No matter what your interest is, Alabama has a trail for that. I’m not talking about hiking, biking, or walking trails. I’m talking about road trips that wind their way across the state and highlight the state’s diversity and history. There is a trail for every interest. Are you into art? There is a trail for that. Antiques? There is a trail for that.
The Alabama Department of Tourism has established 19 different trails that take visitors to incredible history, natural wonders, dining, and more. Let me introduce you to the fabulous trails of exploration in Alabama.
We’ll begin with a collection of stops that highlight Alabama’s incredible beauty and wildlife.
1. A Circle Of Colors Trail
The Circle of Colors Trail is a winding circuitous route that takes you across the northern half of the state from Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham to the Bankhead National Forest, Huntsville, and points in between to experience glorious fall colors in the Southern Appalachians. The website also features an interactive map that shows you when the colors will peak in all 67 counties.
2. Alabama Birding Trail
Even if you aren’t a diehard birder, you will love visiting one of the 280 stops along the Alabama Birding Trail that takes you to some breathtaking landscapes and of course, opportunities to spot over 430 species of birds — bald eagles, osprey, a variety of tanagers, well, you get the idea.
Alabama is dotted with gorgeous botanical gardens that brighten every season with brilliantly colored and fragrant blooms. And there is a trail for that.
3. Alabama Garden Trail
The Alabama Garden Trail takes you to six spectacular gardens from Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile where over 300 species of azaleas light up the 35-acre estate and rows of live oak bring a Southern charm to the grounds to the Huntsville Botanical Garden in the north where limestone columns from the old historic courthouse act as the focal point for the expansive grounds.
The trail also makes stops at the Birmingham, Mobile, and Dothan Botanical Gardens as well as Aldridge Gardens in Hoover near Birmingham.
Art And Antique Trails
Whether you are looking to purchase antiques, collectibles, or an inspiring work of art, travel the backroads of Alabama on these aptly named trails.
4. Alabama Mural Trail
Towns and cities big and small across Alabama have embraced mural art to grace the sides of buildings and bring a sense of community to the town.
The Alabama Mural Trail leads you to a diverse set of detailed mural art that brings to life moving moments in the town’s history like a depiction of the Freedom Rider’s bus from the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Anniston, historical figures like the almost photo-like mural of the Temptations lead singer Eddie Kendricks who was born in Union Springs, or the dazzling nightlife of Mobile brought to life in the Bar Light mural along the city’s Dauphin Street.
5. Alabama Antique Trail
The pickin’ is ripe along the Alabama Antique Trail where you can pick up deals on an eclectic array of antiques and collectibles. You just never know what you will find — glassware, pottery, historical documents and maps, early American furniture, mid-century classic toys, the list is endless.
Stop highlights include visits to the Antique Mall of Memories in Alexander City, rummaging through the aisles in the historic 1935 Bank of Dadeville at Old Bank Antiques, and Winter Valley Antiques in Cullman that spans two buildings, one of which was once a chicken coop.
My absolute favorite road trip takes me down one of Alabama’s many history trails. The trail leads you to spectacular ornate antebellum homes, sites from the Civil Rights Movement, Native American historical sites, and more, all with helpful and knowledgeable guides.
6. April Walking Tours
Many of the towns across the state hold annual historic walking tours annually in April where you will visit historic antebellum mansions such as the Oakleigh and Conde-Charlotte mansions in Mobile, centuries-old cemeteries including the Florence City Cemetery that was established in 1819, and to sites of the Civil Rights Movement such as the Rosa Parks bus stop and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery.
7. Civil War Trail
The Alabama Civil War Trail not only includes battlefields but also many other historic locations that bring the story of those tumultuous years to life.
Stops along the route include visits to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery where Jeff Davis was sworn in as the president of the Confederacy, the Winter Building (also in Montgomery) where the order to fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina was sent by telegraph thus beginning the war, and Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in McCalla where the enormous stone furnace that once made munitions for the Confederacy has been completely rebuilt.
And of course, there are the battlefields, including the one at Historic Blakeley State Park in Spanish Fort where the last major battle of the war was fought.
8. Native American Trail
The history of Native Americans in Alabama is bittersweet. The Native American Trail allows us to explore their bittersweet history in the state from its earliest residents 10,000 years ago at Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport and Mound Island in Mobile to the tragedies that led to the Creek Indian War at Fort Mims in Stockton and the eventual start of the Trail of Tears with the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
9. Covered Bridge Trail
Along the dusty backroads of Alabama you will be treated to a rare sight. The state once had many covered bridges that took horses and pedestrians across narrow gorges. Today, the number has dwindled, but these bridges are still exciting pieces of history to view.
Some have been moved to historic locations like the oldest bridge, the 1850 Coldwater Creek Covered Bridge in Calhoun County, while others remain in place where they have stood the test of time including the longest remaining in the state, the 324-foot Swann Bridge over the Black Warrior River in Blount County.
The Covered Bridge Trail takes you to these and several more bridges in the northern half of the state. Be sure to make plans to attend the annual Covered Bridge Festival in October where the three bridges of Blount County are celebrated – Swann, Easely, and Old Horton – with a good old-fashioned fall festival featuring plenty of music, arts and crafts, and food.
10. U.S. Civil Rights Trail
The U.S. Civil Rights Trail spans the country but is primarily centered in the Southeast where marchers and activists challenged segregation and social injustice in the 50s and 60s, often facing violence and death in the process, as they tried to make the country live up to its promises.
11. Alabama Civil Rights Museum Trail
The Alabama Civil Rights Trail is part of the larger, nationwide trail, leading you to a collection of historic sites from that time period including the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church from where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the incredibly moving National Memorial for Peace and Justice that honors the over 4,000 blacks who were murdered across the South by white terrorists. The memorial features giant steel columns hanging from the ceiling with the names of victims listed by county.
There is more to sports in Alabama than football. These sport trails show you what I mean.
12. Alabama’s Hunting And Fishing Trail For People With Disabilities
The state has made it possible for people with physical disabilities to hunt and fish by joining together state and private landowners to establish this string of outdoor locations called the Alabama Hunting and Fishing Trail, where they can enjoy their favorite sports just like everyone else.
Each location has special ramps and access points, and when it comes to hunting, days are restricted to only allow those with disabilities to participate. Hunting and fishing licenses are required. Visit the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for details.
13. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail
Alabama has become a world-class golfing destination thanks to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
The trail features 26 courses and 468 incredible holes across the state with each course designed by the famous course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. to fit that particular region’s stunning landscape.
14. Food And Wine Trail
From exquisite fine dining to the heartwarming comfort of good Southern home cooking,
Alabama has it all, and the Food and Wine Trail is the perfect start to your culinary journey across the state.
For barbecue, try the rich and tangy offerings at Big D’s Butts ‘n Stuff in Monroeville or Archibald’s in Northport. For something a little more refined, there is the casual but classic dining experience of Classic on Noble in Anniston.
If you have a hankering for something sweet, the trail leads you to the fabulous Stacey’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain in Foley where you can belly up to a real old-fashioned soda fountain complete with malts, ice cream sodas, and the classic New York Egg Cream (no, it doesn’t have eggs — but trust me, they are the best).