The 10 Best Places To Camp In Alabama

The 10 Best Places To Camp In Alabama

We love a cozy B&B or posh boutique hotel as much as the next person, but sometimes there’s no better place to rest your head than in a tent under the stars. Breathe in the fresh air, cook supper over a campfire, and unplug from the unrelenting busyness of life. Lucky for us, the South is all about wide open spaces. We’ve got wooded forests, serene beaches, and lakefront landings. And each is more than ready to welcome us home for the night.

Alabama is a camper’s paradise. Campsites populate every corner of the state, from its northern mountains to its southern shores. If you’re ready to pack up the car and spend a weekend in nature, a camping trip should do the trick. Not sure where to pitch your tent? Start with a state park. Many, if not most, of Alabama’s 21 state parks offer primitive campsites, RV and camper hookups, and even cabins, where you spend a night or two. But state parks aren’t the only place to get your outdoor adventure on; keep reading for our 10 favorite places to camp in Alabama.


1. Gulf State Park

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better or more beautiful beachside campground than the one at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama. For a truly special experience, book an Outpost Campsite on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. You’ll have your own military style tent complete with cots, a private firepit, and shared bathrooms. The best part is you’ll be mere minutes from the park’s two miles of white-sand beaches and sparkling blue-green waves. And should you get tired of the salt life, you can also spend time paddling Lake Shelby or exploring the 27 miles of paved trails and boardwalks passing through nine distinct ecosystems in the park.   


2. Cheaha State Park

Set up camp atop Alabama’s highest point at Cheaha Mountain. The state park in the Talladega National Forest has plenty to explore, including six hiking trails and five mountain bike trails, each with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. For the park’s signature vista, make the hike to Pulpit Rock. With 77 campsites, plus chalets and cabins for those who prefer a little more comfort, Cheaha is an ideal location for your next weekend camping trip.


3. Dismals Canyon

This National Natural Landmark is home to one of the state’s—and the country’s—most unique natural phenomena. Every spring and fall, the canyon walls at Dismals Canyon light up with tiny bioluminescent creatures called Dismalites. Akin to rare glowworms found only in Australia and New Zealand, the critters require an extremely rare habitat to survive, so seeing them in action is something truly special. Spend the night with the Dismalites by booking a night tour and accompanying campsite. Campsites are spread out throughout the natural preserve. For a truly spectacular stay, request a Sleeping Water campsite. It’s located in a box canyon with its own waterfall.  


4. Cathedral Caverns State Park

Alabama’s intricate canyon and cavern systems are full of all kinds of hidden treasures. Head to Woodville, near Guntersville in north Alabama, to see an awe-inspiring underground landscape of stalagmite rock formations that create a cathedral-like scene. With only 11 campsites, it pays to book your spot well in advance to make sure you secure one. Once morning comes, take a guided tour of the caverns, then spend some time exploring the park's trails.


5. Monte Sano State Park

This mountain in northeast Alabama near Huntsville has long been a favorite outdoor destination for Alabamians. Spanish for “Mountain of Health,” Monte Sano became a popular spot in the 1800s for visitors from all over the country who sought the fresh alpine air, stunning views, and calming mineral springs of Monte Sano. Today, the 2,140-acre park hosts 23 tent campsites, 69 water and electric sites, and 21 full hookup sites. There are also 11 original Civilian Conservation Corp. rustic cabins with working fireplaces and screened-in porches available for rent.


6. DeSoto State Park

This area of north Alabama is a hotbed for natural attractions like waterfalls and canyons. Make home base at DeSoto State Park and gain easy access to see not only DeSoto Falls, but also the Little River and with it Little River Canyon and Little River Falls. Nestled atop Lookout Mountain on 3,000 acres, this park has it all. From kayaking and fishing to bouldering, hiking, swimming, and mountain biking, you can spend an entire weekend playing in the great outdoors here, and still want to come back the following weekend for more.


7. Meaher State Park

Camping isn’t just for mountainous North Alabama. In South Alabama, head to Meaher State Park on Mobile Bay for some fun in the wetlands. Spend a day fishing off the pier or take a boat out on the water to get up close and personal with the underwater population. Walk along a boardwalk system over the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, then spend the night in a tent, RV, or cabin overlooking Ducker Bay.


8. Noccalula Falls State Park

This iconic waterfall at Noccalula Falls Park plunges 90 feet into Black Creek Ravine. It’s incredible to see from any angle, but for a truly one-of-a-kind experience, take the trail down to the bottom of the falls,where you can walk behind the waterfall and feel the spray from water as it crashes down. The park is a great place for the entire family, as it includes a petting zoo, pioneer village, playground, mini golf course, swimming pool, and several picnic pavilions. With 120 campsites, you’ll have plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.


9. Dauphin Island State Park

Is there anything more soothing than falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves? At Dauphin Island Campground, you can do exactly that while staying at a campsite directly on the beach. The pet-friendly grounds offer 151 sites with power and water hookups, plus bathhouses, a camp store, playground, barbecue grills, pavilion, and free boat launch. You’ll also be steps from walking trails on the 155-acre Audubon Bird Sanctuary, the Sea Lab and Estuarium, and public fishing piers and jetties.


10. Oak Mountain State Park

As Alabama’s largest state park, Oak Mountain attracts thousands of visitors each year. Its location in a suburb of Birmingham makes it a popular spot for both weekend warriors and casual outdoor enthusiasts looking for time away in nature. The park is known for its huge variety of activities and amenities, from a public swimming beach and volleyball courts to mountain biking, hiking, fishing, paddleboarding, golf, and horseback riding. Open year round, Longleaf Pines campground, which borders Beaver Lake and is surrounded by rolling hills, is a popular spot for tent campers as well as those driving RVs and toting campers.  


Source: The 10 Best Places To Camp In Alabama Southern Living (February 20, 2023) Tara Massouleh McCay