Thursday, June 30, 2016

Waterfalls near Lookout Mountain in Alabama in Northeastern Alabama


When I started planning my family's vacation for the spring of 2016 I decided that we'd visit the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama.  I picked this place mostly because I wanted to visit Ruby Falls near Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I had seen a picture of that stunning waterfall and I knew that I wanted to visit it.

As I started researching other places to visit in the Lookout Mountain area I discovered that Ruby Falls wasn't Lookout Mountain's only amazing waterfall.  There were at least 9 other waterfalls in the area.

I was pleased to discover that all of the other waterfalls were free to visit.  I decided that we'd go waterfall hunting during our vacation.

Each waterfall turned out to be wonderful and beautiful in its own way.  From the tall yet skinny Grace's High Falls, to the powerful Noccalula Falls they were all amazing.

I've made a list of all the waterfalls you can find around Lookout Mountain.  Hopefully you'll have as much fun finding these falls as I did.

Here's a map of where all the waterfalls are located.  As you can see they are in the northeastern part of Alabama.

Okay, let's get started.

DeSoto Falls
Location: 6 miles north of DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne
Height: 107 feet
Cost: Free
Trail difficulty: The best view of the falls is from a viewing platform that you reach by going down about 12 steps.

When we first arrived at the parking lot for this waterfall I was disappointed.  All I could see was a spill way.  But after walking down a short trail I could see the 107 foot waterfall spilling into a large pool.

You can find this waterfall by following the signs that are posted on Highway 89 on top of Lookout Mountain.
Indian Falls 
Location: DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne
Height: approximately 10 feet
Cost: Free
Trail difficulty: Easy

This is probably the easiest waterfall to find within DeSoto State Park. It's located .1 mile from the trail head.

The Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail is located on the western side of Highway 89 about 200 feet south of the Country Store. Park in the little parking lot for the Boardwalk Trail and cross the street.

You'll see a board fence that surrounds the park's sewage treatment plant. You should also see a sign indicated that the Indian Falls Trail is to the side of the sewage treatment plant. (Don't worry, that's NOT where the water comes from.)
  
Follow the trail around the fence and you'll come to footbridge. This footbridge spans the top of the waterfall. If you cross the bridge the path will descend down the side of the rocks so you can hike down to the bottom of the falls.

Laurel Falls 
Location: DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne
Height: approximately 5 feet
Cost: Free
Trail difficulty: Moderate

Laurel Falls is located about .75 of a mile from the Country Store, but that's not the only way to reach the waterfall. You can also reach it if you start from the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk.

When you reach the Azalea Cascade on the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail you can either return to your car or you can venture onto one of the hiking trails in search of either Laurel or Lost Falls. I highly recommend making sure you have a trail guide with you if you are going to go off the boardwalk. This section of the park has a network of about 3 interconnected trails that can get a little confusing if you don't have an image of the map with you. Laurel Falls is a small waterfall, but it is very pretty. Also the scenery on the way there is very beautiful.

 
Lodge Falls
Location: DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne
Height: approximately 20 feet
Cost: Free
Trail difficulty: Moderate - very steep, but only for a short while

Lodge Falls is another easy waterfall to find. However, this one has a rather steep trail so it's not the most accessible one. This waterfall is located on the Green Trail behind the Park Lodge which is about a half mile from the Country Store.

 There isn't really a trail head for the Green trail, but if you park at the Lodge and then just go behind the hotel rooms you will find the trail.After just a few feet a steeper trail leads down to into a ravine. If you stay on the Green Trail for about 50 more feet you will come to a somewhat less intense descending trail


Lost Falls
Location: DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne
Height: approximately 10 feet
Cost: Free
Trail difficulty: Moderate
Lost Falls is located about 1.5 miles from the Country Store. It is located on the blue trail. This is a seasonal waterfall, and so it's "lost" when there isn't water flowing over it. My family didn't have time to try to track down a waterfall that may or may not have been visible so unfortunately I don't have a picture of this one.

Litter River Falls 
Location: Little River Canyon National Preserve near Fort Payne
Height: 45 feet
Cost: Free
Trail difficulty: The trail to the overlook is easy.  You can also hike to the base of the falls on a steep staircase.

There is a parking area for these falls just off of Highway 35.  Follow the boardwalk trail down the the viewing platform.


Grace's High Falls
Location: Little River Canyon National Preserve near Fort Payne
Height: 133 feet
Cost: Free
Trail difficulty: NA

This is Alabama's tallest above ground waterfall.  This is a seasonal waterfall so it's not always visible. The best place to view to falls is from the side of the road on the scenic Canyon Rim Drive along the west rim of the Little River Canyon.  

The view point is between Crow Point and Eberhart Point. There is a pull out and an informative sign marking the spot.





Noccalula Falls 
Location: Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden
Height: 90 feet
Cost: Free to view the waterfall from up above.  But if you want to hike down to the waterfall you'll need to pay the park's admission fee of $6 for an adult and $3 for a child.  (It's a really good deal for all the other things you can do inside the park.)
Trail difficulty: From above it is easy.  To hike behind the falls you'll need to be in good physical shape.

This beautiful waterfall is easy to find.  It's located just a few yards from Highway 211 (Noccalula Road) in Gadsden.  There is a parking lot and then paved walkways that lead to the overlook.
 If you are feeling adventurous you should pay the entrance fee to Noccalula Park and then hike down the gorge trail to get a better look at the falls.

You'll be able to hike into the alcove that goes behind the fall.  I always assumed that we'd have to go somewhere exotic to take a picture like this.  Who knew we could do it in Northern Alabama?

The trail to the waterfall is less than a mile, but it has a steep section at the very beginning.
High Falls 
Location: High Falls Park near Geraldine
Height: 35 Feet
Cost: Free
Trail difficulty: Moderate - is somewhat steep

This is the only waterfall on this list that isn't located on Lookout Mountain.  High Falls Park is about 30 miles west of Lookout Mountain.

These falls are 35 feet high and can be 300 feet wide.  I think they should really be named Wide Falls.

There are no signs in Geraldine that direct you to High Falls Park. Here are the directions for how to find the park from Highway 75 in Geraldine: You'll want to turn onto Alabama Highway 227 and head north. (It's the only traffic light in town.) Follow 227 for 5 miles and turn left onto County Road 356. (There should be a sign for High Falls Park just before the turn.) Follow country road 356 and then turn right onto County Road 144. This will take you to the intersection of 144 and Country Road 394 where the entrance to the park is located.



Ruby Falls 
Location: Ruby Falls Cave tour in Chattanooga Tennessee
Height: 145 Feet
Cost: $19.95 for an adult and $11.95 for a child ages 3-12.
Trail difficulty: The cave tour will take you on a 1/2 mile walk along mostly level ground.

I can't finish this post without talking about the waterfall that started it all.  Ruby Falls is located in the Tennessee part of Lookout Mountain.  And when I say in I mean in. This 145 foot waterfall is 1120 feet under ground.

This is the only waterfall on this list that you have to pay money to see, but the price is worth it for the experience of seeing this stunning waterfall. Plus you get to go on a cave tour and that's always cool.



Have fun finding all these amazing waterfalls. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Noccalula Falls Park - Gadsden, Alabama


Noccalula Falls Park is the best deal in Alabama. It's also one of the best kept secrets.  This city park is home to a stunning 90 foot waterfall.  There is a trail that takes you down to the river gorge and even behind the waterfall.  The park also contains to a pioneer village, a botanical garden, a maze of rocks, and a small zoo.  As if that wasn't enough unlimited train rides are included in the price of admission.  

Location: 1500 Noccalula Road Gadsden, Alabama.  Gadsden is about 60 miles northeast of Birmingham.

Cost:  Admission to the park costs $6 for adults and $3 for children ages 4-12.  Children three and under are free.

You don't have to pay the entrance fee to see the waterfall.  There is a large viewing area outside the park. However, the entrance fee is worth it for everything else the park has to offer.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The park is open every day.  Hours vary depending on the season, but generally the park is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  The park is open later in the evening during summer months.

Official Website: City of Gadsden

Date of Visit: Friday, April 15, 2016

This was the only stop of the fifth day of my family's road trip to the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama in April of 2016. We packed up our campsite at DeSoto State Park, and then drove southwest 45 miles on the Lookout Mountain Parkway to reach Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How to Pack an Adventure Bag


I ditched carrying a diaper bag about two years ago.  I discovered that it's way easier to explore places with a back pack on my back than it is to deal with a diaper back over one shoulder.  I call my back pack my Adventure Bag.

Having a well stocked adventure bag is one of the things that helps me stay sane while travelling with four young children. It is never far from me when we are out exploring or sightseeing. It functions as my purse, diaper bag, and emergency plan.  It contains everything I need to take care of the kids without having to run back to the car for something.

Even when we are at home I keep the backpack in the car. It's a nice little resource when we are out running errands and someone needs a diaper change or a change of clothes. When I drop the kids off at a baby sitters house I'll usually leave the adventure bag with the babysitter since it has everything they would need.

Here's a list of what I include in my bag:

Adventure Bag Basics
Diapers
Wipes
Change of clothes for each child -including underwear for the potty trained kids
Hand sanitizer
Bug Spray
Sun block
Water bottles

Baby Items (Thankfully the kids have outgrown these things.  But there was a time we didn't leave home without them.)
Bottles with pre-measured formula
Baby food jars (and spoons)
Bibs
Extra Binkies

Seasonal Items
Jackets
Swim diapers
Swimming suits
Hats

Mommy Items
Wallet
Keys
Phone
Chapstick
Feminine Hygiene Products

Extras
Band-aids
Baby Powder (is great for getting sand off of bodies)
Garbage bags or grocery bags for trash or dirty clothes
Snacks like granola bars (my husband usually carries the snacks in his backpack)

When I pack the bag I start with the things that I'm sure we'll use the least.  The jackets go in first followed by the extra clothes.  Then the diapers and wipes go on top.  

I have a second pocket where I'll put bug spray, sun block, and water.  I used to put hats in this pocket too, but hardly anyone ever wanted to wear a hat.  

The third pocket of my back pack is where I keep my wallet, keys, and phone.  I also keep personal things like chap stick and tampons in that pocket.

It's so nice to know that everything I need will be with me.

Here are a few tips on how to pack the things that go into an adventure bag.

How to pack diapers

You'll only need enough diapers/pull ups for the day.  If you are travelling for multiple days you'll want to keep the big box or bag of more diapers in your car.  Just replenish the stash in your adventure bag each morning. I usually keep about 6 diapers and 6 pull ups in my bag.  Back when all four kids were still in diapers/pull ups I obviously brought more.
 I'll squish all the diapers into a zip lock bag.  That way I don't have to worry about them getting wet.  Right now it's the time of year when I like to keep a few swim diapers in my bag too.  I never know when we might come across a splash pad or somewhere else where we'll need swim diapers.

How to pack extra clothes
Aside from diapers,  having an extra set of clothes is probably the biggest reason I carry my adventure bag.  It's almost guaranteed that one of my kids will need to change at least one article of clothing while we are out exploring.  On one memorable day, one daughter had diarrhea three times before I finally just put her in a pull-up until we got home.

I start by finding one shirt and one pair of pants for each child. I pick clothes that the kids aren't absolutely in love with since these clothes might be in the bag for several weeks without being used. I also try to pick clothes that won't take up a lot of room in the bag.
 Then I roll everything up tightly.
 And squish them into a zip lock bag.  I also add extra underwear to the bag.  I've started adding a pair of socks too.  That's thanks to a recent trip to the zoo when my daughter totally forgot to put on one of her socks.  She got a blister within minutes and spent the day riding in the wagon.  I spent the day wishing that I'd followed my instinct and put extra socks into the adventure bag.  Even miss-matched socks would have been better than nothing.

How to Pack Jackets

Right now it's too hot to give much thought to jackets, but during the cooler months I always make sure I pack the kids' jackets in my bag.  That way if the weather unexpectedly gets chilly or the kids randomly get wet I have something warm and dry to put them in.

We have hooks set up in our laundry room where the kid hang their jackets.  So it's always really easy for me to just go on there and grab four jackets.
 I'll stuff the jackets into a grocery bag. And put that at the bottom of the back pack.

Before we go on an adventure I always get out the bag and check to make sure there are enough diapers, extra clothes, and other things inside.  Then I put the bag in the car, and we head out for a day of fun. 

I hope this helps you get an idea of things that you can pack in your own adventure bag.  What have you found to be helpful to have on hand while you are out with your kids?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

High Falls Park - Geraldine, Alabama


High Falls Park is located in the middle of rural northern Alabama along Town Creek. Finding this remote location can be tricky. But the hunt is worth it because the the focal point of High Falls Park is a 35 foot high waterfall that can be over 300 feet wide. The small park has hiking trails, a pedestrian bridge over the creek, and picnic areas - including a covered pavilion.  There is even a small playground.  Any nature lover will enjoy a trip to High Falls Park.  And the best part is that it's free!

Location: County Road 144 Grove Oak Alabama.  Grove Oak is about 7 miles northwest of the slightly larger town of Geraldine, Alabama.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Official Website: http://www.seehighfalls.com/

Date of Visit: Thursday, April 14, 2016

This was the third stop of the fourth day of my family's road trip to the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama in April of 2016. We stopped for a moment at the Walls of Jericho trail head near the Alabama/Tennessee Border.  Then we drove over 60 miles south to Geraldine to find the waterfall at High Falls Park.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Walls of Jericho - Alabama/Tennessee border

Alabama doesn't have many hikes with much elevation change so the Walls of Jericho is a unique hike because the hike descends 1000 feet into a beautiful canyon.

Location: The trail head for this hike is located on Highway 79 only one mile from the border between Alabama and Tennessee

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open every day all year long.  However, make sure you have plenty of daylight left before you start this hike.  Also the river waters can be very high in wet months.

Helpful Website: The Nature Conservancy

Date of Visit: Thursday, April 14, 2016

This was the second stop of the fourth day of my family's road trip to the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama in April of 2016. We visited the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.  On our way back from the Rocket Center we decided to take a little detour up to the Walls of Jericho trail.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Amazing exhibits at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama


The US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama is home to one of the most extensive collections of technology used in space exploration.  Of particular note are the awesome displays inside the Saturn V Hall. These include things like a full size Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 16 Command Module, and the Apollo training simulator. Throughout the massive complex there are opportunities to learn. Opportunities like viewing IMAX movies, attending space camp, rock climbing on a "martian" wall, or even riding on amusement park rides all help visitors learn more about the goes into exploring space. There are so many things to see and do that it's almost hard to know where to start.

Location: One Tranquility Base Huntsville, Alabama

Cost: Tickets for adults over age 13 are $23.  Children from ages 5 to 12 are $15. Children ages 4 and under are free.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Official Website: http://rocketcenter.com/

Date of Visit: Thursday, April 14, 2016

This was the first stop of the fourth day of my family's road trip to the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama in April of 2016.  Huntsville is not really in the Lookout Mountain Area. However, we really wanted to see the Rocket Center and so I added it to our itinerary.  I figured this might be the closest we'd ever get to Huntsville while we lived in Alabama. So we drove the 80 miles from Fort Payne to Huntsville.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Things to see in Fort Payne, Alabama


Fort Payne is located just a few miles west of the middle section of Lookout Mountain. Throughout history this city has witnessed the creation of the Cherokee alphabet, the expulsion of the Cherokee Nation from the south, a boom and bust cycle, an industrial rebirth, and the rise of country superstars. There are glimpses into this past all over the town - you just have to know where to look.

Location:  Fort Payne is located in Northeastern, Alabama just a few miles east of Interstate 59.

Cost: All of the places on this list are either free or only cost a few dollars per person.

Official Website: http://www.fortpayne.org/

Date of Visit: Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fort Payne was officially the third stop of the third day of our road trip to the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama in April of 2016. My family regretfully left the Little River Canyon so that we could go to the store to buy some things we needed for our campsite that night. We went to the Walmart in Fort Payne, and then went to the Depot Museum and the park near the down town area of Fort Payne.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Little River Canyon National Preserve - Fort Payne, Alabama


The Little River Canyon National Preserve in Northeastern Alabama is an overlooked natural wonder.  The entire canyon is situated on top of Lookout Mountain, making this one of the only rivers in the world that flows entirely on a mountain. The crown jewels of the canyon are the Little River Falls which are easily accessible from Highway 35. The canyon walls are covered in trees providing beautiful green vistas every way you look. The 23 mile Scenic Drive runs along the western rim of the canyon and has many pull outs that allow you to stop and take in the scenery.  

Location: On top of Lookout Mountain.  The Canyon Center is located at 472 Highway 35, Fort Payne, Alabama.  The Scenic Drive is mostly on Highway 176

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: The park is open from sunrise to sunset all year long.  The Canyon Center is open from 10:00 to 4:00 daily.

Official Website: https://www.nps.gov/liri/index.htm

Date of Visit: Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This was the second stop of the third day of our road trip to the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama in April of 2016. My family went on a quick hike to a waterfall in Desoto State Park and then we drove 11 miles to the south to the Little River Canyon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Lookout Mountain Parkway - From Chattanooga, Tennessee to Gadsden, Alabama

The Lookout Mountain Parkway runs along the top of the 84 miles of Lookout Mountain. The Parkway spans three states, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. There are a variety of things to see and do along the parkway, from Ruby Falls near Chattanooga, Tennessee in the north to Noccalula Falls in Gadsden in the south. Many of the places to visit are either free or very inexpensive. And the scenery can't be beat.

Location: Various roads between Chattanooga, Tennessee and Gadsden, Alabama

Cost: There is no cost to drive on the parkway. Several of the attractions along the parkway are also free, but others cost money.

Operating Seasons and Hours: All year

Helpful Website: http://www.drivelookoutmountain.com/

Date of Visit: Monday, April 11 through Friday, April 15, 2016

My family drove on the Lookout Mountain Parkway at least a little bit during each day of our 5 day road trip to the Lookout Mountain area of Alabama in April of 2016. Usually we drove on it as we were travelling to and from our campsite at DeSoto State Park.

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