Alabama’s Little River Canyon


Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Grant

We finally got back on the road this weekend, headed to Little River Canyon and it felt great!

We started this site with the goal to help average folks get out and travel and see new places, all in an affordable manner. Since we started back at school, we have had difficulty getting away for the weekend, both for work and personal reasons. But, hey, life happens.

We headed out right after work, picked up Alee, the Camping Kitty, and grabbed the trailer. It was a couple of hours drive to Little River RV Park and Campground, located just outside Fort Payne, AL.

Alee hanging out on the bed in the camper.
Alee hanging out on the bed in the camper.

We got in and set up. The campground was nice enough. The site was level, had full hook-ups (including cable with ESPN!). There are some things which need work, but the owners were super nice, are still working on building out the campground and the price was right.

We chose this part of the world so we could visit the two National Parks sites in northern Alabama: Little River Canyon National Preserve and, our first stop of the weekend, Russell Cave National Monument.

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Russell Cave National Monument

Russell Cave NM was about an hour away from Fort Payne, so we got up fairly early on Saturday to head up to the park. We had hoped to do the guided tour of the cave and weapons demonstration, which according to the park web site starts at 11 a.m. The tour was almost done when we arrived at 10:40.

This park ranger gave a weapons demonstration, including a wooden war club he created himself.
This park ranger gave a weapons demonstration, including a wooden war club he created himself.

The ranger giving the weapons demonstration was of Native American decent and took great pride in the heritage he was presenting. He demonstrated war clubs he fashioned by hand, as well as a blowgun. I wish we had gotten to see the rest of the demonstration.

Following that, we walked up the boardwalk to the cave. Apparently, the boardwalk into the cave was washed out at some point in the past, again, not indicated on the Web site.

Russell Cave
Russell Cave

Native American tribes used the cave for thousands of years as a hunting shelter. One of the locals told us it used to be possible walk all the way through the cave years ago.

There is also a nice paved hiking/nature trail that pushes up the hillside behind the visitor center. Like every National Parks site, there is a warning to watch for wildlife, in this case, copperheads. We didn’t see any, but I can understand why they would like the trail. The trail was short but pleasant.

In all, the park is interesting and well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Fort Payne

Aside from being Labor Day weekend, it was also the beginning of college football! Bonnie and I are huge college football fans and there were some great games this weekend. One of the priorities for us this weekend was taking time to relax and watch some football, which was how we spent Saturday afternoon.

Once back at the camper, we tossed on ESPN to watch a few games. Once the University of Georgia game came on, we decided to head into Fort Payne to find a decent restaurant to watch the game and eat some interesting food.

Fort Payne’s downtown is recovering with several shops and restaurants, but there is still a decent amount of vacancy. Home to the country music band Alabama, the town has a large museum and fan club dedicated to the band.

Bonnie drinking a peach wheat beer, which she actually liked!
Bonnie drinking a peach wheat beer, which she actually liked!

We found a restaurant, Vintage 1889 Cafe, which had the game on and some delightful food and beer. It is certainly worth a stop when in Fort Payne.

Little River Canyon National Preserve

We spent Sunday enjoying Little River Canyon National Preserve. The Little River cut the 600-foot deep Little River Canyon atop Lookout Mountain.

Little River Falls is certainly one of the star attractions of the preserve.
Little River Falls is certainly one of the star attractions of the preserve.

We started our visit at Little River Falls, which turned out to be fortuitous. The falls, while impressive, would certainly be more impressive if the area wasn’t in the midst of a pretty severe drought. The flow over the falls was pretty low, but it certainly allowed for folks to get out and walk on the top of the falls.

From there, we headed to the visitor center, which is normally our first stop in any national park… it just didn’t open until 10 a.m. The Little River Canyon Center is a joint venture between the National Park Service and Jacksonville State University. The center is more of a multi-use educational center than a visitor center, complete with a movie highlighting the various uses of the center and the park.

There are several trails in the park, but most are very short. We hiked the Beaver Pond Trail, a brief 1.8-mile loop to a, you guessed it, beaver pond… Except the vegetation has completely overgrown the pond. Still, it was a nice walk in the woods.

Martha's Falls was a prime location for folks to go swimming in the park.
Martha’s Falls was a prime location for folks to go swimming in the park.

We also walked down to Martha’s Falls, a one-mile round trip. The waterfall was neat and was obviously a spot where locals like to get in the water to relax on a hot day. The parking lot was more or less full by the time we left and the parking lot for Little River Falls was overflowing. Getting out in the water is a favorite thing in the summer here!

The main attraction for most folks in the park is the scenic drive. The drive follows along the west side of the canyon with several overlooks and a few places to hike down to the river. At the end of the drive is the Canyon Mouth picnic area, which is a large picnic area along the river.

We spotted a small snake hanging out in the river while we were hiking a small trail.

We spotted this guy while walking along the river at Canyon Mouth... You never know what you will find!
We spotted this guy while walking along the river at Canyon Mouth… You never know what you will find!

We are going to have to make a point to come back to Little River Canyon NP. While the views were really nice, the fall leaves will make them spectacular! Another time to come would be in the late spring after the rains. The Graces High Falls is seasonal. Seeing the other falls with significantly more water flow would be worth the drive.

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Northeast Alabama's Little River Canyon National Preserve and Russell Cave National Monument provide rich cultural history and rugged natural beauty.
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