The Cotton State is filled with incredible natural landscapes, fascinating history, amazing food, and a fair number of Alabama national parks. Alabama is home to 11 national park service sites, including national monuments, a military park, a preserve, a parkway, historic and scenic trails and historic sites.
These national park service sites are dotted around the state from Birmingham to Montgomery and everywhere in between. Despite not having a congressionally designated capital letter National Parks, Alabama is brimming with national park service sites.
- Alabama National Parks
- National Monument
- National Military Park
- National Preserve
- National Scenic Trail
- National Historic Trail
- National Historic Site
Alabama National Parks
1- Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
One of the state’s newest national park service sites is the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.
This monument was designed to preserve and commemorate the efforts made during the Civil Rights Movement.
This monument was established on 12 January 2017 and is spread across four city blocks.
The monument depicts a police officer and attack dog threatening a young Civil Rights activist.
It represents the time that high-powered water hoses, bombings and acts of violence were used against people fighting for their rights and freedoms.
During the 1960s, Birmingham was the largest city in the state and the centre of extreme violence and discord.
Segregation was very much real at the polling stations, restaurants and in schools.
African Americans weren’t even allowed to live in specific neighbourhoods.
While visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, you can also head to 16th Street Baptist Church.
This church was highly important in the Civil Rights Movement as it served as the rallying point for American protesters and freedom fighters during the Birmingham campaign in April to May 1963.
On 15 September 1963, two KKK members bombed the church killing four children and injuring 22 others.
The events that unfolded in Birmingham helped spark wider public outrage, which led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
This national monument district includes other monuments like the Gaston Motel, Kelly Ingram Park, Bethel Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
On your visit to Birmingham, Alabama, make time to visit all of these highly informative and important historical sites.
The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument is at 1510 5th Avenue North, Birmingham, AL 35203.
2- Freedom Riders National Monument
This national monument was created to tell the story of the 1961 Freedom Riders.
This event took place on 14 May 1961.
A group of segregationists and members of the KKK attacked a bus of freedom riders as well as white freedom riders at the Greyhound Bus Station in Anniston.
Rocks were thrown at the bus, windows were broken, and tires were slashed.
The police did intervene, and the bus managed to leave the station heading towards Birmingham. But the mob followed and six miles outside of Anniston, the bus had to pull over.
The attack continued and flaming rags were thrown into the bus, which caused it to explode.
The images of the burning bus that freelance photographer Joseph “Little Joe” Postiglione took became iconic images of the Civil Rights Movement.
At the monument, you can learn more about the Civil Rights Movement and the series of events that unfolded in 1961.
President Barack Obama dedicated the Freedom Riders National Monument in January 2017.
It should definitely be added to your Alabama national parks to-visit list.
The Freedom Riders National Monument is at 1031 Gurnee Avenue, Anniston, AL 36201.
3- Russell Cave National Monument
The Russell Cave National Monument is near the Tennessee border in northeastern Alabama in an area known as TAG (where Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia meet).
This national monument is a shining example of an archaeological site that preserves the life of prehistoric people.
The cave at this monument is carved from limestone.
Russell Cave has provided archeologists with the most extensive records of human habitation of Native Americans, with site artifacts dating back to 10,000 years.
The Russell Cave National Monument also has a visitor centre, boardwalks and nature trails.
At the park, there are a lot of chances to learn about prehistoric Indians. It was around 7,000 BC when humans started using the cave as a shelter.
The cave and national monument were named after Colonel Thomas Russell from North Carolina.
He was a Revolutionary War soldier who owned the land the cave is located on.
In 1961 around 310 acres (125 ha) of land were donated by the National Geographic Society to the American people.
Now the Russell Cave National Monument is administered by the National Park Service.
The Russell Cave National Monument is at 3729 County Road 98, Bridgeport, AL 35740.
National Military Park
4- Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
This National Military Park aims to reflect and remember the 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
The Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is under 8 miles (12 km) outside Daviston, between Montgomery and Birmingham.
Named for its meandering horseshoe-shaped river, this was the site of the 27 March 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend, which took place in the Creek War.
The Creek War took place between 22 July 1813 to 9 August 1814.
This regional battle was fought between Native American factions, the United States and European powers.
The war started as a fight between the Muscogee tribes before the U.S. intervened.
The first thing you should do when heading to the Horseshoe Bend National Park is tp check out the visitor centre.
Inside there are several exhibits that describe the battle as well as the Creek people.
After the visitor centre, check out the 1.5-mile trail to the Tallapoosa River bend, where the battle occurred.
You can also take a 2.8-mile nature trail walk that heads around the battlefield, close to Tohopeka Village and passes by the Creek Indian camp.
If you have a boat, you can launch it by Miller Bridge Boat.
It’s an excellent way to explore the meandering river. Fishing is also allowed at Miller Bridge Boat.
There is also the opportunity to take a 3-mile driving tour of the battlefield.
This includes a one-way loop trail that meanders around the perimeter of the battlefield.
This park is open year-round and an excellent place for a picnic or to camp.
What’s more, is that admission is free.
The Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is at 11288 Horseshoe Bend Rd, Daviston, AL 36256.
5- Little River Canyon National Preserve
Little River Canyon National Preserve is the perfect nature spot for those visiting Alabama who want to be outdoors.
This canyon is in northeastern Alabama, close to the border with Georgia.
The Little River flows for most of its length along Lookout Mountain.
The forest, waterfalls, canyon rims, sandstone cliffs and pools make for an incredible place to enjoy outdoor activities.
The canyon reaches depths of more than 600 feet (182 m) and is one of the deepest canyons east of the Mississippi River.
There are fun things to see and do in the area you should arrive at Little River Canyon National Preserve with plenty of energy for the day.
Both road and mountain biking are super popular at the preserve.
Road cyclists enjoy riding Highway 176, which is also a scenic drive.
If you have mountain bikes, you should head to the Wildlife Management Area, where there is 23 miles (37 km) of dirt and gravel roads to explore.
In the Wildlife Management Area, you can also ride horses around the 23 miles of tracks with lots of vistas and creek crossings.
Fishermen frequent the Little River and keep returning for the spectacular canyon floor views, the sound of peace and quiet, and good chances of catching Redeye Bass.
You’ll need a valid Alabama or Non-Resident Fishing License.
Another popular activity is hiking along the 26 miles of trails and 20 miles of backcountry roads.
Hug the Little River and head through the woodlands for incredible views and tranquillity.
The Little River Canyon National Preserve is at 4322 Little River Trail #100, Fort Payne, AL 35967.
6- Natchez Trace Parkway
The U.S. has a plethora of unbelievable parkways where you can experience nature on the most scenic drive.
The Natchez Trace is Alabama’s parkway, and it doesn’t disappoint. This 444-mile road passes through three states, including Alabama.
This parkway follows the Old Natchez Trace, a historical corridor used by American Indians, Europeans, slave traders, soldiers and even presidents to travel this part of the country.
Though driving is the most popular activity, you can also go biking, hiking, horse riding and camping.
There are 90 sites along the entire Natchez Trace Parkway, so there are plenty of things to see and do no matter what state you are in.
Here are some places you can stop at in Alabama:
- Alabama Music Hall of Fame
- Belle Mont Mansion
- Helen Keller Home, Gardens & Museum
- Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve
National Scenic Trail
7- Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
Don’t assume that if you drive the parkway, there’s no need to explore the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail because this is an excellent trail.
The Natchez Trace trail includes five sections of trails parallel to the parkway.
There are more than 60 miles (95.5 km) of foot trails to explore.
You can explore the intimate hardwood forests, rocky outcrops, wetlands and swaps.
Some of the best places to see along the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail include Freedom Hills Overlook and Bear Creek.
Head to milepost 317 and you will find the track to climb up to Freedom Hill Overlook.
Bear Creek is at milepost 313 and includes a picturesque picnic area next to the creek close to the Alabama- Mississippi state line.
National Historic Trail
8- Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail
Martin Luther King Jr led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators from Selma to Montgomery.
The march was 54 miles (86 km) and took five days, with the demonstrators arriving on 25 March 1965 as part of the Voting Rights March.
To learn more about the trail, you can head to two visitor centres, one in Hayneville and the other in Selma, close to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The Lowndes centre in Hayneville is an excellent place to hear stories from those who actually participated in the march.
Other points of interest along the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail include:
- Brown Chapel A.M.E Church
- First Baptist Church
- George Washington Carver Homes
- Slavery & Civil War Museum
Once in Montgomery, be sure to check out the Rosa Parks Museum.
The Lowndes Visitor Center of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is at 7002 US-80, Hayneville, AL 36040.
9- Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
This national historic trail follows the hardships faced by Native Americans after the passing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830.
The trail spans nine states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
More than 100,000 Native Americans from various tribes were forced to relocate to land allocated to them by the U.S. government.
This land was known as the Indian Territory and was located in Oklahoma.
The removal of tribes was meant to take place peacefully and without force.
This did not happen, and many were treated brutally and along the route 3,400 Cherokee people died in Alabama because of the terrible conditions along the Trail of Tears.
Here are some of the destinations in Alabama that the Cherokee people passed by on their way to the newly enforced Territory that you can visit today:
- Lake Guntersville State Park
- Little River Canyon National Preserve
- Russell Cave National Monument
National Historic Site
10- Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
This national historic site commemorates the achievements and talents of African American airmen during World War II.
These pilots became known as the ”Red Tails” and were trained at Moton Field airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama.
A student from Howard University initially filed a lawsuit to protest again the lack of the rights of African Americans to become soldiers and helping the war effort.
His efforts and the work of the NAACP resulted in President Franklin D. Roosevelt being convinced to allow African Americans to fly combat missions in WW2.
Tuskegee produced the first ever African American officer Captain Benjamin O. Davis Jr and 12 other cadets.
This group became known as the 99th Pursuit Squadron. During their service time, not one of the bombers was lost to enemy aircraft during 2000 missions.
This was the most impressive statistic of any pilot group during this time.
While at the site, watch a short film about African American military aviators, visit the museum in hangars 1 and 2 and visit the park shop.
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is at 1616 Chappie James Avenue, Tuskegee, AL 36083.
12- Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site
Not to be confused with the similarly named Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, this Alabama attraction is a place to learn about inspirational figures.
Booker T. Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute on 4 July 1881 as the ”Normal School for Colored Teachers at Tuskegee.
Washington believed that teaching future students practical skills was the most effective way of learning.
Some of the school’s focuses included construction, domestic services, and modern farming methods.
This institution became responsible for building the first black Veterans Administration hospital and the Tuskegee Airmen.
It became a national historic site in 1974.
While at the site, you can visit the George Washington Carver Museum, which features a variety of exhibits and interpretive programs.
The Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site is at 1212 W Montgomery Road, Tuskegee, AL 36088.
If you love exploring national parks, you might like to read:
- Wyoming National Parks Guide
- Nevada National Parks Guide
- Michigan National Parks Guide
- 5 Maine National Parks
- New Hampshire National Parks Guide
- 25 National Parks in Canada
- 17 National Parks in Argentina
- Tasmania National Parks
- 20 National Parks in Mexico
- 18 New Mexico National Parks
- 18 National Parks in Massachusetts
- 17 Colorado National Parks
- 4 Indiana National Parks
- 5 Nebraska National Parks
- 30 Virginia National Parks
- 9 New Jersey National Parks
- 8 National Parks in Arkansas
- 8 Alaska National Parks
- 13 Tennessee National Parks
- 6 National Parks in Louisiana
- 5 Illinois National Parks
- 7 National Parks in Oklahoma
- 7 National Parks in South Dakota
- 12 Alabama National Parks
- 5 North Dakota National Parks
- 11 National Parks In Florida
- 8 Hawaii National Parks
- 6 National Parks In Idaho
- Texas National Parks Guide
- 9 California National Parks
- 11 National Parks In Georgia
- 7 National Parks In Missouri
- 5 National Parks in Minnesota
- 7 National Parks In Kentucky
- 8 National Parks In Montana
- 15 National Parks In Washington State
- 8 South Carolina National Parks
- 12 North Carolina National Parks
- 4 Wisconsin National Parks
- 20 National Parks In India
- 11 Oregon National Parks
- 5 Connecticut National Parks
- 27 National Parks In New York State
- 4 Iowa National Parks
- Yosemite National Park
- Zion National Park
- 21 National Parks in Pennsylvania
- 9 National Parks in Mississippi
- 5 National Parks in Rhode Island