22 Exciting Day Trips from Huntsville, AL

Looking for ideas for day trips from Huntsville, AL? Read on for all my ideas!

Huntsville, Alabama is really well-situated in the south! It’s close to SO many different spots in Alabama and nearby states, with interesting cities, hiking spots, waterfalls, and other interesting attractions just a few hours away.

We’ve taken a ton of great day trips from Huntsville, AL, and there’s always more on the horizon! Here are 22 excellent Huntsville day trips to add to your bucket list.

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City Day Trips From Huntsville

The first section is all about the interesting cities within 2-3 hours of Huntsville. These cities all have a rich history and so many cool things to see and do!

1. Nashville

Nashville is just a fun, thriving city. As the heart of country music, you’ll hear twangy tunes out of restaurants and bars all over the city.

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, stop in for some lifechanging donuts at the Five Daughters Bakery, cross the pedestrian bridge and admire the views over the river, explore the murals around town, visit the Parthenon replica at Centennial Park, and explore the restaurants and bars on Broadway in the evening.

While there’s enough to do in Nashville to keep you busy for several days, it also makes a great day trip from Huntsville, and one that is close enough you can come back over and over!

And yes, you will see many people wearing cowboy boots and hats here!

2. Selma

Selma is a very small town about three hours straight south of Huntsville. There’s not a whole lot to see and do in Selma, but the town is still a must visit due to its prominent civil rights sites. The March to Montgomery, which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr participated in, started from Selma and was designed to protest for voting rights.

This was a series of 3 marches, and on one of them, state officials stopped and beat up the marching protesters. This event happened right at the Edmund Pettus bridge and was known as Bloody Sunday, and images from the event that were broadcasted in newspapers.

Visit the Edmund Pettus bridge, then stop in at the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute to learn about the history of movement to gain voting rights in the south. You can also visit the Brown AME church, where the march to Montgomery was organized.

After you’ve visited Selma, you can drive the 54 mile National Historic Trail to Montgomery, the route that protesters marched to petition voting rights at the state capitol.

3. Montgomery

As the capital of Alabama, there are many different things to see in Montgomery! Take a tour of the capitol building, visit Riverwalk Park, or check out the Alley Entertainment District for good nightlife. There are also a whole host of civil rights sites in Montgomery, which I highly recommend you visit!

The Civil Rights Memorial Center is a small building, but packs a punch as it honors those who died in the struggle for Civil Rights in the 1950’s and 60’s.

The Rosa Parks Museum has some really out of the box and engaging presentations, like this dramatization of the incident with Rosa Parks on the bus, that is portrayed with a real bus inside the museum, and videoscreens on the windows “showing” what happened on that day. The rest of the museum goes into detail about the Montgomery bus boycott and everything that went into planning and executing this successful, extremely long boycott.

Other can’t-miss sites include the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, both created by the Equal Justice Initiative (if you’ve read the book or seen the movie Just Mercy, you may remember that the EJI was established by Bryan Stevenson). The museum tracks the history of racial injustice through slavery, Jim Crow, until today, and is a physical manifestation of a lot of Bryan Stevenson’s work and research.

While there are many excellent things to do in Montgomery, I think the civil rights sites are really the can’t miss destinations on a day trip from Huntsville.

4. Chattanooga

Chattanooga is really an underrated gem in the South. It certainly doesn’t get as much attention as it’s neighbors, Nashville and Atlanta, but it’s one of our favorite places to take a day trip from Huntsville!

If you’re familiar with the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” you will be aware that Chattanooga has a rich history in locomotives, with a very important stop on the Southern railway being in the city.

Visit the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum to go on a ride in a historic train, or visit the Historic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. What used to be the Terminal Train Station has now been converted into a beautiful hotel, but daytime visitors can just go in and take a look around.

Cross the river on the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, or walk along the river on the Riverwalk Path.

One of our top favorite things to do during a Chattanooga day trip is visit Lookout Mountain. There are several things to do on this mountain, including Ruby Falls, Rock City, and Point Park. The views over the city and river are fantastic from here, and make for a great sunset-watching location.

You can read more about all sorts of things to do with a day in Chattanooga here!

5. Helen

Helen, Georgia is a super adorable town that is designed to look like a German alpine village. Buildings are all designed like traditional German houses, there are several German restaurants in town, and you can find some different German-themed souvenirs.

Now, this is really pushing what I would consider a day trip, as Helen is about 4 hours from Huntsville. However, because the village is small, it’s definitely doable to drive to Helen, explore the town, do some shopping, and get some food, see a few sites nearby, and then drive home in one day. It’s a long day, but since you really only need a few hours in downtown Helen, it’s definitely doable.

In September and October, you can come for Oktoberfest and in December the town is decked out in Christmas decorations and features events like the Christmas tree lighting, Christmas markets, and a Christmas parade.

Adventure Day Trips from Huntsville

The next two day trips from Huntsville are exciting and for people who love a bit of adventure!

6. Wild Caving at Tumbling Rock Cave

Near Scottsboro, Alabama is the Tumbling Rock cave. This horizontal cave is a good beginner cave, as the routes are fairy straightforward and you can go through without any special caving equipment.

While it’s a beginner-type cave, it’s also a great adventure activity, as there are no lights, no tours, no marked paths – you’re just going and exploring a deep cave. There are some narrow passageways to squeeze through, a shallow stream running through the cave, and a lot of places you’ll have to climb up big boulders or walk next to steep drop-offs.

You will get extremely muddy and wet in this cave, as there is no way to avoid walking in the water at some points. Additionally, you absolutely must wear a helmet. There are lots of spots where the ceiling gets a little low – our group all bonked our heads multiple times. Wear the helmet. Also, plan to bring a flashlight (but a headlamp is much better).

I did this daytrip with a group of teenagers, but we did see some families in there with young children as well. This hiked does require a permit – this is the official website, but I found a lot of useful information about the cave here.

7. White Water Rafting on the Ocoee

Ocoee, Tennessee is just east of Chattanooga, is part of the Cherokee National Forest, and is about 2.5 hours from Huntsville, AL. This town sits right on the Ocoee River, which has anywhere from class I to class IV rapids available for the public to enjoy!

Most of the rapids on the river are class III. (If you’re unfamiliar with the rapid class system, it goes from I to VI, with class VI being extremely dangerous and class I rapids being barely a bump. Most white water rafting tours go through class III/IV rapids.

The Ocoee is a world class white water river, and was actually used in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics!

No experience is necessary for white water rafting, as an experienced navigator is in the boat with you, helping handle the raft and guide you safely through the rapids. A rafting experience starts at the tour operator’s base camp, where they give you safety instructions, get you outfitted with the right gear, and then load you up in buses to drive you to the starting point.

This is a great adventurous day trip from Huntsville, whether you go with adults or the family (children need to be 12 years old to whitewater raft here).

👉My Recommendation: There are two great options for whitewater rafting on the Ocoee that I’d recommend. The first is a half day (3 hour) whitewater rafting adventure, where you experience the thrills of 5 miles of the Ocoee.

The second is a full day (6 hour) whitewater rafting experience, where you start farther up the river, break halfway through for lunch, and then continue on to the ending point.

Hikes and Lakes and Swimming

This section is full of great hikes and lakes/swimming locations near Huntsville, AL. We love hiking and finding fun hiking trails nearby, so trails feature prominently in this section!

8. Dismals Canyon

Dismals Canyon is a fun and unique hiking experience about 1.5 hours southwest of Huntsville, in Campbell, Alabama.

The trail quickly descends into a gorge, where you then walk along a stream, in boulder-filled areas, and through the forest. It’s an easy, 2 mile trail that is *mostly* flat, but offers some really unique and cool scenery, as well as plenty of little jut-offs to explore.

Additionally, in the spring and fall, you can do a night tour in Dismals Canyon, where you can see the Dismalite glow worms light up the surroundings like constellations.

Dismals Canyon does have an entrance fee: Adults are $12, Kids are $8.75, and Seniors are $11. The night tours are a separate fee.

This is one of our favorite unique hiking areas in Alabama – you can read more about a visit to Dismals Canyon is like here.

9. Lake Guntersville State Park

Guntersville State Park sits right on Lake Guntersville and offers a variety of fun activities. Fishing is very popular here, you can boat on the lake, or swim at the beaches. If you prefer to look at the water instead of being on or in it, you can hit one of the many hiking trails around Lake Guntersville. This is a favorite spot during the warmer months!

10. Cathedral Caverns State Park

Less than an hour east of Huntsville is Cathedral Caverns, a cave system that offers guided tours regularly throughout the day. This is a great daytrip from Huntsville for anyone that loves seeing interesting cave structures in a much more controlled environment, and it is perfect for little kids and adults alike.

Noteworthy features about this cave are its massive entrance – one of the largest cave entrances in the world – and of course its soaring room that resembles a cathedral.

After your visit the cave, kids may also enjoy gem mining as well just outside the cave. Get more information here!

Monte Sano State Park

Monte Sano State Park is located just outside of Huntsville, making for a very easy day trip. There are a large variety of hiking trails and activities on Monte Sano, but these are our two favorite trails:

11. Wildflower Trail

Wildflower Trail is so fun because the trail follows along a stream, and you can actually hike in the stream! The bottom is generally flat and fairly smooth rock, and water levels are mostly ankle to mid-shin deep. There are a few deeper areas where the water pools and you can swim and play more. Anytime you don’t want to walk in the water, you can just pop back onto the trail.

This is a great hike to do in the hot Alabama summer, since the stream and trail have good shade coverage and the water is so refreshing. Bonus – the trailhead for this hike is actually outside of where you need to pay to enter Monte Sano.

12. Stone Cuts Trail

I love hikes with good rocks in them, and the Stone Cuts Trail in Monte Sano has some pretty fun rocky spots. This trail is a little bit tricky to get to, as it doesn’t start from any of the parking lots.

The easiest way to get to it is to park at the Bike Trail parking lot and then head down the Sinks Trail, to where it has junction with the Goat Trail, Kieth Trail, and Stone Cuts Trail. Follow Stone Cuts Trail through the main rock feature and head back the way you came in, or explore the many side trails and loops.

13. Fall Creek Falls

About 2.5 hours northeast of Huntsville is Fall Creeks Falls, Tennessee. This is an excellent day trip from Huntsville, as this waterfall plunges 256 feet into the gorge and is truly one of the best in Tennessee. Fall Creek Falls is actually the name of both the waterfall and the state park where it is located, and there are several other waterfall hikes (eg. Piney Falls and Cane Creek Falls )in this state park.

The hike starts at the top of the rim, where you get a great view of curved rim of the waterfall from the top. The trail is about 1.3 miles round trip, as you descend 300 feet into the gorge. Here, you can walk on boulders and rocks around and behind the falls, and wade in the pool of water (don’t get close to the falls though!).

I would call this a short but moderate hike, but our kids did fine on it!

14. Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve

Located right in the heart of Madison, Rainbow Mountain is an easy partial day trip from Huntsville. This trail is on a beautiful hill and offers some beautiful views, cool rocks, and a little babbling creek. In the springtime, wildflowers line the trail!

There is one main loop through Rainbow Mountain, but there are several different alternate trails to make the hike longer or shorter. If you’re at the parking lot, heading right (or going counterclockwise) will bring you to the cool rock sections first, including the impressive “Balanced Rock.”

The Rainbow Loop Trail is 1.5 miles, but if you add on the Ja Moo Ko Loop, you’ll get another 0.8 miles. The trails are fairly rocky and there is some good elevation change as you get into the terrain. Kids will enjoy the playground right by the parking lot.

15. Beaver Dam Swamp Boardwalk

Also known as Beaver Dam Nature Trail (in Google Maps), this short 1 mile round trip walk starts as a trail through the forest, with about 1/3 of the hike on a boardwalk through the swamp.

The boardwalk section is very fun, as you’re walking through the swamp, with trees submerged in the water. Signs say you could see alligators here, although we never have (sadly! I would love to see an alligator).

This hike is on the south side of 565, just off of Country Line Road in Madison, making it an easy partial day trip from Huntsville.

16. Elliott Branch Beach on Little Bear Creek

This little swimming area is about 1 hour southwest of Huntsville and features a nice, sandy beach. The fun thing about this area is that it’s actually on a river, but the beach is on a little cove, so the water is pretty still and you have just the slightest current. Although the water does get deep as you walk out, it’s a gradual slope and there is a large area that is shallow enough for children to play in.

This beach is actually adjacent to a campground, but visitors can buy a daypass – you don’t need to be a camper to park or visit the beach.

The exact location of where you’re going is 325 Elliott Branch Road, Hodges Alabama.

This is a really relaxing, beautiful, and hidden gem spot that’s great in the hot Alabama summers.

17. Greenview Point Perimeter Trail

This hike is in Sewanee, Tennessee, just over an hour from Huntsville, and is a great place if you want some longer hiking trails.

University of the South Domain Trail Network is a massive land trust filled with over 20 miles of hiking trails. The main trail, the Perimeter Trail, covers the full 20 miles, though there are a lot of access points offshoots, and smaller sections that you can hike.

You can access the main trailhead on Highway 41A; it’s called the Perimeter Trail Trailhead. We were looking for a spot to do a longer hike, so we did a 6 mile loop that took us to Piney Point, and up to Green’s View, and then taking Beckwith’s Point Trail back to our car at the trailhead. This was a beautiful hike, with several lookout spots over the ridges and valley, trails in the forest, and passing by a waterfall.

There’s a little bit of elevation change, with about 700 feet of elevation gain through the 6 miles we did. However, there were also a lot of sections that felt pretty flat.

The picture above is from Green’s View. There also is a parking lot here if you want to come directly to the viewpoint, or start the trails from here.

Seasonal Experiences

The last day trips from Huntsville in this post are all seasonal – thankfully, there are some really great things to do throughout the year!

18. Pick Tulips at Hubert Family Farms

Hubert Family Farms runs a small but really cute tulip farm north of Huntsville. During tulip season at the end of March to the beginning of April, you can visit the tulip fields to take pictures and pick the flowers.

There’s a small per person entrance fee, and then the tulips cost $2.50 a stem. Tulip season is incredibly fleeting – it barely lasts 3 weeks, so keep a close eye on their website or follow them on Instagram for updates!

19. Strawberry Picking at Brown Farms

Our kids love to go pick your own strawberries during strawberry season, and the best place to do that near Huntsville is at Browns Farm. They give you a gallon sized bucket to fill, which costs $16, and then you can peruse the fields at your leisure, looking for the juicy ripe berries to pick.

20. Haynes Sunflowers Farm

Starting around the mid to end of September and lasting for a few weeks, the sunflowers are in bloom in Alabama! We love coming down to Cullman, Alabama, to visit the sunflowers at Haynes Farm.

This sunflower field is actually just an open field on the side of the road. The owners of Haynes Farm plant the field for the enjoyment and general use of the public, so the field is free to visitors to come and enjoy and take pictures.

The address doesn’t pull up easily on Google Maps, but the field is on the corner of Alabama 69 and Country Road 1654 in Cullman. The official market for Haynes Farm is at 150 Country Road 1654 – you’ll pass the fields before you reach their official farm spot.

You can follow updates on the status of the sunflowers on their Facebook page here.

If you want to pick sunflowers, I would go to Hubert Family Farms (the same as the tulip fields above) – you really shouldn’t pick the sunflowers at Haynes. However, Hubert Farms has a cost and Haynes is free, so if you just want to frolick in the fields and take pictures, this is your spot!

21. Tate Farms Pumpkin Patch

Tate Farms is our absolute favorite pumpkin patch to visit in the fall! There are a ton of fun, farm activities to do during your visit, like go in a corn maze, play in the corn cribs, play on the barnyard playground structure, pet some barn animals, race the pedal karts, go down some tall slides, and of course, take a tractor ride out to the field to choose a pumpkin.

22. Apple Picking at Scott’s Orchard

Apple picking at Scott’s Orchard is a great fall day trip from Huntsville. You pay a small entrance fee and then for a basket, which you fill with as many apples as you like. There are many, many rows of apple trees, with 5-8 different varieties available at any given time.

There are a few spots for the kids to play at Scott’s Orchard, including a bounce pad and a small fenced in area with oversized tricycles. When you’re done, definitely stop in at the market for an apple slushy – they are delicious!

Day Trips from Huntsville: Final Thoughts

Hopefully you got some good ideas for Huntsville day trips in this post! Adventuring in and around our hometown has been a really fun part of living in Alabama, and whether you live here or are visiting, there’s sure to be something for you on this list!

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