Located in the very heart of the American South, Alabama boasts miles of pristine, wooded forestland that plays host to thousands of acres of coveted camping areas. Bordered to the north by Tennessee; to the east by Georgia; to the west by Mississippi; and to the south by Florida and the Gulf of Mexico; Alabama is an outdoor paradise that draws tens of thousands of campers each year from throughout the South—individuals and families looking to soak up all the beauty this wonderful state has to offer.
Nicknamed the “Heart of Dixie,” Alabama has the second-largest inland waterway in the United States and over 22 million acres of total land area. Of that land area, 67 percent is comprised of forestland, much of which is distributed throughout the state’s massive network of National Parks. Some of these popular parks, which accommodate both tent and RV camping, include Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, near Alexander City, Alabama; Little River Canyon National Preserve (Fort Payne); Russell Cove National Monument (Bridgeport); and the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, located in the city of the same name.
To demonstrate Alabama’s multitude—and wide variety—of great camping spots, below we have highlighted five of the state’s most popular and well-visited campsite regions, including a thorough description of each area’s characteristics and amenities, and the many fun and interesting activities available at each—activities that are sure to keep campers coming back again and again. So, load up with car with your tent, sleeping bag, and other gear and get ready to check out some of the best that Alabama has to offer.
Oak Mountain State Park
Nestled in a large arc of land, bordering Beaver Lake and surrounded by rolling hills topped by ageless and majestic Southern pines, Oak Mountain State Park is one of the most popular camping regions in all of Alabama. The park, which is located just a few miles from the bustling city of Birmingham, offers individuals and families a gorgeous oasis to flock to on the weekends as a way to escape the crowds and noise of the downtown city center.
Open year round (although not recommended during periods of wet and inclement weather), Oak Mountain State Park offers campers many great amenities to enjoy, including, but not limited to, many sites with RV hookups; bathrooms with flush toilets, drinking water and showers; picnic tables; grills and fire pits; laundry facilities; and an old-fashioned Country Store that includes Wi-Fi access.
Activities are also plentiful at Oak Mountain State Park. Some of the fun and adventurous things to do include campfires, swimming, hiking, trail running, picnicking and a large playground that is guaranteed to keep the kids in your group entertained for many, many hours.
Perhaps one of the best features of Oak Mountain State Park is its Treetop Nature Trail, an elevated, boardwalk-style trail featuring 6 cages, a very informed guide and a great educational experience. Visitors on the Treetop Trail will be introduced to—and educated about—six different species of birds, including a Barred Owl, Black Vulture, Barn Owl, Turkey Vulture, Great Horned Owl, and a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk. The interesting tour, which is operational on select days throughout the year, is a great way to become familiarized with these large birds of prey—birds that are managed and tended to by an expert team of caretakers.
Hidden Cove Campground
Located very near Arley, a city in Northern Alabama, Hidden Cove is a superb RV Campground that abuts the sandy shores of the well-visited Lewis Smith Lake. Offering great views and a remote setting amid the southern greenery, this popular campsite affords visitors a family-friendly, lakefront getaway that is truly second to none.
The Hidden Cove Campground, that allows campers to bring their own RV or stay in one of the many rental units available, offers individuals and families a great number of amenities. Campers can lounge by the centralized, crystal-blue swimming pool or by the shores of Lewis Smith Lake, which is also renowned for the fishing action it offers. Whether fishing by boat or off the shore, anglers regular take limits of largemouth and smallmouth bass out of the lake each day, which makes for a tasty fish fry as the sun begins to set over the tall pines that surround the campground.
When venturing away from the Hidden Cove Campground, guests will find a number of nearby attractions to enjoy, not the least of which are the Ave Maria Grotto, the Natural Bridge, the Cullman Flea Market and the Clarkson Covered Bridge, a true marvel of modern architecture.
Hidden Cove features many modern amenities, including showers, drinking water, electrical hookups, a camp store and marina, picnic facilities, laundry rooms, a playground, and a few recreational facilities, including a mini-golf course (putt-putt), horseshoe pits and a performance pavilion. All of the campsites are available by reservation only—a process that begins in the spring for each upcoming summer camping season.
Bluff Creek Campground
Located just outside the town of Pittsville, Alabama, the Bluff Creek Campground is a beautiful and quite enticing camping spot that is found on the Georgia and Alabama border. The campground is situated on the shores of Walter F. George Lake, a water source that provides for many fun water-based activities for campers to enjoy. Sometimes called Lake Eufaula, Walter F. George Lake stretches for 85 miles up the Chattahoochee River, giving visiting outdoor enthusiasts a wonderful place to relax and unwind in the sun while soaking up all of the region’s magnificent natural beauty.
In addition to being a fun and safe place to camp, the Bluff Creek Campground also plays host to a vast number of activities. Some of these wonderful diversions include boating, swimming and fishing on Walter F. George Lake; hiking on the many nearby trails; hunting; nature walks; and more. There is even a playground that can accommodate a large number of children of all ages.
The Bluff Creek Campground boasts accessible flush toilets, a full-service boat ramp, drinking water, electrical hookups, dumps stations, fish-cleaning sinks, laundry facilities, showers and picnic shelters with tables and benches. Pets, as long as they are on a leash, are permitted at Bluff Creek Campground, with a limit of 2 pets per campground.
As guests venture into the campground’s scenery surrounding the lake they will be treated to a forested array of mixed hardwood trees. An enormous variety of wildlife is also on display at the Bluff Creek Campground, including deer, squirrels, rabbits, waterfowl, bobcats, eagles, hawks and scores of songbird species that constantly serenade hikers as they explore this outdoor nirvana.
Fisherman will be in heaven at the Bluff Creek Campground, as Walter F. George Lake, much like all the Chattahoochee River Lakes, is teeming with many species of local fish, including largemouth and white bass, catfish and more crappie than one can possibly count.
The Bluff Creek Campground plays host to 71 distinct campsites with electrical and water hookups, all rented on a first-come, first-served basis.
Gunter Hill Campground
The Gunter Hill Campground, located just a few miles outside of the large and very populous city of Montgomery, Alabama, is a peaceful and serene region that is heavily frequented by the state’s outdoor aficionados. The campground, with towering hardwood trees as far as the eye can see, is positioned on the banks and backwaters of the Alabama River, which offers campers a number of opportunities for outdoor amusement.
According to locals, the Gunter Hill Campground is “the” place to stay for those who enjoy the challenge of fishing, a place that is not only frequented by recreational cane-pole fisherman, but also hosts world-class bass tournaments throughout the year. The backwaters are also perfect for boating enthusiasts, and many campers, especially children, take advantage of the waterway as a swimming hole, at which to cool off from the heat of the long summer day.
The actual campground at Gunter Hill is situated along Catoma Creek, a bubbling stream that adds volumes of beauty to an already dazzling setting. The Lowndes Wildlife Management Area, located just a few miles from the campground, is in charge of another well-liked activity enjoyed by campers: hunting. The area covers some 12,000+ acres and offers visitors an immaculate and perfect setting for hunting a variety of animal species, including hogs, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys, as well as many species of smaller game.
The Gunter Hill Campground has all of the modern conveniences that 21st Century campers have come to take pleasure in and depend on. The facilities and amenities here include flush toilets, an easily reached boat ramp, drinking water, electrical and water hookups at its RV campsites, a General Store that sells a variety of much-sought-after supplies, laundry facilities, phones, picnic shelters, showers, and a dump station. There is even a massive playground and basketball courts to entertain the young people in your group.
Campsite prices at the Gunter Hill Campground range from $10-$32 per night and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Wind Creek State Park
Last but not least is Wind Creek State Park, rated by some websites and outdoor magazines as the “best place to camp” in all of Alabama. Located in the town of Alexander City, Alabama, the campground is spread out among over 1,400 acres and is situated along the banks of the fabulous Lake Martin, a 40,000+ acre reservoir whose clean cool water makes it idyllic for a wide range of outdoor activities, ranging from boating to fishing to swimming.
The largest state-run campground in the United States, Wind Creek State Park hosts a whopping 626 campsites. Of these, 187 campsites are located right on the waterfront—coveted sites that are perfect for those who enjoy water-based activities.
As you might expect, Wind Creek State Park has a vast number of facilities and amenities designed to lure the rapidly growing modern camping community. Some of these bonuses include a full-service marina; a camp store that sells bait, tackle and every type of camping supply you can imagine; a fishing pier (for those who prefer to do their fishing from land); rugged and challenging hiking trails; picnic areas with BBQ grills, tables and overhead shelters; playground facilities for the kids; laundry facilities; and bath houses spread throughout the park.
For guests who prefer cabins instead of the under-the-stars experience, Wind Creek State Park has seven large cabins from which to choose. Each of these air-conditioned units offers a large sitting room, two bedrooms, kitchenette, fireplace and private bathroom, and all are handicap accessible. Guests who opt for the cabin experience are asked to bring their own bed linens, towels, cooking utensils, and eating utensils.
The “per night” fee for the regular campsites at Wind Creek State Park ranges from $21-$24 and the waterfront campsites are available by reservation only. Guests who visit this massive campground community always go away happy and refreshed, vowing to choose Wind Creek State Park for their next camping adventure.
image credit: Flickr/Outdoor Alabama