Little River Canyon National Preserve
The preserve is a place to find inspiration, connect with family and friends, and discover the amazing natural world of forests, river and streams. Listen for the rivers's rush, the wind whistling through the canyon, and the trill of birds in the forest canopy. Explore this place where the river flows, connect with an ancient land, and perhaps, discover something new about yourself. In 1992 the canyon and surrounding areas became part of the National Park Service. The Preserve protects 15,288 acres of land and many rare, threatened, and endangered species. Each season transforms the canyon landscape. Early spring-green leaves, red bud, and dogwood blooms give way to thick, green summer canopies and patches of wild flowers. As temperatures cool in the fall the hardwood forests burst with a palette of red, orange, yellow, and gold. The stark beauty of winter reveals intertwining branches, hidden nests in the forest, and prisms of icicles that form near waterfalls and along canyon walls. No matter the time of year, Little River Canyon has something for everyone. This is a day use area only; no camping in the Preserve.
The wildness of the Backcountry area allows visitors to interact with the landscape and develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural scenery, forests, and habitats of northeastern Alabama. This area has an incredible diversity of wildlife. You can bring your horse and ride along the roads and enjoy the scenery. Meander down the river in a canoe and enjoy the solitude. Hunting is allowed during specified times and dates.
This is one of the deepest and most extensive canyon and gorge systems in the eastern United States, at times measuring 500 feet from the edge of the cliffs to the river bottom. With its rugged towering rock bluffs and the roaring river below, the Little River Canyon offers a place of solitude, showcasing the power of water and its ability to dramatically change the landscape forever. This is where you can hike along the river and take in all the beauty nature has to offer.
You can rappel/rock-climb from any of the overlooks. Climbing here is for the experienced climber. Less than one percent of the climbing routes are 5.10 or easier. Come prepared with your own equipment and transportation. You can rock-climb from any of the cliffs. You cannot add or remove any bolts or have any equipment
A visit here is like stepping back in time. Look closely for fossils, evidence the bottom of the canyon was once the floor of a shallow sea during the Paleozoic Era (541-242 million years ago). The sandstone cliffs and canyon walls, part of the Pottsville Formation (320-286 mya) consist of sandstone and conglomerate shale, siltstone, and coal.
Little River is like no other; for most of its length it flows atop Lookout Mountain. One of the wildest and cleanest rivers in the southeaster US. It courses through the rugged terrain of the Cumberland Plateau, the most southern extension of the Appalachian Plateau. The river is a source of life and renewal, providing habitat for a high diversity of benthic invertebrates, and good water quality for flora and fauna thriving in the corridor. It carves and chisels the sandstone canyon day after day, as it has for millions of years. It is constant, persistent, but changeable, like the seasons. At times rushing, pounding, and crashing, its power is dangerous and undeniable. At other times, it meanders lazily from the top of Lookout Mountain to Weiss Lake.
Fishing is allowed anywhere along Little River inside the Preserve if you have a valid Alabama or non-resident fishing license. Children under 16 and adults over 65 are exempt from a fishing license. Fishing with nets is not permitted.
Some consider Little River Canyon a sports enthusiast's paradise - sheer cliffs and world-class Whitewater beckon those looking for the extreme. The canyon is not for beginning kayakers. Experience is a necessity when running rapids known as "Avalanche" and "Suicide." The canyon's waters are for expert level only ( Class III+ to IV, spring runoff V). Come prepared with all of your equipment and your own transportation. Never canoe or kayak alone. Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Have the skill to manage and know the difficulty of the rapids you are attempting to navigate. The rapids at the Preserve are for experts only. Always wear safety gear. Backcountry paddling is class I and II.
This is a good fishing location. The water is deeper and the area is more private than the falls area. It is located on AL Highway 35 not far from the falls. There is easy access to the water with lots of trees. Use caution when getting back on the highway, it is very hard for oncoming traffic to see you.
Little River Canyon Center is located in Fort Payne, Alabama. Park visitors are welcome daily from 10 AM until 4 PM Central Standard Time. This award-winning building is a Jacksonville State University public facility with programs, events, classrooms, gift shop, movie theater, NPS office and an information desk. For more information go to www.canyoncenter.org. National Park Service Volunteers are waiting to greet you and help you plan your visit.
Little River Falls
Take the time to stop here to see the beauty of the waterfall up close. A boardwalk leads down to the overlook where you can feel the spray of the waterfall or see the misty morning fog. The boardwalk is handicap accessible.
There is a nice area in the woods with picnic tables. Have a meal with your family while enjoying the sound of birds chirping.
You can hike to Little Falls from here; it is about three-quarters of a mile away. Enjoy a picnic here and enjoy a short stroll to the falls. There is a 100-car parking lot with spaces for RV's.
This is a popular area for visitors wanting to be near the water. The trail from the small parking lot is about one-third of a mile. Since parking is limited, you can also access this area from Little River Falls parking area. The trail from the falls area is about three-quarters of a mile. The area has many slippery rocks and the water can often be swift enough to knock you off your feet (even with a few inches of water) and carry you over the falls. Always use caution near water.
Little River Falls Overlook
This is where you can get a far-away view of Little River falls. See the water as it cascades over the falls and meanders down the canyon. The boardwalk is only 100 feet and is handicap accessible. The parking lot is gravel and it has a few picnic tables to stop and have a meal.
If you love rock glades and a variety of wildflowers and interesting plants, this is where you want to be. It is a beautiful area to explore, rock climb, and watch kayakers during the season. Take some time to spend here and relax.
Beaver Pond Trail
Grab a backpack and the kids to go on an adventure. This easy, woodsy trail is less than two-miles long. You feel as if you are in the middle of the forest, many miles from civilization.
This is a great area for kids. There is a giant mushroom shaped rock in the middle of the road. Kids can walk thru the passageways of the large rocks on the side of the road. They can learn to climb, and have all kinds of adventures exploring the area. Parking is limited to only a few cars or motorcycles. Please teach your children that graffiti is illegal and damages the resources.
Lower Two-Mile Trail
This trail is very steep and about a mile long. It leads to a swimming hole. Kayakers use this area to put-in or take-out.
This is a great place to see the foliage in the fall. In the Spring/Summer months the trees/leaves are so thick it is hard to see the river.
Canyon View Overlook
If you want to take an awesome photo, this is a must see. The views are spectacular! Please take the time to see the canyon from here. If you are taking the short tour, you will take a sharp right on County Road 255 just past this overlook to get back to AL Highway 35.
Wolf Creek Overlook
This is also a great place to take a photo of the canyon. It gives you a longer view of the canyon than Canyon View Overlook.
If you crave solitude, this is a great place to go and think about the wonders of life. Sit on the boulders and look down into the canyon. All your cares seem to drift away with the wind. Bring a picnic lunch and spend some time here. The trail is a little steep so use caution.
Grace's High Falls Overlook
You can see a 100' waterfall on the opposite side of the canyon during the wet season. There is a platform to sit and take in the beauty of the area. Parking is limited to 2-3 vehicles.
This is where the adventure begins. You can spend an entire day just in this area. The steep hike is three-quarters of a mile down to the bottom of the canyon from the top. Once down at the bottom you can go in either direction. Most people choose the right.
Once down at the bottom, you will see stone pillars where the old chairlift used to rest. It kind of looks like a tombstone. The crumbling stone structure used to be the gift shop from long ago.
During the hike; the canyon will be on one side and the water on the other. The trail will end, and you will be climbing over boulders and trees. If you go far enough, there is a ledge and you will even have to cross the water in a few places. Use caution, the rocks are slippery!
Always wear the proper gear and bring plenty of water. Never hike this area after heavy rains or the threat of rain. You can be trapped with flash flooding. Always be out of the canyon before dark; there are no lights and the park is only open during daylight hours. Let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return. Cell phone reception is poor in the canyon.
Canyon Mouth Park
This is perfect for families. The mouth of the river is located at the bottom of the canyon. Canyon Mouth Park has a paved parking lot, plenty of picnic tables and grills, lots of shade trees and a restroom. There is easy access to the water. A one-mile trail leads you along the waters edge. Kayakers like to take-out here. The fee is $15 per vehicle (7-day pass) or $35 for a year-long pass.
Scenic Drive (AL Highway 176)
Follow AL Highway 176 for the 11-mile drive. Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the stops along the drive. There are no fees to tour the Scenic Drive or Little River Falls. The overlooks include: Little River Falls Boardwalk, Lynn, Hawks Glide, Grace's High Falls, Canyon View, Wolf, Crow Point and Eberhart. You will also find, Mushroom Rock, Beaver Pond Trail, Lower Two-Mile Trail.