Highway with the word, ALABAMA and dark clouds in the sky.

8 Most Scenic Road Trips To Take In Alabama

Who, pray, can let pass the opportunity to drive through one of the most diverse places on Earth? There are road trips. And then there is a road trip to Alabama. It is in the Heart of Dixie where, one hour, you are cruising through the neck of mountains and negotiating gasp-inducing twists and turns—and the next, you are on the flat, sandy beaches inhaling improbably surreal views. Deep canyons, meandering rivers, and dense forests make up part of this diversity menu. You might already know that Alabama's freshwater diversity is second to none. The 22nd state is also a mecca, particularly regarding the biodiversity of carnivorous plants. While one can glimpse Alabama's heart-ravishing beauty in many ways, a road trip is a sublime experience. 

Talladega Scenic Drive

The Talladega Scenic Drive leads through gorgeous forested landscapes of the Talladega National Forest.

Talladega Scenic Drive is a backroad. So strap up for a drive through the peaceful quiet of the countryside in a trip that spans 26 miles. As to how long it will take, well, that depends on how many times you will need to pull over at the many scenic overlooks on this unbelievably picturesque stretch. As a heads-up, this route will transport you to another underappreciated state wonder: The 400,000-acre Talladega National Forest. So get a good playlist and start this visually rewarding adventure in the small town of Heflin. You may want to first gorge on some finely-prepared food at Marie's BBQ House. Their signature Brunswick stew is quite a tantalizer. And while this road features many overlooks, the Horseback Mountain Scenic Overlook is a wonderful spot. Also, peel your eyes for Peaha Mountain, the highest point in the state.

Lookout Mountain Parkway

Little River Canyon
A little detour from the Lookout Mountain Parkway leads to the Little River Canyon.

Lookout Mountain has been immortalized across the planet in a speech many regard as among the best in modern history. "Let freedom ring," thundered Martin Luther King Jr., "from Lookout Mountain in Tenessee." Well, it turns out that Tenessee boasts only about three miles of Lookout Mountain. Compare this to Georgia's 35— and Alabama's 50—and you will start to understand why this stretch of Alabama is a must-do. This road trip begins at the Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama — on top of the very mountain Luther immortalized in his celebrated speech. From this point, beautiful scenery lines either side of the road for miles on end. If you want to marvel at the forested uplands and the sandstone cliffs of the Little River Canyon, you will have to take an 8-mile detour at the Highway 35 intersection.

Alabama's Coastal Connection

The Gulf coast of Alabama.
The Gulf coast of Alabama.

Alabama may not boast the 1,350 miles of coastline that Florida flaunts—but its 53 miles are just as spectacular. The best way to connect to this panoramic coastline is by taking a road trip through the appropriately named Alabama Coastal Connection. This trip is a 130-mile shoreline drama that almost completely encircles Mobile Bay, a shallow Gulf of Mexico inlet tourists do not get enough of. Though the highlight of this trip is the seaside views, trippers will get the chance to drive through such spots as Bayou La Batre, the "Seafood Capital of Alabama," Dauphin Island, the "Sunset Capital of Alabama," and Magnolia Springs, one of a handful of towns in the country that still receives mail by boat.

The Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway

Gault Avenue in downtown Fort Payne
Gault Avenue in downtown Fort Payne. Image credit: Thomson200, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Most people associate the Appalachian Mountains with Virginia and a couple of northeastern states. Well, the truth is that the Appalachian Mountain System runs all the way from Alabama to New Hampshire. For about 80 miles, trippers will experience a maelstrom of goosebumps while traveling through one of the most picturesque sections of the state. Expect to encounter heart-ravishing greenery, quaint communities, and historic towns. Attractions along this route that may pique your interest include the Benge Route Trail of Tears Historic Marker, a spot that commemorates one of the saddest chapters in the history of Native Americans. Then again, for history buffs, the historic Fort Payne will be worth pulling over at. Not only was Fort Payne an important Cherokee town—but also once the "Sock Capital of the World."

Natchez Trace Parkway 

A wetland along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
A wetland along the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Many believe this road started as a narrow trail for bison herds and giant sloths thousands of years ago. Native Americans would later use this enormous stretch— as did every other species of human beings: preachers, bandits, enslaved people, name them. While this road trip spans a mind-boggling 444 miles and proceeds in a northeastern trajectory from Mississippi to Tennessee, the Alabama section is only about 33 miles long. A spot along this awe-inspiring stretch you will not want to miss is the birthplace of Hellen Keller — celebrated by many as America's "First Lady of Courage." Also, for a state whose musical heritage is among the richest in the state, a two-hour stopover at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame will be quite in order.

Selma To Montgomery March Byway

The welcoming sign at Montgomery, Alabama.

This mind-bending stretch is as much a visual feast—as it is a historical feast. While Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation way back in 1863, almost a century later, African Americans could not exercise meaningful voting rights. All that was to change, however, in 1965 — when Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act, considered among the most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation in American history. Well, the pressure behind this epoch-making legislation was the Selma March, also called Selma to Montgomery March. As the world watched, African American protesters, shielded by National Guard troops, walked the 54-mile route from Selma to the state capital—in a tense, 3-day drama that trapped the nation in a vortex of unease. A trip through this road will take you to the jail where the protesters were incarcerated, churches that housed the Civil Rights movement, and several other cherished markers.

Barbour County Governors' Trail

Octagon House, Clayton, Alabama.
Octagon House, Clayton, Alabama.

Barbour County Governors' Trail is just that— a governors' trail. The 55-mile tract celebrates up to eight Alabama governors that hailed from Barbour County. Meandering through spell-binding vistas, trippers will gasp at the woods and the greenery in a county well-known for its pecan trees. This adventure will take one from Clio, a charming small city nestled in the southwest corner of Barbour County— all the way to Eufaula, another Alabama charmer well-known for its beautiful antebellum mansions. Trippers will want to check out such attractions as the Octagon House, where Union troops were headquartered in the Reconstruction years— as well as other outdoor gems in the area, including Blue Springs State Park and Lake Eufaula.

Tensaw Parkway

Aerial shot of downtown Mobile, AL.
Aerial view of Mobile, Alabama.

No other road could be a more fitting capstone to this list. Tensaw Parkway runs in a south/north direction from Mobile, Alabama, a charming town that is an amazing attraction by itself, to Little River, Alabama, named for a river that uniquely flows for most of its length atop Lookout Mountain. Snaking its way for approximately 58 miles, Tensaw Parkway provides access to an impressive number of waterways where trippers can take a much-needed dip to escape the Alabama heat. For perspective, the water flow in the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is, except for, the Mississippi River Delta, the largest river system in the United States. Spanning 300,000 acres of swamps, marshes, and river bottomlands, this stretch has been validly designated a National Natural Landmark. Then again, this area is also a cultural melting pot and shows imprints of Spanish, French, and British settlements.

The Takeaway

A road trip to Alabama is unlike anywhere in the United States. Alabama is among the most diverse states in the country— both geographically and ecologically. From meandering through the foothills of rugged mountains to cruising through the flat terrains along the Gulf Coast, an Alabama adventurer travels the whole geographical gamut. And that is without mentioning the state's rich history—whether antebellum or during the Civil Rights Movement. From Lookout Mountain Parkway to Tensaw Parkway, an adventure through Alabama will make for an inspiring discovery.


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