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!
- 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.
- 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.)
- It’s pretty hard to miss the falls from the parking area…
Noccalula Falls in January 2016
Where in the World is Noccalula Falls?
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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Where in the World is Little River Falls?: map
Little River Falls in January 2016