I’ve lived in northwest Georgia and just a short drive away from North Alabama for most of my life. North Alabama is an area that I love exploring because it has so much to offer, especially if you enjoy being in the great outdoors like I do. The outdoors can often be portrayed as not being the most wheelchair-friendly, but North Alabama has a variety of accessible experiences to enjoy.
Recently, I had a chance to spend a few days in wheelchair accessible North Alabama and I discovered some new-to-me places that I’ll definitely return to in the near future. From admiring beautiful waterfalls to taking in the panoramic views and so much more, I had a remarkable time in North Alabama as a wheelchair user. If you are a wheelchair user as well, here are seven things that I’d highly recommend doing in North Alabama –
Wheelchair Accessible North Alabama Attractions and Things to Do
See Noccalula Falls
Noccalula Falls Park is located in Gadsden, Alabama and spans across 250-acres. Here, you will find the 90-foot tall waterfall called Noccalula Falls and it is absolutely beautiful!
To view this majestic waterfall, I was able to park in an accessible space and roll toward the falls on a paved path. Along this short path was an accessible bridge and the entire area was so gorgeous. As I rolled further across the bridge and around the path, I came to a viewing spot with incredible views of Noccalula Falls. It was a perfect spot to see the water rushing off the rocks and pounding the water down below.
I also found a bronze statue of the Native American Princess Noccalula. As the legend goes, it was here that she took the leap that ended her life, so that she didn’t have to marry a man that her father arranged against her will. Her remorseful father later named this cascade after his beloved daughter. As the story has continued throughout the years, visitors have reported seeing a young girl in the mist among the rocks. Legend believes this may be the spirit of young Noccalula haunting the falls.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover this beautiful waterfall in the charming town of Gadsden and I spent about thirty minutes admiring the views. If you’re planning to visit North Alabama, this should be a must-visit!
Explore Downtown Gadsden
Gadsden, Alabama is one of the loveliest little towns that I have visited. It is located on the Coosa River and sits a little over 50 miles northeast of Birmingham. You can easily access it from I-59 out of Chattanooga or Highway 411 out of Rome, Georgia.
The Downtown Gadsden area has plenty of accessible parking that is on the sides of the street and you’ll find some great shops. One of my favorite shops to look around in and find those special gifts is The Alabama Gift Company. They carry a variety of products such as Alabama souvenirs, books about the area, home goods, t-shirts, and more. Personally, I could spend hours here just seeing all the different items that they have.
On the same block as The Alabama Gift Company is King’s Olive Oil Company and Scoop Du Jour Creamery and Desserts, which are two other must-visits. There are so many eclectic shops and restaurants in downtown Gadsden that I can’t list them all, but exploring this downtown area is the perfect way to spend a few hours in wheelchair accessible North Alabama.
Visit Russell Cave National Monument
Until this visit to North Alabama, I had honestly never even heard of Russell Cave National Monument. But wow, it really is a gem and I’m so glad that I now know about it! Located in Bridgeport, Alabama, Russell Cave once served as a shelter and was inhabited 9,000+ years ago.
Upon my arrival, I stopped first in the Visitor’s Center and talked with the friendly park ranger on duty. I was fascinated to learn about the history in this area, which made me even more anxious to get outside and explore the wooded trail that leads to the famous cave. If needed, the Visitor’s Center also has an accessible restroom and if you need to borrow a wheelchair for your time at Russell Cave National Monument, one is available.
Rolling outside, I found a 0.4-mile boardwalk trail that took me all the way to the opening of the cave. The boardwalk trail is extremely smooth to roll on with a wheelchair and being in the great outdoors made it even more spectacular.
I was able to stop along the trail and watch birds, butterflies, and even a friendly squirrel playing in the leaves. Once at the end of the trail, I was able to see the entrance of Russell Cave and several signs explaining how this cave acted as a shelter long ago.
Although touring inside the cave is not permitted, being at the grand entrance in the atmosphere of the great outdoors is an awesome experience. I sat there and imagined what life must’ve been like thousands of years ago at Russell Cave. What a cool experience!
Take in the views at Weathington Park
Located in Section, Alabama, Weathington Park is one of North Alabama’s most beautiful sights. The views from the overlook at Weathington Park will definitely make you fall in love with North Alabama!
Weathington Park has two accessible viewing platforms, where you can easily take in the astonishing views of the Tennessee River. Sitting at 1,300 feet, this park is breathtaking any time of day, but certainly viewing it at sunset will never disappoint!
There is also a paved loop trail here, about a quarter of a mile long, that is totally wheelchair accessible and serves as a relaxing stroll around the park. I was also excited to find an accessible picnic table here, so pack some tasty treats and bring your family along to enjoy the views while sharing a meal. I noticed accessible restrooms at Weathington Park as well.
Whether you spend fifteen minutes or several hours at Weathington Park, you’re sure to have a wonderful time. The beauty from here really made me appreciate what all North Alabama has to offer.
Explore DeSoto State Park
DeSoto State Park is located only 8 miles northeast of Fort Payne, Alabama and covers 3,502 acres of trails, forest, and waterfalls. Without a doubt, it’s one of my favorite places to visit in the entire state of Alabama!
After driving along the winding roads throughout the park, I was excited to make my way to the picnic area at DeSoto Falls. DeSoto Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Alabama, standing at 104-feet tall. Right beside the accessible paved parking area is an accessible picnic table, where you can see part of the rushing spillover of DeSoto Falls. For wheelchair users, the view of the falls isn’t the greatest (to fully see the waterfall, you need to go down a set of steps), but I did enjoy seeing what I could. And the picnic area serves as such a perfect spot to share lunch and listen to the water crashing down upon the rocks.
Also located in DeSoto State Park is the Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail. This is one of my favorite accessible trails in the country! It is approximately 0.6 miles long and the entire boardwalk path is smooth to roll on in a wheelchair. It is about 4 feet wide and it’s a raised pathway through the woods. This is an extremely popular spot for birding and provides the tranquil solitude to get you out of the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Wheelchair Access in DeSoto State Park
At the end of the boardwalk trail is a babbling brook and a very small waterfall, where the water cascades along the rocks. The platform here is wider, so you can roll from side to side and get a better view of the area.
Before leaving DeSoto State Park, be sure to stop in the Visitor’s Center. In here, you’ll find various snacks and souvenirs to commemorate your time in the park. Next door to the Visitor’s Center is the Nature Center, which is definitely a must-visit.
In the Nature Center at DeSoto State Park, which has complimentary entry, there are some animals that you can see. There are several different kinds of snakes, all of which are snakes that you could actually see in the outdoors in North Alabama. I loved getting to see the various creatures in the Nature Center.
DeSoto State Park is somewhere that I try to visit at least a couple times per year, as there is always something new to see depending on when you visit. It’s especially beautiful in the fall season, but you really can’t go wrong any time of year. This is a remarkable park in wheelchair accessible North Alabama that you need to experience!
Admire Little River Canyon
Found in Fort Payne, Alabama, Little River Canyon National Preserve is a spectacular area that spans across 15,288 acres. From a gorgeous waterfall to scenic canyon views, Little River is a magical place and just a short drive from DeSoto State Park, so you could easily do both on the same day.
I started my visit to Little River Canyon by driving along the Little River Canyon Rim Parkway, which covers 11 scenic miles. It consists of sharp turns and steep hills, but the views make it well worth it. As you ride along and look down at the river carving its way through the canyon below, there are 8 overlook stops along the way. Depending on the time of year that you visit, the trees may cover part of your view, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.
One of the most wheelchair accessible overlooks is Eberhart Point Overlook. It has a narrow paved path that leads to a viewing area. Parts of it are a bit bumpy, but I had no issues with it and really enjoyed the scenery.
My favorite thing about this area though is Little River Falls. You can find the falls near the Little River Canyon Visitor Center just off Highway 35 and for me, this is the most spectacular waterfall in North Alabama.
Parking near the falls is easy, as there are several wheelchair accessible parking spots located at the beginning of the smooth, accessible boardwalk path. The accessible path leads you down a hill and ends at the perfect viewing platform for Little River Falls.
Seeing the 45-foot tall waterfall from this spot is absolutely amazing, as I can just sit back, relax, and take in the sights and sounds of the rushing water. I also love the fact that I can be that close to such an amazing display of water and get some awesome photos while enjoying it.
Throughout my travels, I have seen a lot of waterfalls, but Little River Falls is undoubtedly one of the most accessible and one of the most beautiful. Seeing these falls should be at the top of your list of things to do in North Alabama!
Eat some delicious food
The people of Alabama know what’s good and their restaurants are at the top of my must-go list. I found some great food during my recent visit to wheelchair accessible North Alabama and here are my recommendations.
Number one on my list is Local Joe’s Trading Post, located in Rainbow City, Alabama. They call themselves a “specialty store with southern charm” and I am here to tell you, it is delicious. They offer smoked meats, an array of home baked goods, and local produce.
I started my meal at Local Joe’s with the Warm Pimento Cheese and Cajun Skins as my appetizer. The skins are actual baked pork skins, or you can opt for the tortilla chips if you prefer. Next, I enjoyed the Colossal Potato. It was a jumbo sized baked potato loaded with butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon, and bbq chicken and wow, it was scrumptious. Of course, I had to finish my meal with one of their homemade brownies as well. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all.
Another tasty restaurant in North Alabama is Tiger’s Inn in Valley Head, Alabama. This delicious restaurant has so many lunch specials that it is hard to choose. I finally narrowed down the choices on the day that I visited and decided upon the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fried okra, and cornbread muffin. My dessert was a scrumptious chocolate cake. Be sure to check out Tiger’s Inn’s Facebook page before you visit to see what the daily specials are. Chances are, you will find something tasty just like I did.
Jefferson’s Restaurant in downtown Gadsden, Alabama was another scrumptious choice that I encountered while visiting North Alabama. This restaurant has such a fun environment with several TV’s and a friendly staff. Although they are famous for their chicken wings, burgers, and oysters, I was in the mood for some shrimp, so I decided to order the shrimp tacos and they were even better than I had hoped!
For an appetizer at Jefferson’s, I ordered their corn nuggets. If you have never had them and love corn, I suggest you give them a try. They are deep fried balls of lightly battered corn and served with a side of honey mustard dipping sauce. I also requested a side of ranch dressing and I couldn’t even decide which dipping sauce was the best. They were so good. After scarfing down these and my tacos, I found a little more room for some dessert. And oh my goodness, if you have ever had a funnel cake at the fair and loved it, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tasted the Funnel Cake Fries at Jefferson’s.
These strips of funnel cake are absolutely mouth-watering good. They also come with dipping sauces and I requested the hot chocolate sauce and caramel sauce. I was dipping so fast I think chocolate may or may not have hit the wall next to us. Whatever you do, save some room for these funnel cake fries!
As you can see, North Alabama is full of accessible things to do, sights to see, and places to eat. As someone that grew up nearby, it’s an area that’s tremendously special to me and I hope that you’ll love it just as much as I do. So what are you waiting for? Start packing your bags now and experience all of the beauty that North Alabama has to offer, no matter what your abilities are!
*Thank you to Visit North Alabama for working with me on this trip and showing me the best of wheelchair accessible North Alabama! While my experiences were complimentary, all opinions expressed are authentic and my own.