By Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director
Spring kicked off last Friday, just in time for many Alabamians to take some time off work and school for spring break. Many are eager to get outside and take advantage of the beautiful weather. Finding a place to unwind and enjoy the beautiful natural landscape of Alabama is easy. One of Alabama’s beautiful state parks is less than an hour drive from home for most Alabamians. You do not have to break the bank to get outside to have an adventure or just relax in the sun this spring break.
Alabama State Parks offer so much more than just camping. Whether you would like to spend your spring break hiking the over 200 miles of trails, renting a canoe to row on one of the many lakes at the parks, relaxing at one of the parks system’s five pools or taking advantage of the guided tours and interpretive programs at the park, the parks offer something for everyone.
If you’re not interested in “roughing it” in the campgrounds, the park system’s six resort parks offer all the amenities of a regular hotel, with incredible views at no extra cost. The resort parks at Lake Guntersville, Lakepoint, Cheaha, Gulf, DeSoto and Joe Wheeler state park offer much more than trails. These parks have swimming pools, full-service restaurants and many unique attractions. You can spend the day lounging at the pool, take a ride on the zipline at Gulf State Park, go rock climbing at DeSoto, or cruise around Eufaula or Wheeler Lakes in a canoe or on a paddleboard.
The interpretive programs, guided tours and numerous museums offer families a chance not only to get their children outside, but a chance to learn something new. Spend an afternoon with one of the naturalists at DeSoto, Cheaha, or Gulf state parks. Learn about the eagles at Lake Guntersville or get up close and personal with birds of prey at the newly renovated tree top nature trail at Oak Mountain State Park. You can learn about the history of the parks and area in the Civilian Conservation Corpse (CCC) museums at DeSoto, Monte Sano or Cheaha state parks. Learn about one of the most influential people in Alabama’s history, General Joe Wheeler, at the Wheeler House, a short drive from Joe Wheeler State Park.
Many of our parks also offer seminars and craft projects. Guests can learn the basics of backpacking, how to build your own survival tools, go gem mining, learn a new craft and so much more.
Alabama has grown to be an international mountain biking destination, and many of Alabama’s award-winning trails are in our beautiful parks. This month, Chewacla State Park opened six miles of new trails in addition to the new beginners’ trail that opened in the fall. Monte Sano, Oak Mountain and Lake Lurleen state parks are some of the other parks with extensive mountain biking trails for cyclists of all levels.
Each time you visit one of Alabama’s State Parks you are helping to preserve the parks. The parks are funded almost entirely by visitor fees, equipment rentals and overnight lodging. If you want to see the parks preserved for future generations, there’s no better way than to visit them and bring a friend. Starting April 1, as part of our Bring a Friend Campaign, when you bring friend on their first overnight visit to the parks, both of you receive a $25 voucher for overnight lodging for your next park visit.
Whether you want to hike to Alabama’s highest point at Cheaha State Park, explore the caves of Cathedral Caverns and Rickwood Caverns, wakeboard at Oak Mountain or just escape and unplug, the parks have something for everyone. As you look for an escape this spring break, remember Alabama’s state parks have a unique adventure waiting for you, just a short drive from home.