There is a sense of adventure when it comes to camping — being out in nature, far from the rat race of the city. You are able to unplug from electronics and the only entertainment you have is sitting around a crackling campfire with friends and family under a brilliant starry sky.
Sounds great, but let’s face it: Traditional camping does have its drawbacks. The most obvious is the comfort you give up. But camping doesn’t have to be completely bare bones anymore. Today, more and more people are embracing glamping, a word derived from the combination of the words “glamorous” and “camping.” As the name implies, glamping is a more luxurious form of camping with all of the accommodations you need to “rough it” in style.
Alabama State Parks are upping their game when it comes to this type of camping by introducing the addition of new “glampsites” at five parks, with a sixth to open sometime late this year. These glampsites offer spacious safari-tent-type lodging with comfortable beds (either king, queen, or bunk beds) elevated off the ground on a wooden deck, fresh linens, electricity, and even air conditioning and heating.
Let me introduce you to this latest addition to Alabama’s state parks, where you can spend a relaxing night in comfort under the stars while you explore Alabama’s natural wonders.
Camping At Its Finest
Timberline Glamping has created this unique camping experience at five Alabama State Parks so far. You can reserve either a standard glampsite that sleeps four with a queen bed and a set of bunk beds, a deluxe with a king bed and two sets of bunk beds that can comfortably sleep six, or a double site with two queen beds.
Furnishings include floor rugs, lamps, diffusers, chairs, electrical outlets, a mini fridge, ceiling fans, clean and fresh linens, Keurig coffee makers, and heating and air-conditioning units. Outside the tent, kick back in the comfy camp chairs or hammocks, enjoy the company of friends and family around a fire pit or at the picnic table, and admire how each site is lit with a string of lights. A bathhouse and laundry is always located nearby.
To top it off, you can add extras to your experience including paddleboard, kayak, and bike rentals; games like Giant Jenga; and a “Little Glamper Bag” for the kids with more games, scavenger-hunting materials, binoculars, and more.
1. Wind Creek State Park
Wind Creek State Park is arguably the most popular park for campers in the state with beautiful lakeside campsites and plenty of outdoor recreation options.
The seven glampsites at Wind Creek are located on a finger of land that juts out into Lake Martin and offers a wonderful breeze in the hot summer months. In addition to deluxe and standard sites, Wind Creek also offers a double option.
An Angler’s Paradise
Located on the banks of beautiful Lake Martin, the park is called an “angler’s paradise” where crappie, bluegill, and striped bass are the main catches for fishermen.
Take A Leap From Acapulco Rock
For thrill-seekers, take a boat or kayak and visit Acapulco Rock Island (not to be confused with nearby Chimney Rock). Its famous rock cliff resembles Acapulco Rock in Mexico and it’s where, just like its sister in Mexico, you can test your nerves by jumping 60 feet into the beautiful waters of Lake Martin.
Summer Treats And Snacks
In the summer months, enjoy hand-dipped ice cream as well as sandwiches and pizza at Creem at the Creek.
2. Chewacla State Park
Chewacla is a rustic little (only 696 acres) state park nestled within the pine and hardwood forest just outside of the bustling college town of Auburn. Five glampsites (double and deluxe) are available. Don’t forget to add a “Glamper Bag” when you reserve your site, which comes with a s’mores kit.
Keep in mind that the park is located near Auburn University and it can be very crowded on weekends in the fall when the Auburn Tigers football team has a home game.
At Chewacla, you can explore over 11 miles of hiking trails that lead to a beautiful 20-foot segmented natural waterfall and a 30-foot cascade that tumbles down a stone spillway of the lake built by the C.C.C. in the 1930s.
The Region’s Best Mountain Bike Trails
For mountain bikers, you’ve come to the right place. There are over 14 miles of the best mountain biking trails in the South that serpentine through the scenery over some wicked obstacles.
3. Lake Guntersville State Park
Along the banks of the Tennessee River and Lake Guntersville, we find Lake Guntersville State Park, one of Alabama’s beautiful resort-style parks. Standard, double, and deluxe glampsites are available.
Hit The Links Or Sun On The Beach
Tee up on the park’s challenging 18-hole championship Eagle’s Nest Golf Course. Each hole offers beautiful mountaintop views of the lake. And after playing a round, cool off with a swim in the lake at the family-friendly Beach Complex.
For The Adventurer
For something more exciting, saddle up and go horseback riding over the rolling hillsides, hike or bike over 36 miles of trails that lead to spectacular views and historic sites, or soar through the treetops on one of two breath-stealing ziplines at Screaming Eagle Ziplines.
End your day with dinner in the park’s Pinecrest Dining Room, where delicious meals are served with a show (a stunning sunset overlooking the lake).
4. Cheaha State Park
High atop the state’s highest mountain — the 2,413-foot-tall Cheaha Mountain — we find Cheaha State Park, another Alabama resort state park. Cheaha has five glamping sites in the park’s lower campground near Cheaha Lake and three in the upper campground on the top of the mountain. Double and deluxe sites are available.
Cool Mountain Swimming
Atop the summit of Cheaha, an incredible swimming experience awaits you in the park’s swimming pool perched on a granite cliff with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Or, cool off in the cold mountain water of Cheaha Lake near the lower campground.
Explore Talladega National Forest
Why fight the traffic to hike the Smoky Mountains when you have the Talladega National Forest right here in Alabama? Talladega is an incredible 375,000-acre forest and wilderness that serves up all that makes the Southern Appalachians special. Cheaha makes the perfect base camp for your exploration of the forest and its many waterfalls, bluffs with incredible views, and wildlife.
It goes without saying that there are spectacular views from the summit of Cheaha. Check out a gorgeous sunrise or sunset from the towering granite bluffs at the end of the ADA-accessible Bald Rock Trail or from the short but challenging Pulpit Rock Trail.
5. Monte Sano State Park
It may be called “Rocket City” for its involvement in the development of NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket Skylab and the International Space Station, but there is more to Huntsville than reaching for the stars. The city abounds with lush green spaces that call on the adventurer in all of us to explore, including Monte Sano Mountain and the park that bears the mountain’s name.
Reach For The Stars
Right next door to Monte Sano State Park is the Wernher von Braun Planetarium operated by the Von Bran Astronomical Society. Every Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the planetarium opens its doors to visitors with a fascinating presentation about the heavens, followed by a chance to look through telescopes and view the night sky yourself. A fee is charged for the event.
Experience The North Alabama Japanese Garden
A beautiful garden started by Robert Black in 1988 is now the site of Japanese maple trees and gorgeous, colorful azaleas as well as an authentic Japanese tea house. The best time to visit is during either the Spring Festival on the first Sunday in May or the Autumn Celebration on the first Sunday of October.
Hike And Bike The Mountain
Monte Sano has 22 miles of scenic hiking and biking trails with varying degrees of difficulty. There is a trail for everyone here.