20 Most Beautiful Places In Alabama, According To A Native Alabamian

20 Most Beautiful Places In Alabama, According To A Native Alabamian

The Yellowhammer State didn’t earn the moniker Alabama the Beautiful for nothing. From white-sand beaches on its southern coast to majestic mountains up north, the state is overwhelming blessed with gorgeous scenery. As one of the country’s top five most biodiverse states, Alabama’s great outdoors offer not only a breath of fresh air and beautiful views aplenty, but also a chance to get acquainted with a huge range of biomes and species. With more than 50,000 square miles to explore, you could spend years crisscrossing the state and still have more to see. Dense forests, Appalachian foothills, intricate cave systems, winding rivers, sparkling lakes, marshy swamps, and expansive plains—you name it, Alabama has it. And that’s not even mentioning all the hidden gems in the state’s large cities and tiny towns. 

As a born and raised Alabamian, I’m lucky enough to have had easy access to Alabama’s beauty for years. I was 3 when I took my first trip to the Gulf Coast beaches, and I've made countless other since. I spent my high school years exploring nearby state parks with friends. And in adulthood, I’ve continued that trend, taking weekend trips to discover new places and check off more locations on my ever-growing Alabama bucket list. Keep reading to learn about some of the most beautiful places in Alabama, and let me know where I need to go next!


Noccalula Falls


Gadsden, Alabama

There’s a longstanding legend behind the rushing cascades at this well-known waterfall. As the story goes, a Native American woman named Noccalula jumped from the ledge of Black Creek Falls rather than have to marry a chief from a neighboring tribe. Her father renamed the falls for her, and it’s been known as such ever since. At 90 feet tall, the falls are impressive from above, but the better vantage point can be found behind the falls. A short climb into ravine will lead you on a path behind the waterfall, where you'll be able to feel the cold spray tickle your skin.

noccalulafallspark.com; 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden, AL 35904; 256-549-4663


Majestic Caverns


Childersburg, Alabama

There are thousands of years of history buried deep inside the twists and turns of this cave system. Majestic Caverns, formerly known as DeSoto Caverns, became the country’s first recorded cave in 1796, but its use far predated that. Now operated by fifth generation owners of the same family that bought the cave in 1912, dozens of family-friendly attractions have been added to the park. Its biggest draw remains its collection of onyx-marble stalagmites and stalactites that hang from the ceiling and rise from the ground inside the cave. There’s a whole underground world to explore, but make sure you spend plenty of time in the Healing All Cathedral, the cave’s largest room which was given the name “Kymulga,” meaning “healing all” by Native Americans.

majesticcaverns.com; 5181 DeSoto Caverns Parkway, Childersburg, AL, 35044; 256-378-7252


Ave Maria Grotto


Cullman, Alabama

See a bit of manmade beauty at an incredible public art display in North Alabama known as Ave Maria Grotto. Located on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey, the only Benedictine monastery of men in the state, the grotto is a landscaped hillside covered in 125 miniature stone and cement replicas of famous buildings from all over the globe. Each work was created by Brother Joseph Zoetl, a longtime monk at the Abbey. Take a walk along the path and you’ll discover South African shrines, German castles, Spanish missions, and even the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

avemariagrotto.com; 1600 St. Bernard Dr. SE, Cullman, AL 35055; 256-734-4110


Cahaba River


One of the most scenic and biologically diverse rivers in the entire country, we’re beyond blessed to have the Cahaba River running through the central portion of the state. A recreation hub, folks use the river year-round for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, floating, and fishing, but the best time to see the waterway is during the small window between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, or mid-May to mid-June. That’s when the river’s large population of native Cahaba lilies bloom. The striking white flowers pop up directly out of the water, since they can only survive in swift-flowing water over rocks. The blooms are so picturesque that my husband even thought to propose among them seven years ago.


Gulf Shores/Orange Beach


The Sunshine State gets a lot of credit for having gorgeous beaches, but Alabama’s most popular beaches, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, are every bit as beautiful. This 32-mile stretch of white sand abutting blue-green ocean has long been a haven for Alabama families, as well as folks from all over the country. There’s absolutely nothing prettier than a sunset over the water, and that’s something every Alabama kid (this one included) comes to learn at a very early age.


Monte Sano State Park


Huntsville, Alabama

This mountaintop in the northeastern portion of the state has beckoned visitors since the late 1800s thanks to its stunning views and mineral springs. The 2,140-acre park is beautiful in all seasons, but it’s especially lovely during fall when the trees are swathed in autumnal color and during the spring when native azaleas are bursting into bloom. With 20 miles of hiking trails, 14 miles of biking trails, and plenty of camping options (from cabins to glamping tents), there are plenty of ways to explore this natural escape.

alapark.com/parks/monte-sano-state-park; 5105 SE Nolen Ave., Huntsville, AL 35801


Birmingham Botanical Gardens


Birmingham, Alabama

With 67 acres and more than two dozen separate garden spaces, the Magic City’s botanical gardens have long been a backdrop for all of life’s special moments, both big and small. From springtime strolls to weddings, graduations, and everything in between, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens see it all. Especially popular areas include the Japanese Garden and the bamboo forest.

bbgardens.org; 2612 Lane Park Road, Birmingham, AL 35223; 205-414-3950


Bellingrath Gardens & Home


Theodore, Alabama

Once the private home and gardens of Duncan and Bessie Bellingrath, owners of the Mobile Coca-Cola bottling company, Bellingrath now welcomes thousands of visitors each year. There’s plenty to explore across the 65-acre estate, but specific points of interest include the Live Oak Plaza, which features a series of fountains and runnels surrounded by lush landscaping, and a boardwalk overlooking a natural bayou.

bellingrath.org; 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road; Theodore, AL 36582; 251-973-2217


Old Live Oak Cemetery


Selma, Alabama

A cemetery might not be high on your list of most beautiful places to visit, but this burial site in Selma is special. For one, it’s listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s also the final resting place of prominent Selma natives like former Vice President William Rufus King and Benjamin Sterling Turner, the first African American U.S. congressman from Alabama. Go to pay your respects and take a stroll under the giant arms of ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss.




If you love the Gulf Coast, there are few places more scenic. Stroll to see historic homes on streets lined with live oaks. Get lost in the European-inspired alleys of Fairhope’s charming, walkable downtown. If you’re not staying at the legendary Grand Hotel, at least make a stop to see its well-landscaped grounds and vibrant bougainvillea. One last thing to note: Fairhope sits on bluffs that overlook Mobile Bay, so you're never far from a view of the water.


Gulf State Park


Gulf Shores, Alabama

With the Gulf of Mexico on its Southern border, 3.5 miles of white sand beaches, three lakes within the park, and nine ecosystems on its 28-mile paved trail system, Gulf State Park is popular with anglers, beach bums, and naturalists alike. Visitors can fish, swim, and paddle on Lake Shelby, see native flora and fauna at the Nature Center on Middle Lake, and flit around the Butterfly Garden east of Little Lake. At nearly 2,500 feet long, the Fishing and Education Pier is the largest in the Gulf as well as Alabama’s only public gulf pier. Normally open for fishing or strolling, the pier is currently undergoing reparis and is expected to reopen in summer 2024.

alapark.com/parks/gulf-state-park; 20115 State Park Rd, Gulf Shores, AL 36542


Little River Canyon National Preserve


Fort Payne, Alabama

There aren’t any national parks in Alabama, but the National Park Service’s presence is alive and well thanks to Little River Canyon, a national preserve located atop Lookout Mountain in Northeast Alabama. The expansive preserve is known for its forested uplands, canyon rims, boulders, sandstone cliffs, breathtaking bluffs, and mesmerizing waterfalls. Visitors can drive the 23-mile Little River Canyon Parkway, which includes eight overlooks, four trails, and several rock climbing access points. The park’s most popular spots are its three waterfalls: Little River Falls, Little Falls, and Graces High Falls. The first two flow into popular summertime swimming holes, while Graces High holds the title of being the tallest above ground waterfall in the state at 133 feet high.

nps.gov/liri; 4322 Little River Trail NE Ste 100l, Fort Payne, AL 35967; 256-845-9605


Cathedral Caverns State Park


Woodville, Alabama

Another underground wonder, Cathedral Caverns knows what it means to make a grand entrance. The entrance to the cave measures a whopping 126 feet wide and 25 feet high. Take a cave tour to see giant stalactites and stalagmites, including Goliath, a 45-foot-tall stalagmite that’s 243 feet around and is one of the largest in the world. When you’re ready to re-emerge from the dark cave’s year-round 60-degree temperature, you can explore more of the 493-acre park on marked hiking trails and warm up in the sun.

alapark.com/parks/cathedral-caverns-state-park; 637 Cave Road, Woodsville, AL 35776; 256-888-0230


Dauphin Island

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Located three miles south of Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island has clear blue water and powdery white sand galore. It's connected to mainland Alabama by a bridge, or you can take a ferry ride over. The island is a boon for history and nature. Visit the 164-acre Audubon Bid Sanctuary to see migrating birds in the spring. Head to Shell Mound Park to see beautifully preserved shell mounds dating to 1100-1500 AD, and swing by Historic Fort Gaines, a 19th century bread seacoast fortification.




Alabama is known for its rolling green hills, but in the northeastern corner of the state, just a few miles from the Georgia border, the tiny village of Mentone is decidedly a mountain town. Located on Lookout Mountain, one of the best times to visit Mentone is during fall when native poplars, dogwoods, maples, and hickories begin to turn, creating a bold patchwork of red, orange, yellow, across the mountainside. It’s a sight that keeps many Alabamians coming back year after yar.


Railroad Park


Birmingham, Alabama

The opening of this beloved 19-acre greenspace in the heart of downtown Birmingham was a defining moment for the city. Founded in 2010, the park transforms the area around a rail viaduct (historically a bisector of the city) into a beautiful community gathering space where folks of all ages and walks of life come together to enjoy the outdoors. For one of the most scenic views in the city, take a stroll around the park's lake during golden hour. With pink muhly grass and yellow coneflowers in your forefront and the downtown skyline behind, you won’t find a prettier picture in all of Birmingham.

railroadpark.org; 1600 1st Ave. S., Birmingham, AL 35233; 205-521-9933


Magnolia Springs


I couldn’t leave out the place that’s time and time again named as Alabama’s prettiest town. Magnolia Springs is tucked away on the Magnolia River in South Alabama. Even though it's known by some as a pass-through town on the way to Gulf Shores, Magnolia Springs has its own heart, with stories that date back to its settlement as a Spanish land grant in 1800. There’s no denying that the town’s got Southern charm in spades, but nowhere is it more apparent than the Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast, a 1897 Victorian home with a wide front porch and prime location on cheery, tree-lined street.


Cheaha State Park


Delta, Alabama

This “island in the sky” is the tallest point in Alabama and the southernmost tip of the Appalachian Mountain chain. There’s plenty to do and see in this 2,799-acre park, which is also the state’s oldest, but the one thing you can’t miss is the view from Bald Rock Outlook. There, you can take in the glory of the surrounding Talladega National Forest and Cheaha Wilderness from the top of a towering granite boulder that rises 2,407 feet above sea level. The silhouette of wind-warped ancient trees against the sunset creates a scene so majestic you might confuse it for Lion King’s Pride Rock.  

alapark.com/parks/cheaha-state-park; 2141 Bunker Lp, Delta, AL 36258


Lake Guntersville


Though Alabama has some prime real estate on the coast, the Gulf isn’t the only body of water the state has in its repertoire. Lake Guntersville in northeast Alabama is a shining example of the state’s excellent collection of lakes. The largest in the state, Lake Guntersville is popular for fishing, swimming, boating, and more. For one of the best views of the water, head to The Lodge at Lake Guntersville State Park and spend some time on its back deck. You won’t be sorry.


Lake Martin


About 150 miles south of Guntersville Lake, you’ll find Lake Martin, another of the state’s most popular recreational lakes. Technically a reservoir, the manmade body of water was formed by the creation of the Martin Dam on the Tallapoosa River. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend with a boat, be sure to take a cruise to Chimney Rock, a large rock formation that resembles a chimney and is a popular spot for daredevils looking for a thrill. Folks often climb 60 feet to a platform on the rock formation and dive into the deep blue water below.


Source: 20 Most Beautiful Places In Alabama, According To A Native Alabamian Southern Living (February 14, 2024) Tara Massouleh McCay