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Parks and Recreation

The National Park Service's Little River Canyon National Preserve is home to the Little River, which is unique in that it flows entirely atop Lookout Mountain. Three waterfalls and the plunging canyon carved by the river are visible from from various hiking trails and overlooks on the 17.7-kilometer segment of the Lookout Mountain Parkway Scenic Byway within the park. Explore at your own pace, often accompanied by fewer people than you might expect at a national park. Bring your gear or sign up with True Adventure Sports or One World Adventure Company for rock climbing, fishing and mountain biking. Experienced kayakers will find challenging Class III-VI rapids on the Little River too.

Beyond the national park, take time to explore DeSoto State Park, home to the state’s tallest waterfall as well as rock climbing, 40 kilometers of hiking trails and cozy cabin and camping accommodations. Go hiking and fishing at Buck’s Pocket State Park and cool off in the waterfall pools at High Falls Park. Cloudmont Ski and Golf Resort makes snow in the winter for beginner and intermediate skiing and snowboarding. In the summer, there’s a dude ranch, a golf course and rustic cabins. You can also drive a segment of the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway, which starts at Lookout Mountain.

 

Downtown and Historical Sites

The region was first inhabited by Cherokee Indians and grew when a rail line from Birmingham to Chattanooga, Tennessee, passed through Fort Payne. The town boomed in the 1880s when New Englanders came looking for work in the new coal and iron mines. Their contributions are evident in many of the town’s Victorian structures, such as the Opera House, built in 1889, and the circa 1891 Fort Payne Depot, a beautiful, pink sandstone train station that now displays Cherokee handicrafts and local artifacts. See the remnants of the namesake fort at the Fort Payne Cabin Historic Site and pay respects to local Cherokee and pioneers at the Willstown Mission and Cemetery. Fast-forward about a century when three young musicians from Fort Payne formed a now-legendary county band called Alabama. Take a selfie with the life-sized statues of the band at City Park.

 

Small-Town Gems

Visitors to the area love the slower pace of life in the mountain town of Mentone, which is on Lookout Mountain 20 minutes from Fort Payne. After seeing DeSoto Falls or skiing at Cloudmont, savor an organic, home-cooked meal while listening to local musicians at Wildflower Café. The café’s country store sells locally made artwork and clothing for a unique memento. Fans of quirky landmarks can’t miss the Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel, a church built into a boulder that serves as the pulpit. If you still have some shopping to do, browse the Boom Town Makers Market in Fort Payne. Housed in the 1879 Sawyer Building, the market sells artwork, jewelry, gourmet food and crafts from local artisans. Check the events calendar for the Agri-Business Center in nearby Rainsville, and you might be able to see a rodeo, concert or horse show.

Fun Fact

Bronze statues of the band Alabama in City Park in their hometown of Fort Payne
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The American Country music band Alabama is based in Fort Payne.

Little River Falls in the Little River Canyon National Preserve
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Nearby Experiences

Upcoming events

Strolling by rows of vendor booths at the annual Rhododendron Festival
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John Dersham
Artisan at work demonstrating furniture-building skills
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John Dersham

Event

Fort Payne Boom Days

September

Live entertainment for spectators and athletes at the 5K run
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John Dersham

Event

Turkey Trot

November