Waterfalls have inherent natural magic. What’s not to love about the serene waters, stunning scenery, and soothing sounds? As a nature lover, visiting waterfalls is easily one of the best ways to relax your nerves.
Watching water cascade from a rock face into a pool or river below is captivating. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and succumb to the allure of the majestic force of nature. The motion and mistiness provide a getaway from the stresses of daily life and have a therapeutic effect.
Sure, you can search the internet for the most beautiful waterfall pictures and ASMR videos. However, nothing beats seeing the mesmerizing beauty in person. So, grab your camera gear and favorite snacks and head out for an adventure.
You know what else? You’re not too far from one of these magnificent falls. This is even more true if you’re in Alabama. The Yellowhammer state is lucky to have a wide variety of beautiful waterfalls. Some are tall and prominent, while others are short and hardly noticeable.
The Southeastern state has a wilderness dubbed “The Land of 1,000 Waterfalls.” A popular feature of the William B. Bankhead National Forest is its abundance of waterfalls, among its many stunning natural features. As a result, the Sipsey Wilderness region of the forest is commonly referred to as the Land of 1,000 Waterfalls. So, you can be sure there’s no shortage of wow-worthy hiking trails and waterfalls in the state.
The Tallest Waterfall in Alabama
Alabama’s tallest waterfall is Grace’s High Falls, nestled within the Little River Canyon National Preserve. The waterfall offers a unique vista as it plunges 133 feet into the canyon below. The 15,000-acre canyon earned the moniker “Grand Canyon of the East” for a good reason. It’s one of the largest and most beautiful canyon systems in the eastern U.S., with some of the steepest valleys on this side of the Mississippi.
However, Grace’s High is a seasonal waterfall that doesn’t typically flow in the summertime because of low rainfall. Visit throughout the winter, the first few weeks of spring, or right after a heavy downpour for your best chance of seeing a waterfall in motion. The chances of seeing the falls with water during the summer months are slim.
When rain is heavy, you can see a sizable number of smaller waterfalls and creeks while touring Grace’s High. Despite being seasonal, it’s located within one of the gorgeous waterfall trails of the Fort Payne area. Outdoor enthusiasts can experience the splendor of the Appalachian foothills to the fullest at Fort Payne.
You can easily extend your visit to the tallest waterfall in Alabama by exploring hikes and other waterfalls in the Little River Canyon. The proximity to Little River Falls and DeSoto Falls is an added advantage of visiting Grace’s High Falls.
DeSoto Falls is about 107 feet tall and located in Mentone, Alabama’s northeastern Desoto State. The 45-foot cascade called Little River Falls is one of the 3 named waterfalls of the Little River Canyon National Preserve. The waterfall is open to the public without charge. The overlook is located on a cliffside of a narrow canyon.
Where Is Grace’s High Falls Located on a Map?
Grace’s High Falls is within northeastern Alabama’s Little River Canyon National Preserve, which is located on top of Lookout Mountain in DeKalb County.
The closest city is Fort Payne, around a 10-minute drive and a little over 7 miles away. The falls are more than 70 miles from Huntsville, Alabama.
Wildlife Around Grace’s High Falls
Alabama typically holds one of the top spots in the country for the richness of its overall biodiversity. So, the range of wildlife in the Little River Canyon National Preserve is hardly surprising. The tallest waterfall in Alabama, positioned as one of the canyon’s trio waterfalls, benefits from the wildlife diversity.
According to the National Park Service, the Little River Canyon has a diverse population of wildlife species. Mammals are represented by 35 species, 28 amphibians, 40 fish, 28 reptiles, and 147 bird species. Please note that the number of species found in the park can change over time, much like how the number and distribution of animals fluctuate as the year passes.
With over 30 mammal species in the National Preserve, you’re most likely to spot a few more common ones, such as white-tailed deer or eastern gray squirrels. Black bear and bobcat sightings are possible if you’re lucky.
Nocturnal mammals show up at sunset. They include skunks, raccoons, gray and red foxes, armadillos, and the 6 different bat species available at the Little River Canyon. In addition, the underground habitats hold the promise of smaller mammals such as rats, shrews, mice, and moles.
Birds keep the ecosystem of the National Preserve in good shape. Look across the canyon’s woodlands, rocks, and water bodies for more than 140 bird species. Songbirds, Pileated Woodpeckers, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Red-tailed Hawks, and Turkey Vultures? These and many others contribute to the ecology of the Little River Canyon.
The Northeast Loop of the North Alabama Birding Trail features 19 designated locations, including Little River Canyon National Preserve. On the south and north ends of the Little River Canyon Rim Parkway (AL Highway 176), keep an eye out for the North Alabama Birding Trail signs at Eberhart Point and the driveway to the Jacksonville State University Little River Canyon Center, respectively.
Hawk’s Glide and Crow Point, two observation spots along the canyon rim, relate to birds. Crow Point is 0.39 miles away from Grace’s High Falls, the tallest waterfall in Alabama.
Reptiles and Amphibians
28 species of reptiles, including 18 snakes (three of which are poisonous), 7 lizards, and 3 turtles, can be found in Little River Canyon. Some include the Midland water snake, Eastern fence lizard, Broadhead skink, Six-lined racerunner, and common snapping turtle.
The park contains 13 salamander species, including the Green Salamander, a state-protected species. There are also 15 species of toads and frogs to be found there. Northern cricket frog, Eastern narrow-mouth toad, Spotted dusky salamander, Spring peeper, and Cope’s gray treefrog are some examples.
The Preserve contains some of Alabama’s purest rivers and hosts about 40 fish species. You can find species such as Alabama hog sucker, blue shiner, largemouth bass, channel catfish, black-banded darter, speckled madtom, and southern studfish.
Visiting the Little River Canyon National Preserve
Suppose you’re coming from Atlanta, Birmingham, Chattanooga, or Huntsville. In that case, Little River Canyon is a great place to take a road trip, weekend break, or staycation. It’s one of the best local attractions to relish if you’re staying in a cabin on Lookout Mountain, Gadsden, or anywhere else in northeast Alabama or northwest Georgia.
The Alabama legislature named the canyon a short distance from Fort Payne, a State Wild and Scenic River, in 1969. Until it was made a national park in 1992, the canyon was managed by the nearby DeSoto State Park.
The Little River flows almost entirely atop Northeast Alabama’s Lookout Mountain. The river separates DeKalb and Cherokee counties in Alabama. You can find creeks such as Bear Creek, Wolf Creek, Johnnies Creek, Yellow Creek, and Wolf Creek.
Although Canyon Mouth Park offers a soccer field, picnic spots, and convenient river access, it charges a day usage cost. A fee is only applicable in this particular area of the Preserve. Every other place is open and free to use.
The non-transferable $15 Canyon Mouth Park Daily Pass permits all passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle.
Place only cash (in denominations no bigger than $20) into the fee machine to enter. Then, with the face of the receipt clearly visible, put the pass on your car’s dashboard and visit the tallest waterfall in Alabama.
More Attractions Around the Little River Canyon National Preserve
The beautiful Grace’s High Falls is worth a visit, especially when there’s no dry spell. However, it would be a great disservice to your adventurous side if you missed the chance to explore other areas along the Rim Parkway. The added visits may only last an hour or two, depending on your interest. We advise that you create a priority list of places and map out a route before leaving your house. This helps you get the most out of your trip.
Crow Point Overlook
Crow Point is about 6.5 miles from Highway 35 at the Canyon Center. Once you’ve parked near the sign and descended the hill to the overlook, you can see where the Bear Creek and Little River converge by gazing down the 300-foot cliffs. Bear Creek runs between Crow Point and Eberhart Point.
The two overlooks beneath the Eberhart Point sign offer stunning river views. It’s quite easy to do the tour in reverse if you come here from the south rather than on Highway 35. Unfortunately, after this point, there are no more views to explore along the rim parkway, which continues at County Rd. 148 just south of Eberhart Point.
This is where you realize that the scenery improves steadily as the canyon deepens at the overlooks along the first 12 miles of the Rim Parkway. There are gravel parking areas and beautiful, big signs at each sight. Each viewpoint has a rock and pole fence to deter tourists from approaching the edge too closely. Please refrain from scaling them.
Park rangers strictly enforce the speed restriction because the parkway has roller coaster-like hills and curves.
The Blue Hole is a fantastic swimming spot accessible throughout the summer. It’s a quarter-mile east of Little River Falls on Alabama Highway 35. With its quiet, easy-flowing waters and proximity to the parking lot, this location is excellent for families with kids or novice swimmers in the summer.
There is little room to park; therefore, it’s not crowded here. Picnic tables and permanently installed charcoal grills will be added to the upgrades in the future. However, for now, you cannot use a personal charcoal grill.
Typically, the parking facility quickly fills up on late spring and summer weekends. Then, park workers will seal it off until more spaces are available. Have a backup plan should the parking lot be filled, making this area unavailable.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Zack Frank/Shutterstock.com
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