Friday, July 10, 2015

National Forests are National Treasures--Bankhead National Forest in Northwest Alabama

Lots of folks travel to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year.   The Smokies are certainly beautiful but with a reported 10 million visitors in 2014 alone, the park can be very crowded, especially during the summer months.   Why not "shake it up" a bit and try visiting a National Forest?  National forests, in the humble opinion of Frugal Family Travelers, are a best kept secret with adventures to be had by visitors, young and old alike.  If you enjoy hiking, picnicking and a peaceful respite by a waterfall, consider a trip to Northwestern Alabama to visit the Bankhead National Forest. It is certainly not as crowded as the Smokies and will not disappoint those seeking outdoor beauty.  Frugal Family Travelers recently paid a visit here and discovered some picturesque places that make this location worth a visit!    It is important to note, that this national forest is vast and therefore very easy to get lost without proper directions.   We strongly suggest making a stop to the ranger station for maps and detailed directions.  We visited and found the staff very friendly and helpful!  Frugal Family Travelers does provide directions to the sites we visited in this post because some are "off the beaten path" and not listed in literature by Bankhead National Forest.   These particular trails are very primitive and not always well maintained. Also, be aware that these hikes are strenuous and can lead to areas with steep "drop offs".  Furthermore, it is not uncommon to discover yourself on an unpaved road when following driving directions to a waterfall or trailhead!  The above information is not meant to scare any of our readers or discourage your visit but to make you aware of  what is to be encountered on your journey, should you choose to visit this location.  As stated above, this is an amazing location and our Frugal Family Travelers definitely viewed this as a highlight of our trip.  See the pictures below which outline each of the places we visited in the forest and also directions to each location. 


We encountered a fee area in the Sipsey Wilderness Picnic Area and parking lot with an honor box requiring $3.  Bring some dollars with you, in the event you encounter a fee area like this.  However, we did not come across any other fee areas.


The following pictures show the trail leading to Turkey Foot Falls.  It is one that is "off the beaten path" in that it is not listed in the national park literature: 

TURKEY FOOT FALLS AND CANYON--- There are 2 very nice sized waterfalls, 3 with sufficient rainfall, a rock shelter, and remains of a 1936 ford sedan located here. To see this place, park in the upper parking lot at the Sipsey River Picnic area, walk across the wooden bridge between the 2 parking lots, just as you cross, turn right and pick up the trail, follow it up into the canyon. You will come to a small falls on the creek, its about a 3 foot drop, continue on and you will come to the fram of a 1936 ford sedan. As you continue on up the canyon, you will pass a rock shelter and some large impressive bluffs. Shortly you will come to lower turkey foot falls to your right, cross the creek just past where they meet to get over to the falls. Come back across the creek and head up the hill to your right and walk next to some more bluffs. In a few minutes you will have to drop down a steep and slick hill to the creek to cross over to get up to turkey foot falls, or mize falls as some call it. When you leave you can walk out the way you came in. 
(Directions above credited to

The following pictures show the trails leading to the upper and lower Caney Creek Falls:
CANEY CREEK FALLS AND CANYON--- The directions to the upper falls can also be obtained by the National Park Service.   However, the directions to the lower falls can be found below and are not provided by the National Park Service.  To first reach the falls, go west on hwy 2 from hwy 33 about 4 miles, there is a small parking area on your right, with a gate blocking a road, park here and follow the road for about 30 minutes (about a mile) to the falls. It is in a residential area and not easy to find.   Talk to a ranger to be clear.   Follow this trail to the upper falls.   Once you are at the upper falls, cross the creek below the pool, be very careful crossing here, once across, you can walk around to your left under an overhang, which is really nice, you can even have a picnic on the sandbar. Head downstream to the lower falls, follow the creek, there is a trail to follow. You will have to cross the creek 3 times on your way down, but its worth it. The lower falls are much wider, but without enough rain, they wont be very wide. The lower falls also drops into a pool. To get down to the falls, continue on downstream on the right side, you will be walking on a side of a hill, the trail then turns left and goes downhill, and yes, it is very slick here, make your way down around a nice rock shelterand back upstream to the falls, once there, there is a smaller falls to your left. Above this smaller falls a short piece is another waterfall, its not very big, but it is nice. The walk downstreamfrom the upper falls will take at least 45 minutes.
(Directions above credited to

The following picture represent Kinlock Falls:

Take Highway 33 South; turn right on Highway 278, then take a right on Highway 195 North.  Go approx. 11 miles, turn right on CR 23 in Rabbittown (this road will become Forest Serice Road 210).  Stay on CR 23 and when it turns to gravel approx.  3/4 mile, immediately before the bridge there will be a pull off area.  Falls are on the right side of the road.  Note: this is a narrow road and the pull off is quite small so be prepared!  You will possibly find people sliding down the falls and or swimming below.   Talk to a ranger about the water levels and dangers involved BEFORE doing so.  There is no lifeguard on duty and this area could be very dangerous for swimming with varying water level!  Kinlock Falls can be heard as soon as you exit your vehicle and is just a short walk from the main road.

Hike times vary for those of varying age and skill - factor in extra time.   Never enter a long trail at dusk! Pack a first aid kit, water, bug spray and snacks! Most of the time there is NO cell service in the National Forest so let someone know when you enter and depart a trail. 

All content provided on Frugal Family Travelers blog is for informational purposes only. The owners of this blog make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.  The owners of Frugal Family Travelers blog do not share personal information with third-parties and are not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without permission.  As with all travel, operating days, times, costs, etc., should be verified prior to departure.

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