Lookout Mountain Parkway, Alabama

Photo: Lookout Mountain Parkway Association
Photo: Lookout Mountain Parkway Association

Summer is a time for driving. It’s time to pick up some snacks, pack the car, and scan the radio. You’re in search of beautiful vistas, interesting detours, and surprises around the bend. You might get lost, or misplaced, as you’d rather call it. But that’s part of the fun. And this time, you’re in search of fun in Alabama.

Lookout Mountain Parkway is considered one of the most scenic drives in the country. The 93-mile road meanders through Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Mountain-laurels, pink lady’s slippers, and wild azaleas bloom along the side of the two-lane road. It passes around canyons, by waterfalls, near a ski resort—yes, in Alabama!—and through state parks. Quirky towns are everywhere in between.

Your journey begins in Gadsden in the northeast corner of Alabama. It’s home to Noccalula Falls, the world’s longest yard sale, and the beginning of the parkway. Follow a trail around the gorge. It winds around caves, carvings from the Civil War, a covered bridge, and a botanical garden. The falls then drop 90 feet over the cliffs.

Photo: Lookout Mountain Parkway Association
Photo: Lookout Mountain Parkway Association

Thirty miles down the road, it’s time for your first detour. Little River Canyon National Preserve is the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi River. Its sandstone cliffs rise 600 feet above the canyon floor and the Little River. Some of the cleanest, purest water in the South falls from DeSoto Falls, Little River Falls, and Grace’s High Falls (after it rains). Kayakers, rock climbers, and rappellers play inside the canyon. While a 23-mile road follows the canyon’s rim.

Next, head toward DeSoto State Park to find the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail. Walk by more colorful azaleas, tiny downy woodpeckers, and towering trees as you follow the wooden boardwalk. The deck at the end overlooks a pool created by the Azalea Cascades. It’s cool, peaceful, and the perfect place for a picnic. After lunch, slowly make your way to Mentone. The quaint town has cute shops, little restaurants, mineral springs, and the southernmost ski resort in the country. The slopes may be bare right now, but the view from atop the Lookout Mountain range is still breathtaking. It was worth the drive.

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