After two years of living in T-Town, I’ve realized Tuscaloosa County has much more to offer than Alabama football. I’ve fallen in love with many of the town’s hidden gems—including all of the beautiful parks. I visited eight of my favorites to learn more!
1. Lake Lurleen
Lake Lurleen State Park is truly an iconic West Alabama hiking spot. The park is about twenty minutes outside of downtown Tuscaloosa, but it’s well worth the drive. With over 23 miles of trails, Lake Lurleen is perfect for a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip. The extensive park also offers ample spots for RVs, fishers, kayakers or any kind of outdoorsman imaginable.
When I visit, I take the two mile Lakeside Trail to the dam’s spillway. The bottom of the spillway is an ideal spot for some self-reflection, photography or picnicking. I’ve also spent many hot summer days on Lake Lurleen’s beach, which offers some of the best swimming in the area. There’s a $4 fee to enter the park, but it’s worth every penny.
- Location: 13226 Lake Lurleen Road, Coker, AL 35352
2. Lake Nicol
The list of beautiful lakes in Tuscaloosa seems like it never ends, and Lake Nicol is sure to make anyone’s list. Nicol is especially a favorite amongst daredevil university students who jump from its cliffs. On the safer side of things, the watershed offers great canoeing, kayaking, and hiking.
- Location: 4409 Nicol Park Rd, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406
3. Lake Harris
Located off a dirt road, Lake Harris is one of Tuscaloosa’s best kept secrets. Lake Harris offers stunning views without the crowds of some of the more well known parks in the area. I love visiting on weekdays, when I can hike my favorite trail in Tuscaloosa uninterrupted.
I walk over the original Lake Harris Dam, erected in 1929, and end up at the spillway/waterfall on Lake Harris. The walk is short and offers plenty of views along the way. When driving to Lake Harris, make sure to take the dirt road to its end–Lake Harris’ isolation is part of what makes it special.
- Location: Lake Harris Road, Tuscaloosa, AL 35406
4. Tuscaloosa Riverwalk
The Riverwalk is possibly the most well-known park in Tuscaloosa, and for good reason. It starts just off UA’s campus, and follows the Black Warrior River through downtown Tuscaloosa. The paved path is perfect for sightseeing and people watching.
On Saturday mornings, the River Market opens up on the Riverwalk. It’s a great place to buy some local honey, sweet tea or just hang out. A $15 million federal grant will help expand the Riverwalk into West Tuscaloosa, so the iconic spot will soon show off even more of the towns’ natural beauty.
- Location: 2710 Jack Warner Pkwy, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
5. Van De Graaff Park
Van de Graaff is an unexpected oasis just outside of historic Northport. The site of the oldest iron bridge in Alabama, it’s a popular spot for pictures and day hikes. I love walking along the lily ponds throughout the park–they make me feel like I’m in a Van Gogh painting. Van De Graaff also has many campsites lining its trails, which makes it a perfect home base for anyone looking to explore West Alabama on the cheap.
- Location: 3231 Robert Cardinal Airport Road, Northport, AL 35476
6. University of Alabama Arboretum
The University of Alabama Arboretum is a nature lover’s dream. Affectionately called “The Arb” by some of its fans, it exhibits the best of Alabama’s natural beauty. Wildflowers bloom throughout springtime in the park, and trees from magnolia to longleaf pine frame its trails. The Arb is the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll: flowers, lush fields and beautiful trees make anyone stop and stare in awe.
- Location: 4801 Arboretum Way, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404
7. Sokol Park
Sokol Park has something for everyone. Located in Northport, Sokol Park features baseball fields, soccer fields, picnic pavilions, a dog park, playgrounds, trails and much more! Every time I visit Sokol, I see plenty of dogs frolicking through the fenced-in dog park. The park’s rugged trails are also a favorite of local mountain bikers. With a new playground just opened, the park is about to get even more exciting.
- Location: 5901 Watermelon Road, Northport, AL 35473
8. Hurricane Creek Park
Hurricane Creek is much more peaceful than its name suggests. The scenic beach at the front of the park is a classic Tuscaloosa hangout spot. Hurricane Creek’s most popular trail follows a meandering creek through the forest. Along the way, the trail passes by some graffitied cliffs and tributaries of the stream. There is also a large trail network further back in the park, which is perfect for mountain biking and trail running.
- Location: 7005 Old Birmingham Hwy, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404