Alabama may not be the first state that comes to mind for landscape and nature photography, but you may be surprised by the natural beauty that exists within the state. There are plenty of great opportunities for nature photographers in Alabama, and on this page we’ll look at some of the most noteworthy destinations. The interactive map below shows the location of each spot mentioned on this page.
This page will continue to be a work in progress, so please feel free to leave a comment with your own suggestions of great places to photograph.
Little River Canyon
The Little River Canyon National Preserve is located in northeastern Alabama. On top of Lookout Mountain the Little River runs through one of the deepest canyons in the southeast. There is an 11-mile scenic drive along the west side of the canyon that includes several overlooks. Little River Falls, at the beginning of the canyon, is one of the main points of interest. The scenic drive includes an overlook for Littler River Falls. Later in the drive there is another stop for Grace’s High Falls, but typically there is a very low volume of water flowing here. Still, it is Alabama’s highest waterfall at more than 130 feet.
DeSoto State Park
DeSoto State Park is adjacent to Little River Canyon National Preserve on Lookout Mountain. This park features beautiful mountain scenery with 25 miles of hiking trails to explore. There is a lodge and cabins, restaurant, and campsites at the park. The main draw for photographers is beautiful 100-foot DeSoto Falls. It is reachable by a short paved pathway that leaves from the parking lot.
Located in northwestern Alabama, Dismals Canyon is a privately owned and operated nature preserve in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The sandstone gorge features two waterfalls and six natural bridges. A 1.5 mile hike along the creek will take you through the canyon and provide plenty of photographic opportunities along the way. Cabins and campsites are available.
Noccalula Falls in located in Gadsden, northeastern Alabama. The 90-foot waterfall is the centerpiece of the 250-acre Noccalula Falls Park. A gorge trail winds through the basin, and views are easily accessible from the top of the falls.
Cheaha State Park
Cheaha State Park in eastern Alabama, in the Talladega National Forest features Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama. Bunker Tower, a stone observation tower, sits at the top on the mountain. Several trails provide hiking opportunities, as well as scenic views for photographs. The wooden walkway of the Bald Rock Trail provides a nice view. The park also has a hotel, cabins, and a restaurant.
Talladega National Forest
Talladega National Forest covers almost 400,000 acres in eastern Alabama, at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. Two wilderness areas within the forest, the Cheaha Wilderness and the Dugger Mounatin Wilderness, preserve parts of the forest.
William B. Bankhead National Forest, Sipsey Wilderness
The William B. Bankhead National Forest lies in northwestern Alabama and includes the Sipsey Wilderness. This area is popular for hiking and canoeing, and it features several streams, limestone bluffs, and many waterfalls. There are several different trails available within the wilderness, ranging from 3 miles to 12 miles. Information and directions to the trailheads can be found on this page.
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
Located along the Tennessee River in northern Alabama, the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge provides a habitat for wintering and migrating birds. It stretches for about 20 miles on both sides of the river. About half of the area is land and the other half water. The visitor’s center has an overlook, and another observation tower is located at the northern side of the refuge. There are also a few different trails for viewing and photographing the landscape and wildlife.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge includes 5 separate, small units along the Gulf coast near Mobile Bay. Protected habitats include beaches, sand dunes, swamps, and marshes. It serves as a resting and feeding area for migratory birds. In the Perdue Unit there are a few trails worth exploring. The Jeff Friend Trail is a one-mile loop that gives you a view of the forest, wetlands, and Little Lagoon. See more information about the trails here.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Center
Ruffner Mountain Nature Center is in central Alabama, northeast of Birmingham. This 1,000-acre privately-owned nature preserve includes 14 miles of hiking trails that will provide you with opportunities for beautiful photos without venturing far from the urban setting of Birmingham. The trails range from 0.2 miles to 1.7 miles, and you can see a trail map here.
Moss Rock Preserve
Moss Rock Preserve is a 349-acre nature preserve south of Birmingham. It features a boulder field, forests, streams, waterfalls, and 12 miles of hiking trails to experience it all. Like Ruffner Mountain, Moss Rock Preserve is a great place for experiencing nature in an urban area.
Gulf Shores is located on the east side of Mobile Bay, near the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Gulf Shores is known for its beautiful beaches, which also provide great opportunities for photographers.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The 67-acre Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a great place to photograph flowers. There are 25 different gardens with more than 12,000 plants, and several miles of paths to experience the gardens. Admission and parking are free.
The 65-acre Bellingrath Gardens is located near Mobile in southern Alabama. It features several gardens, an observation tower, a lake, and beautiful pathways. The gardens are beautiful year round, although the specific plants vary by season.