Alabama is dotted with many beautiful lakes. Along the thousands of miles of shorelines, there are countless quaint towns and villages that invite you in, but there is only one that is known as “Alabama’s Lake City” — Guntersville.
Situated on the banks and a peninsula that juts out into the lake that bears its name, the residents of this quaint Alabama town are inviting and welcoming to visitors who flock to the town to experience nature and the incredible outdoor recreational activities the lake affords — hiking, kayaking, fishing, nature watching.
With excellent shopping, dining, theater, museums, and marvelously preserved historic homes, Guntersville offers much more than just the activities the lake affords, making it the perfect weekend getaway.
Lake Guntersville State Park
Nestled in the forested hillsides along the banks of the Tennessee River and Lake Guntersville, Lake Guntersville State Park is one of the state’s beautiful resort-style parks. Within its 6000acres, you can tee up on the challenging 18-hole championship golf course high atop Taylor Mountain, take to the beach for fun in the sun swimming in the lake, or maybe take a horseback ride over the rolling hillsides.
The main draw to the park is its hiking and biking trails — over 36-miles that lead to spectacular views and historic sites.
Accommodations are in abundance at the park, which has everything from the nicely appointed rooms of the lodge with views of the lake to cozy cabins and tent and RV camping. Be sure to end your day by dining in the park’s Pinecrest Dining Room, where delicious meals are served with a show — a stunning sunset overlooking the lake.
Screaming Eagle Ziplines
Soar through the treetops of one of the state’s most beautiful state parks, Lake Guntersville, on the Screaming Eagle Ziplines.
There are two lines at the park that will steal your breath away. There is a level one course that features 10 zip lines ranging in above-ground heights from 25 to 75 feet with four aerial bridges to cross.
Level two has 15 ziplines (it includes both courses) with the longest run over 2,000 feet long and reaching heights of 250 feet. Not for the squeamish.
Eagle Awareness Weekend
You will never forget the first time you experience an American bald eagle in the wild. It is a majestic sight as they soar gracefully overhead, their screech piercing the quietness of the forest.
Guntersville celebrates the eagle each year during Eagle Awareness Weekends, a series of educational programs, viewing hikes, and live bird demonstrations that span across several weekends from mid-January to mid-February.
Each event during Eagle Awareness Weekends is free to the public and is based at Lake Guntersville State Park, which offers special lodging packages so you can spend a comfortable weekend at the park in the lodge or its cabins, but be warned — accommodations in the area book quickly during the event.
Guntersville Museum And Cultural Center
Perched atop a hillside on Loveless Street, the beautiful and distinctive architecture of the old castellated armory building stands out in the town. The building was built by the Works Progress Act (WPA) in 1936 and served as the home of the 167th Infantry Division’s Company E.
Today, this beautiful building is known as the cornerstone of Guntersville’s cultural district and houses the Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center.
Within its walls, the center tells the story of Guntersville’s rich history dating back to the time when Native Americans thrived here, the building of the dam that made the town an economic success, and artwork by various artists including nationally-acclaimed local artist Frank Nelson.
Admission is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and is closed Mondays.
Whole Backstage Theater
For nearly 50 years, the Whole Backstage Theater has been showcasing local talent and bringing Broadway to north Alabama.
The oldest community theater in the region is a non-profit, volunteer theater that has been encouraging participation in the arts and theater by local residents ever since its founder, Dot Moore, opened its doors in 1973. An emphasis is placed on developing the talents of the youth of Marshall County.
The Whole Backstage Theater is located across the street from the Guntersville Museum and Culture Center. It hosts five stellar main productions a year (in 2022, be on the lookout for their production of Guys and Dolls), two youth productions, theater workshops, community events throughout the year, and open mic nights to showcase local talent.
You can’t say they don’t live up to their mission. Visit their website for the latest schedule and plan on spending an amazing evening. You won’t regret it.
Harbor View Winery
The winery has perfected the viniculture of fruit wine and now bottles exquisite banana, blueberry, coconut, orange coffee, assorted sparkling wines, and more. You’re sure to find a bottle that will please your palate or as a gift for friends and family.
Harbor View Winery is located on Gunter Avenue and is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, and is closed Monday and Tuesday.
Kayaking Lake Guntersville
Kayaking the placid waters of Lake Guntersville is so relaxing with amazing views and wildlife along the banks. One of the favorite paddles in the area is along Town Creek. Putting your boat in at the Town Creek Fishing Center, the creek starts wide and then begins to narrow with bluffs all around you. Your excursion can be as short as you like, or do a good, long 12-mile out-and-back paddle.
If you don’t have a kayak, never fear. Town Creek Fishing Center has canoes and kayaks available for rent.
Fishing Lake Guntersville
The lake that bears the town’s name is over 60,000 acres in size and is formed by the Guntersville Dam that blocks the flow of the Tennessee River. The lake is best known for its incredible bass fishing.
There are plenty of spots along the lake to cast your line or drop in your boat. If you love to wet the line, then your first stop should be the Town Creek Fishing Center.
The Center can point you in the right direction for the hottest spots on the lake and give pointers on the best way to fish the grasses of the lake. They also rent all manner of boats including pontoon, Tracker, and Crestliner Bass Boats for a half or full day, or you can bring your own and launch right there using one of Town Creek’s two ramps.
The Center also sells non-ethanol gas, fishing lures, camping needs, snacks, and that all-important Alabama freshwater fishing license.
Cave Mountain Small Wild Area
A beautiful, moderately difficult, and historic hike awaits across the lake from Guntersville at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Cave Mountain Small Wild Area.
This 1.4-mile loop hike takes about two hours to hike and takes you to some beautiful views of the lake, the town of Guntersville, a turtle-filled wetland, weeping rock bluffs, and the cave that the area is named for.
The cave was once populated with bats which left tons of guano behind that was later mined during the Civil War. The bat droppings contain potassium nitrate which is a key ingredient of gunpowder — saltpeter.
The cave is closed to the public because there is a precipitous drop inside, but it’s still an impressive sight to see.
There is no fee to experience the wild area and it’s open from sunrise to sunset.
Sunset Walking Trail
Meandering 3.66 miles (one-way), the paved multi-use (walkers, cyclists) Sunset Walking Trail follows the shoreline of the lake that borders the town offering incredible views of the lake and, as its name implies, gorgeous sunsets over the lake.
While the trail begins to the north on Sunset Drive South, there are several parking areas along the route so you can cut the length of the walk down. Not only will you have splendid views of the lake but also well-preserved historic homes.
The trail has two water fountains and restrooms along the route.
To help you with planning your trip to Guntersville, visit the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce website. There you will find all you need to know about upcoming events, attractions, and dining. To make your vacation planning easier, the Chamber has created a Food and Fun Guide that you can download.
Accommodations run the gambit from camping (both tent and RV) at Lake Guntersville State Park to beautiful creekside cabins and bed and breakfasts and a wide selection of chain hotels.