Step Outside - Alabama WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 http://stepoutside.org/ Step Outside - Alabama 144 144 http://stepoutside.org/ https://cdnstep-americantownscom.netdna-ssl.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Sat, 20 Oct 2018 04:30:03 -0500 Best Places to Fish in the South This Fall Redfish are starting to move inshore and set up at the mouths of bays, inlets and deltas as their annual spawning run commences. The bottom line for fishermen is outstanding fishing from late September through November in the northern Gulf.

Likewise, bass fishing is starting to pick up again as the weather begins to cool. Huge schools of threadfin shad are starting to filter away from open-water ledges into bays and tributaries where feeding conditions and water temperatures are more optimum.

Bass follow the food, first setting up on ledges at the mouths of inlets and creeks to waylay shad, then migrating back toward shallower water to keep up with their quarry.

Fall Script for Southern Bass

Bass rule in Dixie and cooler weather brings out an army of anglers who go after them. Whether largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass, they’re available in most waters and sometimes all three varieties are present in a fishery, ready to aggravate or gratify those who seek them.

Hot Spots To Fish: When it comes to the South’s best lakes for fall fishing, the big TVA impoundments fit the bill. Because this is bass tournament country, dozens of YouTube videos and Facebook sites of pro anglers offer useful advice on where and how to catch autumn largemouths. Likewise, guide services are plentiful; just Google “fishing guides” for the lake you’re visiting or type in the town nearest the lake you wish to fish on the interactive map on this page.

Tackle You’ll Need: A 7-foot medium/heavy rod such as the St. Croix Premier Cranking, a baitcasting reel like the Abu Garcia Revo Winch and 10- to 14-pound-test monofilament makes a good combination to fish downsized lures.

Quick tip: This is strictly a match-the-hatch deal. Use lures that are about the same size as wandering shad. If young-of-the-year threadfins are on the bass menu, try small swim baits fished on drop-shot rigs.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Shad-colored, shallow- and medium-diving square-billed or coffin-billed crankbaits are autumn standouts. Popular lures include the Strike King 6XD, Bandit 100 or 200, Duo Realis M65, Livetarget Magnum Shad BaitBall Squarebill, Megabass S-Crank, Lucky Craft Squarebill 2.5, Storm Arashi and Rapala Shad Rap.

Fish them around shoreline cover and on the flats between creek drop-offs and the bank. Other fallback baits include spinnerbaits like the Booyah Super Shad, Stanley Vibrashaft and Nichols Pulsator. Good buzzbait options can be found from Lunker Lure, Damiki, Santone and Dirty Jigs.

Rendezvous With Redfish

Along the northern Gulf Coast from Carrabelle, FL, to Grand Isle, LA, the redfish season begins in late September and continues in stages through December. Some anglers fish in the surf with cut bait, while others station themselves on area piers or in boats on relatively shallow flats near channel cuts.

Hot Spots To Fish: For boating anglers, a couple of spots stick out. Pensacola Bay Pass is a must-fish for boaters. Anchor up on the broad flat between old Fort Pickens and the channel, set out lines as the tide changes to incoming, and hang on. Need more help? Redfish University Pensacola Fishing Charters (850-748-4368, redfishuniversity.com) specializes in the big drum.

At Grand Isle, LA, book a trip with Gotta Go Fishing Charters (225-921-3642, gottagofishingcharters.com). The marshes and inshore waters around Venice, LA, are primo redfish haunts as well. Captain Mike Frenette (504-782-0924, laredfish.com or (mike@venicefishing.net) is a top guide here.

Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company 
Louisiana’s coastal waters are ground zero for the hottest autumn redfish action along the northern Gulf Coast. A variety of natural baits and artificials get the job done.

Tackle You’ll Need: “Rat” reds of 3 pounds and up, or real bruisers weighing in excess of 20 pounds require a range of tackle options. Bass fishing tackle – whether spinning or baitcasting – is perfect for handling smaller fish and for casting jigs or swimbaits that weigh less than an ounce. A Shimano Stradic spinning reel and 7-foot medium-action Shimano Compre rod with 14-pound-test monofilament.

For bigger fish, consider a Penn Battle II BTLII5000 with 20-pound-test monofilament or 40-pound-test braid, and a 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. A 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rod (such as the Penn Battalion BATIN1220S70) should handle any bait rigs or lures and wear down a bull redfish in short order.

Quick Tip: Incoming tides in late evening or at night are primo times for reds as the fish free-spawn then in the mouths of coastal bays and estuaries. If you can’t fish any other time, make sure you fish the incoming tides.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Redfish aren’t particular about their dietary requirements and will eat anything from blue crabs to halved mullet. Swimming spoons such as the Johnson Sprite (johnsonfishing.com), swimbaits and jigs or even topwater poppers, such as the Heddon Saltwater Spook, will elicit strikes.

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Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company Photo By Garrick Dixon Shallow- to medium-running crankbaits probably account for more bass than any other lure in the fall when the fish are on the prowl for shad in feeder creeks and coves. http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Alabama Is there anything better than fall in Alabama? Most folks would agree it’s the best time of the year. Alabama heat slowly fades to cool, which means it’s time to get outside and enjoy the weather before winter storms in. Alabama’s outdoor scene leaves you wanting for nothing, given the varied terrain and abundance of things to do, and you’ll want to mark these 10 best fall outdoor activities on your calendar.

Breathtaking views like these are best experienced without the blazing sun heating up the rocks. This rock climbing locale also offers hiking trails and camping so you can make a full weekend out of your adventure. Suitable for all skill levels, you’ll want to make this your go-to spot for all things outdoors.

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For those who like to stop and enjoy the scenery, Yellow Creek Falls is a must-visit. It’s a peaceful place with a majestic waterfall, a place to bring your boat, and amazing fall foliage. This place is truly a hidden gem in Alabama’s outdoor scene and no trip to Yellow Creek is complete without stopping here. 

One of the best off-road parks in the state, Boggs & Boulders is the ride on the wild side you’ve been searching for. One thousand acres and 160 miles of trails await you, along with a fair share of mud holes, hills, and twists and turns to keep you guessing. They’re a fully loaded facility complete with camping and on-site dining. 

Fuel up before (or after) your visit to Boggs & Boulders with a trip to the Surly Mermaid Deli—an experience unlike any other. This mermaid-themed food palace is a treasure trove of delicious eats you won’t find in just any restaurant. The atmosphere is fun, whimsical, and a perfect start or finish to any outdoor adventure.

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Low prices and fall scenery are what makes camping here a real treat when the weather gets cooler. There’s plenty to do for everyone in the family within the park, including a small petting zoo and exotic animals, botanical gardens, a train, and of course Noccalula Falls. No matter what brings you outside, be it hiking, biking, trail running, or watching for wildlife, you’ll find it here. 

If you need to grab a fresh pair of hiking boots for your trip to Noccalula Falls Park, there’s no better place to go than the local Trading Post. This place has some of the best names in outdoor living, including Merrell, Keen, and Timberland. They’ve got footwear and outdoor apparel for the whole family here, so stock up before you go on your next camping or hiking adventure. 

There’s no shortage of outdoor recreation in Bankhead National Forest, and fall weather makes for an enjoyable visit. There are over 90 miles of trails for hikers to roam, as well as over 13 miles designated for horseback riders. Along the way you can soak in sights like waterfalls, gorges, wildflowers, and plenty of flora and fauna.

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Fall migration is a highly anticipated activity throughout Alabama each year, but Fort Morgan offers rare glimpses of birds you won’t see anywhere else in the state. Head here during late September or October to see hundreds of hawks moving over the fort. You can also check out Alabama’s Rare Bird Alert to stay up to date on birds in the area during this time.

Fall weather makes a great reason to break out the bike for a group ride, and this bicycle association hosts plenty of them. Their calendar stays full of exciting adventures for riders of all skill levels, including visits to Coldwater Mountain. There are different routes for some rides depending on your pace, so you can stay on course and enjoy the experience.

Trying to find activities for everyone in the family can be daunting, leave it to 4D Farm in Cullman County to give you non-stop fun and games! In autumn, 4D puts on the ultimate fall adventure with ziplines, farm animals, pig races, gemstone mining, a cow train, tetherball, and much more. Your little ones won’t be able to sit still! For the rest of the family there is a pumpkin patch and a huge corn maze to get lost in, keeping you entertained for hours!

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-alabama Tue, 09 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Archery Outfitters in Alabama Whether it’s for bow hunting or practicing your shot at a range, Alabama understands the importance of a bow and arrow. Find all of the latest in bow technology and a collection of high-quality accessories at the 10 best archery outfitters in the state. 

Whether you’re new to the sport or you’ve been practicing for years, you’ll appreciate the personalized expertise you’ll get when you visit Archery Connection. They’re fellow archers, which means they know the sport inside and out and can help you make the most of your purchases, give you tips on form, and do everything in their power to help you become a better archer.

Though it looks small and humble on the outside, you’ll be blown away by the selection inside. The professionalism at Nichols is unmatched. The pros here know archery, and they put their knowledge to work for you in helping you choose the right gear. Their loyal fans love coming here because of the friendly experience they can expect every time.

Whatever your archery needs, Archery Unlimited is your one-stop shop. They offer everything from new and used bow sales to tuning and setup to an indoor practice range to help you improve your skills. They also take care to ensure you get the right gear for your experience level and goals—no trial and error necessary!

Deer hunting isn’t just a sport in Alabama—it’s a way of life. Full Draw Archery knows this better than anyone, which is why they’re fully dedicated to the cause with a full suite of archery products geared for deer hunters. Not only will you find high-quality archery supplies in store, but also complementing outdoor hunting gear to give you a one-stop shop before your next big hunting adventure.

With a full product line available in store and online, Pat’s Archery & Outdoors has all the bows, crossbows, and accessories you need to improve your archery skills. If you can’t make it into the store, they also have all their gear available online.

Offering only the best gear and supplies in hunting and fishing, it’s no wonder Quints has gained a reputation of being one of the top archery gear providers in the state. Aside from high-quality equipment, they also offer bow setup and other related services to get you field-ready faster.

If brand matters to you, you’ll want to make a shopping trip at Big Daddy Outdoors a priority. They carry all the best names in archery, from Mathews Monster Chill R to Parker compound bows, to name a slight few. Because they offer a diverse assortment of brands and products, you have the best chance of scoring a high-quality bow and accessories in your price range.

This full-service shop has everything you need for a top-notch archery experience. Their fans admire them for their personal knowledge of the sport, which they willingly share with customers to help them get more from their efforts.

From bows to accessories to clothing and more, chances are you won’t need to make a second trip anywhere else. Wiregrass Outdoors is known for its high-quality selection, giving you the best chance for an excellent experience out in the field.

While not dedicated exclusively to archers’ needs, the folks here sure know their stuff when it comes to all things outdoors. They carry all the gear you need, from bows and arrows to targets and maintenance supplies. For the best in all things outdoor sports, there’s no better place to go.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-archery-outfitters-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-archery-outfitters-in-alabama Wed, 05 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Camping Done Right: 6 Essential Outdoor Stores in Alabama Given Alabama’s awesome state parks, it’s no wonder camping is a favorite among residents and tourists alike. However, no camping trip is complete without first making a trip to the outdoor store. Alabama’s selection of outdoor stores have exactly what area campers need to face all kinds of weather and enjoy the great outdoors. Simply put, a good camping experience hinges on having all the right gear, and there’s no better place to get it than these seven essential outdoor stores in Alabama. 

Leaf in Creek is dedicated to all things outdoors, especially when it comes to campers’ needs. From tents and hammocks to backpacks and lanterns, you’ll be surprised at the innovations made in camping gear in the past several years. They carry all your favorite outdoor brands, like Kavu, Patagonia and Seal Line. Shop in store or have your online purchase waiting for you to pick it up in person. 

Coleman has long been the go-to brand for camping gear, and this store is chock full of quality Coleman products at factory outlet prices. They’ve got just about every type of tent and shelter imaginable, from easy pop-ups to tents that can house the whole family. You’ll also find all the typical camping goods, like food boxes, water jugs, and chairs, along with luxuries like kitchen gear and sports-branded gear. They’re also your headquarters for replacement parts for tents, pumps, lighting, and more.

Finally got me a #lantern. #coleman #duelfuel #camping #camp

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It’s clear that Mountain High Outfitters is dedicated to the outdoorsman’s success, especially when shopping in their camping section. They carry all the staples, from sleeping bags to food storage, along with fun goodies like tree tents to enhance your experience. It’s also your one-stop destination for popular brands like Yeti and Kavu. With nine locations to serve Alabama campers, you won’t have to go anywhere else.

I want to live in this. #cacoon #mountainhighoutfitters

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This regional camping store has all sorts of camping necessities, but they can also outfit you with all the bells and whistles to make every trip an adventurous one. ENO hammocks, Yeti mugs, and the North Face backpacks are just a few of the top brands you’ll discover. Their suite of food prep products is not to be missed!

There’s a reason why Cabela’s is one of the top names when it comes to camping: they have more to fuel campers’ needs than any other retailer. Not only will you find the best brands campsites have ever seen, you’ll also find the best gear like animal calls, fishing supplies, and archery equipment, to complement your time in the woods. Expect to find the likes of Marmot, Coleman, and the North Face throughout their camping section.

This nationally-recognized megastore is dedicated to delivering epic camping experiences. Standard sleeping gear is accompanied by fun gadgets like pie irons, popcorn poppers, and bug jackets. Aside from their namesake brand, you can find a variety of Yeti, Lodge, ENO, and Columbia products at good prices. One of the biggest benefits of shopping for all your gear here is that they also offer archery, gun, and tackle services, depending on what you plan on doing during your camping trip.

Camping and Hiking Preparation.....

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http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-6-essential-outdoor-stores-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-6-essential-outdoor-stores-in-alabama Wed, 15 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Gorgeous Beach Campsites in Alabama All along Alabama’s many miles of shoreline you’ll find some of the best beachside camping spots in the country, complete with local wildlife, sea breezes, and ocean views to make your trip unforgettable. Camping isn’t just for the mountains—head to one of these five amazing beach campsites in Alabama for a unique camping experience! 

It’s easy to enjoy the natural scenic wonders of Dauphin Island at the campground. You’ll have access to a secluded campers-only beach as well as the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Guests have their pick of RV hookup sites or primitive campsites, each of which are just a short distance to the sand. The park is also brimming with family-friendly amenities, including picnic areas, nature trails, and playground.

If you want accommodation options, you’ll find plenty of them at Gulf State Park. The park offers cabins and lakeside cottages that are just a short drive to the ocean, in addition to full hookup or primitive campsites that are just a mile and a half from the beach. Guests can enjoy a slew of amenities, including swimming pool, splash pad, pickleball/tennis courts, horseshoe court, nature center, and organized family-friendly activities. There’s also a strong chance you’ll get to experience some of Alabama’s natural wildlife up close—turtles, alligators, and shorebirds are known to frequent the area.

If you have an RV or motorcoach, you’ll love the camping opportunities at this waterfront resort. Offering more than the typical hookups, this resort offers all the luxuries of home living, including a neighborhood-like look and feel. Guests marvel at the cobblestone streets, waterfall entrance, and classy coach houses that offer full kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and every other luxury you can imagine. Their private marina gives guests exclusive access to the gulf on its small but pristine beach. It’s camping at the beach like you’ve never experienced before.

This quiet little park offers a bay view from each of their 34 RV sites. Guests are just minutes from shopping, dining, and beautiful beaches, yet remain tucked away from the noise of town so they can relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. The park offers an onsite 200-foot dock that’s perfect for fishing or a peaceful walk across the water. 

Just across from the public beach, this campground offers fun for both RV and tent campers. When you’re not lounging on the adjacent beach, the campground offers a pool to help you cool off after a day in the sun. You’ll be within minutes of all that Dauphin Island has to offer, including tennis courts, the Audubon Sanctuary, Sea Lab Estuarium, and Fort Gaines.

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Tong_stocker/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-gorgeous-beach-campsites-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/5-gorgeous-beach-campsites-in-alabama Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Backpack Camping Spots in Alabama For a truly unique, primitive camping experience, escape to the wilderness of picturesque Alabama. Across the state, you’ll find secluded campsites tucked away in the stunning scenic beauty of the state’s forests and parks. Sleep under the stars at these five beautiful backpack camping spots in Alabama. 

Though this state park is well known for its traditional campsites and cabin rentals, they also feature two campsites in a more rustic setting. The CCC Quarry campsite is just over a mile’s trek from the country store within the park, right off the White Trail. The Never-Never-Land campsite is tucked along a stream just three-quarters of a mile from the Lost Falls Trailhead. Look for the man-made trailside shelter and you’ll know you’ve reached the right place. Each of these campsites take you straight into the heart of nature, away from the noise of the park and highway so you can enjoy a serene experience.

This unique camping experience takes quite a bit of effort to get there, as most of the hike is uphill. However, once you get there you’ll be welcomed by natural vistas and peace and quiet. If you do choose to venture away from the tent, head back to the main part of the park to visit the namesake caverns, a truly stunning sight. The cave is a cool 60 degrees year-round and features some of the most beautiful natural formations you’ll see anywhere. Best of all, since most of your hike was a strenuous upward climb to the campsite, getting back down won’t be nearly as difficult.

This locale doesn’t offer as much solitude since the camping here is trailside (and the trails are quite popular). However, if you’re looking for experience over peace and quiet, you need to see the scenic wonders here. Throughout the area you’ll find lush rivers, canyons, waterfalls, and forests, not to mention a multitude of overlooks for panoramic views. The area is full of prime hiking trails ranging in difficulty, but since retaining the natural splendor is high priority here, the trails aren’t always well-marked. Trail 209 offers a few primitive campsites with amazing views, taking you several miles deep into the area for a scenic experience.

Nothing quite tops Alabama’s largest state park for some good old backpack camping. At a sprawling 9,940 acres, you’ll find endless scenic beauty to absorb. For the best, up close and personal views of the surrounding wildlife, opt to stay over in one of the state park’s designated backcountry sites. At these sites, you’ll find more than 50 miles of trails and loops that all levels of backpackers can enjoy. Keep in mind: Open fires are not allowed, but campers are welcome to use camp stoves for food. 

A backpacker’s paradise, there’s something for level of skill to enjoy at Conecuh National Forest. The Conecuh Trail meanders through 20 miles of the eastern section of the forest. Backpackers can take in the incredible wealth of wildlife diversity throughout this forest. Winter hiking is actually very enjoyable here, as its less buggy and hot. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-alabama Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Campgrounds for Families in Alabama Pitching a tent with the family is a great way to truly immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Alabama. The Yellowhammer State is home to an abundance of parent-approved, kid-friendly campsites with boundless activities to keep everyone in the family active. Whether you love spending time in the water or you’re interested in exploring the woods, there is something fun to look forward to at these family-friendly campgrounds in Alabama. 

Lake Guntersville offers the perfect opportunity to share your love of the water with your kids. Lake Guntersville has a lovely campsite that is perfect for kids of all ages, with access to hiking, fishing and boating. For older kids with a sense of adventure, the park has a zip line that zooms through the gorgeous greenery.

newest member of the family, yes we took down the pool so hopefully no more accidents 😊🐢

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If you’re looking to camp a night on your way to Florida, stop by the Lake Jackson RV Park on the border. Your kids will love the spacious play areas and fresh swimming water. The campsite is close to a number of Victorian-style mansions and restaurants with classic southern cooking for more family fun.

Looking for a compromise between kid-friendly and beach haven? Gulf State Park campsite is the spot for you. With wide open beaches for kids to run free, build sandcastles, look for sea shells, and catch some waves, you can happily relax on the beach knowing your kids are having a fun day. 

Whether you’re eight or 38 years-old, there truly is something for guests of all ages at Lakepoint State Park. Lakepoint features playgrounds for the kiddos, and is the perfect spot for kid-friendly activities such as swimming, hiking, and fishing. Not to mention, the scenery is simply stunning! 

If you want a kid-friendly campsite that is a little more low-key, check out the beautiful Blue Springs State Park. This hidden gem off the beaten path in Clio has long been a site for locals to cool off in the summer. The park has a well-sized playground for younger kids, and has several scenic hiking trails to wander.

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milanzeremski/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-alabama Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome RV Campsites in Alabama Enjoy Alabama’s myriad natural wonders from the comfort of your very own RV. Take a dip on the beaches of the Gulf Shore, go for a waterfall hunt through the national parks, or get up close and personal with Yogi Bear at the following five awesome RV campsites. 

Hidden Cove RV Resort is part of the greater Thousand Trails franchise, the largest provider of RV resorts and campgrounds in the country. Hidden Cove is right on the scenic Lewis Smith Lake, giving you water-side access in addition to the many amenities. Amenities include a clubhouse, Wi-Fi, restroom, swimming pool, fishing, boat dock, mini golf, and more. Go for a waterfall hike or an afternoon picnic. Hidden Cove is a hidden gem.

Five miles outside of Gulf Shores, Alabama, you’ll find RV heaven at the Island Retreat RV Park. The park offers solitude from the hustle and bustle of daily life without leaving town too far behind. Amenities include a pool, playground, clubhouse, storage, private showers, laundry, bike paths, and more. Each RV site has full hook-ups, and back-in spots start at $35 a night, with weekly and monthly rates available for longer stays. 

Auburn RV Park at Leisure Time Campground is part of Auburn University. All of their sites include full hook-ups with water, sewer, cable, telephone Wi-Fi, 50-amp, 30-amp, and 20-amp services. Visitors enjoy the adjacent softball complex, 18-hole golf course, and Charlotte and Curtis Ward bike trails. Whether you’re tailgating, visiting one of Auburn’s natural parks, or just want a weekend away, Auburn RV Park is not to be overlooked.

Mountain lakes RV Resort is located near the 68,000-acre Guntersville Lake, offering a fantastic view of the water from nearly any site. All sites are pull-through. Amenities include fishing, indoor and outdoor pool access, clubhouse, kid’s recreation room, horseshoes, volleyball, and more. Their event calendar is chock-full of fun activities, including car game night, line dancing lessons, family bingo and snack bar, and many more. Check their website for rates and the full event listing. 

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park is, you guessed it, Yogi Bear themed. Have a Yogi Bear fanatic in the family? Looking for a perfect place to bring your small children on a camping adventure? Yogi Bear’s Jellystone is the answer. Many of the on-site activities are Yogi Bear themed, including flag raising with Yogi, cartoons in the clubhouse, Pictures with Yogi Bear, and more. Other activities include s’more roasting, water wars, and parties at the ranger station. The cost is comparable to other RV parks ranging from $34-42 a night, with the bonus of tailor-made events for children, and a central location for adults.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-alabama Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Energizing Hikes in Alabama There’s no better way to experience fall than right in the midst of Mother Nature. Luckily, Alabama features plenty of excellent hiking trails that can take you on a fall foliage journey while giving you an enjoyable workout. Hiking offers so much more than a walk in the woods—these five energizing hikes can help you clear your mind and prove good to your health. 

Part of the Sipsey Wilderness Trail System, the Randolph Trail provides hikers a fairly easy two miles before giving way to a beautiful payoff—a view of the majestic Feather Hawk Falls. Along the way, look for the remnants of two old churches with cemeteries and other historical structures. It’s not a difficult hike, but one that you’ll need to be in fairly decent shape for if you want to reach the falls.

This one is a bit lengthy, being six miles one-way, but it sprinkles in enough challenges for intermediate hikers without pushing you to your absolute limits. This trail is part of a larger trail system that spans for dozens of miles. The first four miles are relatively easy, and provide an enjoyable, energizing hike. You’ll travel over a few footbridges along the way, and have an excellent view of the creek at Devil’s Den. There are several extremely rocky areas shortly after Devil’s Den that are slightly challenging. The remaining two miles take you through the Cheaha Wilderness, including a steep ascent toward the very end.

This 10-mile trail system features plenty for beginners and intermediate hikers. Start with the Stagecoach Plateau Trail, a 1.4-mile loop that provides just enough time to get a quick workout. This trail connects directly with the Dragon’s Tail, another intermediate trail of two miles that can extend your walk in the woods without venturing too far off course. The Dragon’s Tail loop will bring you back to the Stagecoach Plateau so you can continue your course without losing any ground. The trails are situated on a nature preserve, so there’s plenty of beautiful fall foliage and other scenery to keep you company on your travels.

Touted as one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the state, the Sipsey River Trail places you right in the midst of serenity. Along the way, you’ll come across multiple waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and plenty of isolated wilderness that blocks out the sounds and sights of civilization. The trail is 6.7 miles of beautiful scenery from all angles, and will certainly be one you’ll want to hike more than once.

Also known as the “park for all seasons,” this nature trail gives hikers the perfect views of fall foliage as you make your way around the 1.5-mile trail. The trail is dotted with footbridges and a covered bridge, and provides stunning views of the central lake. It’s the perfect distance if you’re wanting a quick pick-me-up to keep you energized without having to go to the middle of nowhere to enjoy natural views. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-alabama Fri, 10 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Trail Running Spots in Alabama If you think your running workouts in Alabama are limited to roads and pavement, you owe it to yourself to experience the joys of trail running. Given the unpredictable terrain, you might not beat your best time, but you’ll find the benefits of trail running far outweigh any downsides. For one, the softer terrain is much kinder on your body than asphalt, which means less risk of injury so you can keep your running game strong. In addition, trail running provides a welcome mental break that can help you focus on your workout—or nothing at all—for an experience that’s as therapeutic as it is healthy. If you’re looking to take your running skills to the next level, check out these five awesome trail running spots in Alabama and never suffer from a boring run again.

If you’re a seasoned trail runner, the Walls of Jericho trail provides plenty of challenge to push your skills even further. This six-mile out-and-back trail leads directly to a beautiful rocky gorge and waterfall, but beware the trail can be slippery once you get closer to the falls. It’s mostly a downhill run from the trailhead, which means you’ll be trekking uphill on the way out. Of course, this also means you’ll end your workout on a high note.

This loop trail in Monte Sano State Park is just long enough for an energizing run. If you’ve never been to Monte Sano State Park, this trail features some of the best views in the area. Rated as moderate, you’ll have a few terrain obstacles to keep you on your toes. If you’re strictly here for running, you’ll want to revisit the trail to explore the caves or test your rock climbing skills.

This 2.5-mile trail is recommended for more advanced trekkers. The start of the hike is not so difficult, but as you proceed on the route, things get tricky. So be prepared. Located in the Monte Sano Preserve, this is a great place for not only trail running but biking, environmental education, bird watching, and a relaxing picnic. 

Other than a few twists and turns, this adventure is relatively simple. In fact, there are several alternative routes that can extend your run up to 12 miles. Though mostly flat, you’ll find a few small hills for a little variation to your run. Many runners use the trail to train for marathons or other races because it’s peaceful, quiet, and not too heavily trafficked. You’ll also enjoy river views along parts of the trail, plus the fall foliage here makes for a beautiful run.

The Moss Rock Preserve has plenty of great routes for trail running. You’ll get the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, but civilization is just beyond the tree line. Trails take you past waterfalls, beautiful rock facings, and offer an overall scenic experience. If you’re looking for a good run on this trail, it may be best to avoid the weekends—when it is most heavily trafficked. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-trail-running-spots-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-trail-running-spots-in-alabama Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Making the Most out of Rickwood Caverns State Park State parks are among the best, most unique features of every state, especially if you happen to be in Alabama. It’s an inexpensive activity that offers more for your dollar than anywhere else. From hiking and biking trails to swimming, camping, and adventurous cave explorations, Rickwood Caverns State Park brings you closer to nature.

Located in the heart of Alabama, Rickwood Caverns State Park is a truly unexpected find. Entry to the park is just $3, with swimming and trips inside the cavern available a la carte. The cave is the main focal point of the park and has set a theme throughout its ground, with activities like gem mining and geocaching abounding. There’s a little something for every age and preference here, whether you’re an avid camper or hiker or simply like to be surrounded by nature every once in a while. 

Just a little trip to an absolutely stunning cave

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This short one-mile loop is a must-do if you’re visiting Rickwood Caverns State Park. The easy-to-moderate trail winds its way through forests and past beautiful rock formations. Look closely and you’ll see where the trail gets its name—seashell and leaf imprints are often visible on the rock surfaces.

Most folks come here to see the caverns, and for good reason: they’re simply breathtaking. The rock formations within the giant cave were created more than 260 million years ago. The cave maintains a comfortable 58-62 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making it the perfect spot to warm up in the winter or cool off in the summer while you trek 175 feet below ground. Cave tours are $17 for adults and $8 for children ages five to 12.

If you’re looking to make the most of your visit, consider extending your stay by camping on site. You can bring an RV or trailer, or rough it the traditional way with a tent. Campsites offer access to 24-hour security, as well as restrooms and a dump station. As a camper, you can get a discounted rate to the caverns.

Fort Dobson

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While you’re in the area, explore some of the fun sights and activities outside of the state park. The Birmingham Zoo is only a 40-minute drive away, and displays over 800 animals. They’re open year-round and feature plenty of side activities for guests of all ages, including the zoo train, animal feedings, behind the scenes tours, slide, and zip-lining. 

Auntie duties

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This peaceful park is a gem in the bustling big city. Nestled along the water, the park is mostly used for recreation and events. It was constructed to help preserve some of the city’s heritage, and even reuses some of the rocks unearthed during the park’s development as seating and walls. Highlights include a skating area, .75-mile trail, playground, and outdoor gym equipment.

Extend your nature-based fun with a trip to Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Over 65 acres are filled with beautiful blooms in thematic gardens, along with pristine landscaping and the beloved Moon Tree. You can explore the indoor Garden Center or conservatory for more information on the plant life in the gardens. 

For barbecue that will honestly make you soul sing, check out SAW’s Soul Kitchen. There’s nothing like a little barbecue to fill you up and help you refuel. SAW’s specialties include SAW’s Sampler with pork, chicken, three wings, and one side, and SAW’s Original Pulled Pork. 

@eathuntsville | Pork'n Green DBL πŸ†™ | #soulkitchenlovers | #fanrepost | #INBirmingham | #sawsINHunstsville?πŸ€”

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http://stepoutside.org/article/making-the-most-out-of-rickwood-caverns-state-park http://stepoutside.org/article/making-the-most-out-of-rickwood-caverns-state-park Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Wonderful Birdwatching Hikes in Alabama It takes time, practice, and planning to become a good birdwatcher, especially since they can fly away as quickly as you spot them. The perfect way to enjoy your birdwatching experience is by embarking on a hike through the wilderness. These five best birdwatching hikes in Alabama will give you your best chance of seeing some of the prettiest species in the state.

Home of the annual Festival of the Cranes, Wheeler was established specifically as a haven for migratory birds and other wildlife. Throughout the refuge are habitats conducive to breeding and roosting for sandhill cranes and wintering waterfowl, with over 300 total bird species calling the refuge home at some point. There are five designated nature trails to utilize for prime wildlife viewing: Atkeson Trail, Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk Trail, Dancy Bottom Trail, Flint Creek, or the Wildlife Observation Trail. The National Wildlife Refuge created an amazing bird guide (downloadable via their website) that details the various species along with their commonality during each season. Woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and eastern bluebirds are among the most likely to be spotted here.

This site has been dubbed as one of the top four places in the country for spring migration viewing. Featuring over 135 acres of salt marshes, forests, dunes, a lake, and a beach, there are 420 bird species that have been sighted within the sanctuary (for comparison, Alabama as a whole plays home to roughly 445 species). Inside the sanctuary, bird viewers can embark on the three-mile trail system that winds through various habitats to give you the chance to see as many birds as possible. Many of the species visit the sanctuary for food and rest during their migration, and has been touted as “globally important” for migration.

Though much of this refuge is only accessible by boat, the various habitats make it an attractive spot for birds. Its more than 4,000 acres feature lakes, sloughs, hardwoods, and moist areas that both birds and other wildlife call home. Be sure to check their website for a trail map. Most commonly used by wintering waterfowl and wood duck for brooding and roosting, the area has also seen its share of wood storks and bald eagles at times. The refuge provides artificial nesting boxes, and has seen upwards of 10,000 waterfowl during the cooler months. 

Some Blue-winged teal preening and loafing in the rice. #waterfowlmanagement #waterfowl #ducks #duckhunting #usfws

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Though smaller compared to the previously mentioned refuges, this 50-acre botanical garden is an enjoyable attraction for birdwatchers. A paved walking path of nearly three-quarters of a mile takes visitors through a mixed hardwood forest, around the gardens, and near small ponds to give them a variety of bird-viewing areas. Spring and fall migration periods are your best chance to spot birds right now, but efforts continue to build its population of wintering birds, too.

Formerly known as Florala State Park, this beautiful site is situated on Lake Jackson and attracts a myriad of bird species during migratory seasons and winter months. Commonly seen are the northern mockingbird and northern cardinal, as well as thrashers, woodpeckers, orioles, herons, and egrets. Bald eagles have been known to frequent the area, too. The park offers an elevated boardwalk that can take visitors through the canopy over wetlands to spot a variety of bird species. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-wonderful-birdwatching-hikes-in-alabama http://stepoutside.org/article/5-wonderful-birdwatching-hikes-in-alabama Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Start Your Trek: 7 Unbeatable Hiking Retailers in Alabama There’s no better way to explore nature than on foot, and Alabama has some of prettiest sights you’ll ever see by trail. There’s a thriving hiking community in this state, which is why you’ll find plenty of retailers dedicated to helping hikers continue their passion for exploring. Before you hit your next trail, visit one of these seven top-notch hiking stores in Alabama to stock up on what you need. 

Your adventure begins at Gadsden Outfitters, where you’ll discover some of the best names in hiking. From boots to backpacks, you can completely outfit your next hiking journey in a single stop. Choose from top brands like the North Face, Patagonia, and Osprey that will motivate you to never stop exploring.

This regional chain is dedicated to helping hikers get the right apparel and gear that will truly make a difference in their experience. They’ve been serving area hikers for the past 40 years, and have made outfitting your trip even easier with their ecommerce store. You’ll find all your favorite brands like Teva, Yeti, and Black Diamond, so stock up before you hit the trails.

This family-owned second generation business has all the goods for a great hiking trip. Being heavily involved in their community, the owners and team members know the area well. They can help you get the most from your purchases with first-hand knowledge of their stuff works. Popular sellers include Chaco, KAVU, and Columbia.

A little of this and a little of that are what make UG White Mercantile so special—you never know what you’ll find. This old-fashioned general store has many of the basics hikers need to enjoy a day of sightseeing on the trails, such as water bottles, knives, apparel, hats, bags, and bulk candy for a little trailside treat. Case knives is one of their most beloved brands—stock up for your next adventure.

When it comes to the great outdoors, no one knows the call of the wild better than the North Face. They make some of the most durable backpacks, apparel, and hiking boots you can get without sacrificing style. Their stores are dedicated exclusively to the North Face-branded products, so you can rest assured every purchase is the high quality you expect. 

#NorthFace for the cat. Why not?

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This sports and outdoors chain features several locations throughout Alabama, making it easy for residents all over to get what they need for a day on the trails. They feature a large selection of drinkware, backpacks, and sunglasses, along with outdoor clothing perfect for any type of weather. Check them out online or visit one of their stores to find brands like Magellan Outdoors and Columbia.  

Bass Pro Shops’ massive square footage allows it to stock a serious inventory of hiking gear and supplies. If you’re embarking on an equestrian hike, you can find saddle bags and other gear for your horse companions here. Essentials like first aid kits, backpacks, and hydration solutions can be found amongst its aisles, as well as commonly overlooked items like ChapStick, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Some of their best brands include Camelbak and Adventure Medical.

The Birth Place of @bassproshops #springfield #springfieldmo #basspro #midwest

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SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Cheaha State Park, Delta, AL The best things in life don’t have to cost a fortune, and Alabama’s selection of state parks prove it. A visit to a state park is more than something to do. Depending on where you go, you may be in for the adventure of your life while you make memories and enjoy a day in Mother Nature. Check out the best things to enjoy in and around Cheaha State Park. 

As the highest point in Alabama, Cheaha State Park is undoubtedly one of the best natural wonders of the state. This mountaintop escape offers no shortage of things to do, including hiking, a swimming pool, lodging, wildlife, waterfalls, rock climbing, mountain biking, a gem mine, and a shared passion for all things outdoors. Just $5 grants you all-day access to all the park has to offer, making this state park one of the most budget-friendly adventures you’ll ever experience.

It’s not below freezing for once so... β›°

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Start your day off right with a breakfast stop at CJ’s Family Restaurant. Located just minutes from the park, you can fill up on your favorite early morning staples to keep you focused on the day ahead. Their delicious flavors and family-friendly service has made CJ’s a favorite among locals and travelers alike. 

History buffs won’t mind driving nearly an hour to Kymulga Grist Mill, one of the most visited historic sites in the area. This grist mill is steeped in Alabama history and features a park and covered bridge on-site waiting for you to come explore. It’s a photogenic site worthy of a postcard, so make sure you bring your camera. 

If you’re looking to wind down from your outdoor experience, head to Escape Zone for a challenging escape-the-room experience. This live action game will put your wits to the test as you try to make your way out of the locked room by finding clues and solving puzzles. It’s a fun diversion after you’ve seen and done it all at the park, especially for guests who are staying at the park overnight.

Weather permitting, you can go tubing down the Choccolocco Creek in a comfy inflatable tube. Surrounded by nature, you’ll experience some of the best sights and sounds of the area with the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. Sure, you can find tubing spots at Cheaha State Park’s lake, but they won’t quite match up to what you’ll discover at Floating Fun.

Float on

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After a day of playing outdoors, refuel at the Mounta Cheaha Restaurant located inside the park. This country-style eatery offers panoramic views of the park along with delicious fare you wouldn’t expect from a state park restaurant. The themed decor adds to the experience to make your meal as fun as it is tasty.

To finish off an exciting trip, head to Talladega Superspeedway to take in a NASCAR race. This site is one of the most popular for professional racing, attracting thousands of visitors to its stands each year. If you plan your visit just right, you’ll be able to see some of the greatest racers in modern history in this small Alabama town.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-cheaha-state-park-delta-al http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-cheaha-state-park-delta-al Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Great Hiking Trails in Alabama The sun is out and nature is waiting for you to get out and explore with the whole family. Soak in the elegant wonders of Alabama the Beautiful by hiking and strolling among the trees. These trails are some of the most scenic sites in the state and are conducive to kids of all ages! 

For a view that is straight out of a painting, visit the boardwalk trail at Cheaha State Park. Centered in Talladega’s natural beauty and forestry, the short trail leads you to Bald Rock Outlook. The spectacular vista is a panorama worth viewing, and is accessible to the younger children in your family.

#viewspt2

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If you love the mountains, then you will love the Bucca Family Trail at Monte Sano State Park. The trail is an easy stroll among the greenery of Monte Sano and, in the spring season, leads you along a path of elegant wild azaleas. If you have older kids and are up for more of a challenge, the trail connects to the Plateau Loop Trail leading to the gorgeous view at O’Shaughnessy Point. 

If you’re a family that loves all things water, visit the Lakeside Trail at Lake Lurleen State Park. The scenic lake views are perfect for picnicking, and there are even spots to cast your fishing rod. You’ll enjoy the serenity of the clear waters, while your kids will love keeping an eye out for the catfish, bream, and bass that live in the waters.

If you’re on your way to Memphis for a family getaway, Dismals Canyon is the perfect spot to get out of the car and stretch your legs. At some points, Dismals Canyon can be an easy hike that will take you to a wondrous world of endless greens and hidden creeks. The haunting conservatory will enchant you and your family, and will have you longing to wander back through the rows of emerald trees year after year.

For an educational hike on historic lands, bring the family to Buck’s Pocket State Park and walk in the lands once occupied by the Cherokee and French settlers in the 1700s, and eventually the logging community in the 1940s. Explore scenic routes that, at some points, overlook the magnificent canyon. This trail is a little more difficult, but still possible for kids. Buck’s Pocket will be a beautiful site they will never forget.

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