others such as DeSoto Falls and Little River Falls are more impressive, but also more frequented. Noccalula Falls “falls” into the second category, and of all the falls I’ve seen in Alabama, I have to say it was the busiest of the bunch.

Noccalula Falls is on the northern edge of Gadsden, and because it’s so easy to visit, it’s unlikely you’ll be alone. I visited on a rainy day. It wasn’t particularly warm out (though by Michigan standards, it was to me), and yet there were still many others viewing the falls. At 90′ tall, it’s not difficult to understand why so many people would be attracted to it. Since the rain was consistent during my visit, it also led to a pretty high water volume.

The falls can be viewed from both sides, and I would recommend getting shots from each vantage point. Different aspects of the falls pop out depending on the angle. Next to the falls is a park that has other features of interest. That portion of the park was not open when I visited in mid-January, and that threw me off. You do not need to enter that part of the park to view the falls. (The city of Gadsden website does mention a $6 entrance fee for the park…I don’t remember this from my visit? Maybe since the other part of the park was closed, nobody was there to collect…) Even with an entrance fee, it’s absolutely worth it!

Directions:

  1. There are a number of ways to get to these falls since they’re in a city…so here’s one way (if coming from I-59). From I-59, take exit 188.
  2. Head south along AL-211 (also known as the Noccalula Parkway). Drive for about 2.5 miles, and the parking area for Noccalula Falls will be on your right. (There was another parking area further down, but that seemed to be for the other portion of the park I didn’t want to visit.)
  3. It’s pretty hard to miss the falls from the parking area…

Accessibility: 10/10
Height: 90′
Hike: negligible

noccalula

Noccalula Falls in January 2016

Where in the World is Noccalula Falls?

Little River Falls, Alabama

When I was looking for waterfalls to visit in Alabama during a trip this past weekend, I was surprised to find out that there were a number of waterfalls in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. Just over six years ago, I had visited DeSoto Falls State Park, which has a number of waterfalls (DeSoto Falls Indian Falls, Laurel Falls, Lost Falls, and the Azalea Cascades, and maybe a one or two others). I had no clue that just a few miles away was the Little River Canyon with even more waterfalls. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure that I would have driven the additional distance to see these other falls.

But when you miss waterfalls one time, it’s the perfect excuse to go back and visit! And so I did. The Little River Canyon is a fascinating place to visit. It is a surprisingly beautiful canyon. There is an enjoyable but winding drive that takes you along the canyon rim, and they have done a very good job of placing overlooks at the right places. But, comically enough, to see Little River Falls, you don’t have to drive along the Canyon Rim Drive (though you still should). Little River Falls is found right at the intersection of two roads before you start your journey (assuming you approach the falls from the same direction as I did).

Once you find the parking area for the falls (which isn’t particularly difficult), the “hike” to the falls isn’t particularly difficult either. There was a very nice ranger/volunteer handing out maps, and he referenced the stairs down as the “hard” path and the wheelchair accessible ramp as the “easy” way back. I thought this funny, as it seemed like there may have been only 20 or so stairs to the falls. (There were probably a few more, but there aren’t any heart warnings involved with going down these stairs, at least compared to other places I’ve been.) I actually found the ramp back up more tedious because it took me way out of the way to get back to my car! (There really aren’t any additional views to be had by taking the long way.) The views to be had at the designated areas, though, are definitely worth it. (And while you’re at this area, realize there’s a hike to another smaller waterfall, Martha’s Falls, that’s enjoyable.)

Directions:

  1. If driving along I-59, you could either take exit 218 or 222 to get to the falls. I think I took exit 222 as I was heading south, and turned left onto US-11.
  2. Drive along US-11 to the intersection of US-11 and AL-35. Turn left onto AL-35, and then turn left after a few blocks to stay on AL-35.
  3. Once on this route, it’s a pretty easy drive to the falls. The parking area for the falls is found on AL-35 just after the intersection with AL-176 (which is the scenic drive). The signage for the falls makes it relatively difficult to miss.
  4. At the parking area, it’s a short walk to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (there is a wheelchair-accessible ramp)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round trip
Height: 45′

Where in the World is Little River Falls?: map

Little River Falls in January 2016

Laurel Falls, Alabama

Laurel Falls in December 2009

DeSoto State Park is most widely known for DeSoto Falls, which is an impressive waterfall in northeast Alabama.  In a different area of the park, there are a number of other waterfalls that are smaller, but very enjoyable nonetheless.  One of those is Laurel Falls.

The hike to Laurel Falls is very enjoyable.  You first start down a boardwalk that leads to the Azalea Cascades.   After passing the cascades, you begin your journey to Laurel Falls.  It is not a difficult trail, but I do remember it being slightly confusing.  Follow the red/orange diamonds to prevent yourself from getting lost.

After about 1/2 a mile, you’ll come to a rock on the ground that is pained with the name Laurel Falls.  Take the short trail to the falls, and you’ll be impressed.  The falls along this creek do seem to be highly dependent on the amount of rainfall.  When I visited in December, the weather was amazingly comfortable, and the falls were flowing.  I’m not sure that I would want to do this in the depths of summer!

Directions:
1) From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
2) Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
3) You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
4) From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down C.R. 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
5) Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk and park here.
6) Head down the boardwalk past the Azalea Cascades.
7) To your right, there should be a trail heading uphill that is has red/orange diamonds posted on the trees. Follow this trail.
8) Pass the sign for the campground, continuing on the red/orange trail.
9) After a ways (1/2 of a mile?), you’ll pass a rock on the ground painted with the name Laurel Falls.  Follow the short detour to the falls.

*If you keep hiking along this trail, you’ll also end up at Lost Falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (in December, there were a number of large trees blocking parts of the trail)

Where in the World is Laurel Falls?: map

Lost Falls, Alabama

Lost Falls in late December 2009

Lost Falls isn’t truly “lost”.  Obviously somebody has found it.  As you’re hiking to the falls, though, you may feel that you could get lost finding it.  Not that the hike is all that difficult, but the trail meanders.  You’ll walk through mini-cascades (you won’t get wet).  You’ll pass by a number of points that will make you THINK you’re near a waterfall, but you’re probably not…at least not a significant waterfall.

The trail leading to the falls is marked with red/orange markers.  This definitely does help, but you’ll need to pay attention.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the beautiful forest around you, only to find out that you’re not where you thought you were.  The two falls along the trail, Laurel Falls and Lost Falls, are both marked with painted rocks…an interesting little touch.  At least there’s something indicating you’re on the right path.  I’ve been to some waterfalls where I’ve gotten much more lost.

Directions:
1) From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
2) Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
3) You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
4) From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down C.R. 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
5) Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk and park here.
6) Head down the boardwalk past the Azalea Cascades.
7) To your right, there should be a trail heading uphill that is has red/orange diamonds posted on the trees. Follow this trail.
8) Pass the sign for the campground, continuing on the red/orange trail.
9) After a ways (1/2 of a mile?), you’ll pass a rock on the ground painted with the name Laurel Falls. Keep going.
10) After another 1/2 mile (?), you’ll end up at another rock for Lost Falls. Take that side-trail, which is rather short, down to the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (in December, there were a number of large trees blocking parts of the trail)

Where in the World is Lost Falls?: map

Azalea Cascades, Alabama

The beginning of the Azalea Cascades

The Azalea Cascades might be the most unassuming of the waterfalls in DeSoto State Park in Alabama. They are not as tall or as wide as the other falls in the park, but they have a gentle beauty nonetheless. The Azalea Cascades are also very easy to access, and the hike along the boardwalk is very enjoyable, even in late December. The cascades continue for a distance down the creek, though they are difficult to photograph, as rocks block the view along the way.

Directions:
1) From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
2) Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
3) You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
4) From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down C.R. 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
5) Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk and park here.
6) Head down the boardwalk to the Azalea Cascades.

Accessibility: 10/10

Where in the World is Azalea Cascades?: map

Unnamed Falls, Valley Head, Alabama

This is a smaller set of cascades that I believe is near the town of Valley Head in Alabama. I could be wrong about that considering that I wasn’t exactly sure where I was at that moment. I was heading toward toward I-59 after visiting DeSoto State Park. I was heading east, and had earlier noticed that there was a smaller group of waterfalls just off the road. There is a park right near these falls that have parking, so I pulled off and took a few pictures. It was getting later, so there wasn’t much light to take a picture. Even so, it was still a pretty area.

Directions:
1) I believe this waterfall can be found off of AL-117 just west of the intersection with US-11. There should be a park in that general vicinity. If you’re heading toward DeSoto State Park from US-59, you may end up passing by the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10

Where in the World is Unnamed Falls?: map

Waterfall/cascade in Valley Head