Fall in northern Alabama provides a colorful backdrop for outdoor exploring and more.
By Lynn Grisard Fullman
Pausing to glare at an approaching car, two deer amble across a paved road at Lake Guntersville Resort State Park. The car slows. The deer stare for another minute or so before heading toward a hillside bathed in red, yellow and orange that Mother Nature has painted across the rolling acreage.
Above: Colors explode along northern Alabama’s roadways in the fall.
Below: The lodge at Lake Guntersville Resort State Park reopened in 2008 after a massive renovation. Lake Guntersville Resort State Park photos
With winding roads, ridge tops, sprawling meadows and places to boat, fish, hike and golf, the park is cloaked in the season’s rich colors. Even the wildlife here seems to alter the pace to allow time to savor the burst of colors that paint the hills and meadows.
Fall slips gently into north Alabama where leaves begin changing colors most often in October, then crescendo in early November. The riot of colors engulfs Lake Guntersville Resort State Park (7966 state Highway 227), which opened in the spring of 1974. The lodge, hotel complex and restaurant at the family resort and convention destination closed in 2004 for a massive renovation that was unveiled in early 2008.
Colorful Park, Bountiful Activities
Visitors converge at the park to camp, roam trails, wet their lines in waters rife with fish and savor Mother Nature’s quiet places. Some rent canoes, pontoons or flat-bottom fishing boats. Bass and crappie are especially abundant here. Others ride horses; rock on a cabin’s wide porch; walk along a sandy, manmade beach; or look for birds and waterfowl.
Atop Taylor Mountain, the state park’s lodge provides one of the best vantage points for viewing fall’s changing colors when sugar maples turn assorted shades of red and sumacs line roadsides with a fiery red. Like a vast kaleidoscope, dogwoods and other hardwoods change slowly from bright red and stark yellow to autumn orange, transforming this slice of north Alabama that overlooks the 69,000-acre Guntersville Lake.
The state park easily is a destination within itself with places to sleep (lodge rooms, cabins, chalets and campsites), play and savor three meals daily. Visitors may trek along the park’s 31 miles of trails or tag along when a naturalist leads one- to two-hour hikes and interpretative walks. Led typically from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Saturday walks range from moderate to rugged terrain hikes.
Exploring the area
Beyond the park, Guntersville has several attractions worth a visit. Housed in a former National Guard Armory in the town’s historic district, the Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center (1215 Rayburn Ave.) looks a bit like a castle and holds a permanent collection that includes Native American artifacts, rocks, minerals and historic photographs focused on area history. Other exhibits focus on the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the building of Lake Guntersville. Bessie Rayburn Samuel’s mounted collection of some 30 native birds has become one of the most popular exhibits. Rayburn taught herself taxidermy. For years, her bird collection was kept at the local elementary school.
Several blocks from the museum, the Guntersville Railroad Depot Museum (905 Railroad Ave.), where admission is free and tours are by appointment only, holds area memorabilia housed in a renovated depot.
Fall brings a gaggle of activities to the area, including:
- picking Muscatine grapes at Wenker Vineyard, Labor Day weekend through October;
- the Arab Chamber of Commerce Community Fair (Sept. 12);
- the Bassmaster Weekend Series Fishing Tournament (Guntersville, Sept. 18–20);
- the Harvest Festival (Boaz, Oct. 2–3);
- a fishing tournament at Lake Guntersville Resort State Park (Oct. 8–10);
- and fall color hikes departing from the state park lodge’s lobby at 2 p.m. on Oct. 10, 17 and 24.
Mother Nature presents some of her finest work during fall in northern Alabama. Gas up, head out and explore as this slice of the state erupts into an explosion of colors and a bevy of autumn activity.
Lynn Grisard Fullman is a contributor from Birmingham, Ala.