WorldAtlas names Alabama’s best small towns for outdoor enthusiasts

Magnolia Springs
Magnolia Springs. (Town of Magnolia Springs / Facebook)

Even in the dead of winter, we can’t stop thinking about Alabama’s beautiful outdoors. Apparently, it’s on WorldAtlas’ mind too—they just released their list of the 7 best small towns in Alabama for outdoor enthusiasts. Keep reading to see if you agree.

1. Florence

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
Sandhill Crane at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. (The Bama Buzz)

North Alabama made several appearances on the list, starting with Florence. Here’s what they had to say:

“Florence is one of the oldest founded towns in Alabama, situated in the heart of the Tennessee River Valley. The destination may be especially appealing to bird watchers, home to the North Alabama Birding Trail, where there are 397 species, such as bald eagles, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and sandhill cranes. There are also plenty of waterfalls and rushing creeks in Shoal Creek Preserve, beautiful no matter the time of year, and the 700-acre Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve with 11 miles of hiking trails. 

McFarland Park is a great place to camp overnight, offering access to and views of the Tennessee River. Plus, the Natchez Trace Scenic Parkway allows visitors to enjoy the area’s beauty as they drive from place to place, while Wheeler Lake Scenic Cruises focuses on the waterways of Joe Wheeler State Park.”


Not only does Florence have beautiful outdoors, but it also has some-must see indoor spots for a rainy day:

2. Guntersville

Lake Guntersville. (Matthew Niblett / The Bama Buzz)

Staying in North Alabama, WorldAtlas highlighted the beautiful Guntersville area:

“Guntersville is one of the best small towns in Alabama for a weekend escape, just two hours from Florence and also along the Tennessee River and Lake Guntersville. Lake Guntersville State Park houses a large population of bald eagles and plenty of hiking trails and scenic views. Plus, visitors may enjoy all kinds of water sports on the lake, ranging from swimming to boating and water skiing. 

The state park also houses an 18-hole golf course, a zipline, a serene beach, fishing opportunities, and even guided hikes. Guntersville City Harbor is another popular destination, home to fishing docks, daily live entertainment, and plenty of local businesses such as Levi’s On the Lake and The Brewers Cooperative.”


Want to know more about Guntersville? Check these articles out:

3. Magnolia Springs

On the other end of the state is Magnolia Springs, which is famous for its Magnolia trees and coastal vibes:

“It is home to the headwaters of the Magnolia River and earns its name from the large number of magnolia trees in the area. Magnolias bloom between February and June, so late spring and early summer are the best times to visit and enjoy a flurry of breathtaking pink flowers. The town is near Gulf State Park, where there are beautiful freshwater marshes and swamps and the 15-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. 

Travelers may also bring a kayak or canoe to Bemis Bay Community Dock and partake in a day on the water or relax on the shores of Orange Beach. Several historic spots around town, such as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, built in 1901, and the Sunnyside Hotel, dating back to 1897.”


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4. Fairhope

Fairhope Pier
The Fairhope Pier. (Sarah Gronberg / The Bama Buzz)

Not far from Magnolia Springs is Fairhope, the idyllic town located on Mobile Bay:

“Several historic homes line the streets, ideal for an afternoon stroll, while more avid hikers may go to the nature trails of the nearby Mobile-Tensaw Delta, encompassing more than 260,000 acres of diverse landscapes. Visitors may also paddle along the Bartram Canoe Trail or hike, bike, or horse ride through the nearby trails. The cypress swamps are a great place to watch for wildlife, including bald eagles, kingfishers, egrets, herons, ibis, alligators and turtles.

Not far from Magnolia Springs, the town is just under an hour from Gulf Shores, home to family-friendly sugar-white beaches such as Orange Beach, ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and fun in the sun.”


We’re big fans of Fairhope, too. Here are some of our favorite guides to the area:

5. Fort Payne

Little River Canyon
The iconic Little River Canyon Falls. (Pat Byington / Bham Now)

Heading back up to North Alabama, WorldAtlas highlighted all that Fort Payne has to offer:

“DeSoto State Park is one of the most popular outdoor destinations in the area, with opportunities for ziplining and fishing. Little River Canyon National Preserve is a great place to go rafting for the day, picnic, and walk through trails in the woods with scenic canyon views. 

Travelers may also visit the nearby Buck’s Pocket State Park, home to 20 miles of hiking trails, and High Falls Park, featuring rushing waterfalls and views of the breathtaking vistas from the bridge spanning the gorge of Town Creek.”


Check out some recent happenings in Fort Payne:

6. Woodville

Woodville might not be a well-known town, but you’ve probably heard of Cathedral Caverns. WorldAtlas chose Woodville because of that and more:

“The town of Woodville explodes with natural beauty, where visitors can plunge into the depths of Earth at the Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve and Cathedral Caverns State Park. There are many awe-inducing natural cave formations and the nearby Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge, is home to the local bat population and other wildlife. There are also marked hiking trails around the state park for those looking to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, and even gemstone mining to appeal to travelers of any age. Plus, visitors may partake in a guided tour to learn all of the interesting details and history of the area. 

The Madison County Green Mountain Nature Trail is about a half hour away in Huntsville, a 72-acre park away from the hustle and bustle of the city, featuring the beautiful Sky Lake, a walking trail, and the state’s largest and oldest Champion Winged Elm Tree.”


Check out our top 3 reasons you need to visit Alabama’s new campground at Cathedral Caverns.

7. Mentone

Desoto Falls
Desoto Falls. (Pat Byington / The Bama Buzz)

Mentone’s charm and natural beauty earned it a spot on WorldAtlas’ list, and we couldn’t agree more with this choice:

“Mentone sits atop Lookout Mountain and is just 20 minutes from Fort Payne. Travelers may easily visit the rushing 107-foot DeSoto Falls or stroll along Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail. 

Shady Grove Dude Ranch offers scenic horseback rides, ideal for equine lovers and those searching for an unforgettable adventure. The Old Union Crossing Covered Bridge is a historical site and a beautiful outdoor scene, especially in autumn, as leaves in shades of orange, red, and yellow fall all around.”


If you want to explore more of Mentone, we’ve got you covered.

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Sarah Gronberg
Sarah Gronberg
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