Today we're going to branch out a bit from the one-tank trips I usually blog about and instead head to northwest Alabama to Dismals Canyon.
From the Dismals Canyon website:
"Intentionally private, Dismals Canyon - in keeping with its pristine surroundings - offers a quiet and unspoiled oasis in Alabama's last secret hiding place. A secluded wilderness filled with natural phenomena tucked deep within the foothills of hte Appalachian Mountains."
"Dismals Canyon is an 85 acre, privately owned and operated, natural conservatory" outside of Phil Campbell, Alabama. It was designated a "National Natural Landmark" in 1975 by the National Natural Landmarks Program. Dismals Canyon gained this designation due to the results of its geological history. "Once a primeval swamp, this area was lifted upward during the geological events of the late Paleozoic era. The draining waters helped carve the canyon and gorge system punctuated throughout by dozens of sandstone-sheltered grottoes, two waterfalls, six natural land bridges, and giant mossy boulders left strewn about by ancient earthquakes."
After paying our entrance fee, our group proceeded through the Country Store, and down several stories of steps, past the swimming hole, to the canyon floor. The trail markers aren’t always very noticeable, so be sure to grab a trail map before you make your descent to the canyon floor if you want to be able to keep up with where you are. You don’t have to worry about getting lost on this trail as it just makes a 1.5 mile loop following “Dismals Branch,” a winding stream that traverses the canyon floor, but it's nice to have a point of reference to where you are.
*Note* When you arrive and park, make sure your group makes use of the restrooms next to the parking lot as these are the only facilities on-site. (The restrooms also have showers where you can change and get cleaned up if you choose to do so.)
Our group consisted of 4 adults and 5 children and ranged in age from 70 down to 4 years old. We were all able to squeeze through every crevasse, climb every boulder, and ford every stream. The entire walk took us about 2.5 hours as we took every available side trail and stopped to let the kids splash in Dismals Branch several times. As mom to the 4-year-old, there were definitely a few areas that I was VERY nervous letting him cross or climb, but he made it with a little help from the rest of us.
Be sure to check out all of the side trails so you don’t miss the labyrinths of caverns and grottos formed by the HUGE boulders and bluffs. Exploring the side trails was the kid’s favorite parts of the adventure. They even talked all of the grownups into climbing to the top of Secret Falls to take their picture - this was definitely the steepest thing we did all day, but it’s not a part of the main trail, so attempt at your discretion.
A few things to note:
First, my pictures still don’t do this place justice! It was absolutely beautiful. My family will definitely return - but with more water next time.
Second, I didn’t take pictures of everything, because there were times when I needed both my hands just to traverse the terrain. In those instances, my camera got swung around behind me and I just concentrated on getting from point A to point B.
Third, we all finished the day with soaking wet shoes due to washed out stream crossings, and the majority of us had at least 1 scrape or bruise to tell the tale of our day. When we return, we’ll pack dry shoes for the drive home and bathing suits to change into so we can cool off in the swimming hole after our hike.
**All quoted information can be found on the Dismals Canyon website.**
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