|

11 Best Day Trips from Huntsville, Alabama for Families

Hiking trail in Dismals Canyon with stone walls and trees

This post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Looking for a fun family day trip from Huntsville, Alabama? While Huntsville has so many fun things to do on it’s own, it also sits in the center of so many great Southeast destinations. It’s within an hour-and-a-half driving distance of both Nashville and Birmingham, plus there are so many great outdoor adventures in this area!

So here are the best day trips you can take from Huntsville. We’re going to keep our day trips within two hours, because if you’re going to take a day trip somewhere, you don’t want to spend all day in the car. (Which is why you won’t see destinations like Atlanta or Memphis on this list.)

Best Outdoor Adventure Day Trips from Huntsville, Alabama

Cathedral Caverns State Park

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 30 miles (about 40 minutes)

Things to do at Cathedral Caverns:

  • Take a Cave Tour
  • Go Hiking
  • Have a Picnic
Intricate cave formations of stalagmites and stalactites
Cathedral Room at Cathedral Caverns

Ready to explore an incredible cave? Cathedral Caverns State Park is one my favorite Huntsville day trips because it’s so unique but also so easy for the whole family to visit.

Cathedral Caverns gets its namesake from the large “cathedral room” at the back of the caverns. When you see it, you’ll understand why — it’s FULL of intricate cave formations.

You must enter the cave with a guide, and the tour takes about 90 minutes. The trail is paved and fairly easy, so it’s great for kids. And beyond the cave, you can bring a picnic to enjoy or take a hike on their 5.5 miles of trails.

Scottsboro and Lake Guntersville, Alabama

Driving Distance from Huntsville:

  • To Scottsboro: 41 miles (about 45 minutes)
  • To Lake Guntersville State Park: 44 miles (about 55 minutes)

Things to do in Scottsboro and Guntersville:

  • Go shopping at Unclaimed Baggage
  • Visit Lake Guntersville State Park
  • Dine at City Harbor

Another great Northeast Alabama spot is Lake Guntersville. It’s such a beautiful place!

There are two main small towns that sit on Lake Guntersville: Scottsboro and Guntersville. They are about a 40 minute drive from each other, so you can pick one or the other to visit on a day trip, or pair them together for a longer day.

In Scottsboro, one of the most famous things to do is go shopping at Unclaimed Baggage. It’s literally where airlines send unclaimed baggage, and it’s a giant store where you can find everything from books to household items to jewelry. I’ve even seen a wedding dress there! (And I’d really like to know the story behind that one…)

In Guntersville you can visit Lake Guntersville State Park. During the winter they are known for their Eagle Awareness Weekends, where you can see bald eagles. But it’s a beautiful place at all times of the year. Then head over to dinner at Guntersville’s new City Harbor, a waterside spot full of dining options.

Fun fact: When I was in college I worked at a summer camp on Lake Guntersville, and it’s actually where I met my husband!

Noccalula Falls State Park

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 70 miles (about 1 hour 40 minutes)

Things to do at Noccalula Falls:

  • See Noccalula Falls
  • Ride the train
  • Go Hiking
  • Visit the Petting Zoo
  • Play Mini Golf
Ledge with waterfall going over the top and a statue of a Native American woman next to it looking like she will jump off.
View from the top of Noccalula Falls

Noccalula Falls State Park in Gadsden, Alabama is home to what else but Noccalula Falls, a large 90-foot waterfall. And while the waterfall is definitely worth seeing, there’s also so much more to do at this state park!

You can ride the train, visit the petting zoo, go hiking, explore the Pioneer Village and more.

I love this as a day trip for younger kids. It’s light outdoor adventure, so you have some hiking opportunities, but it also has those small entertainment opportunities that will make kids’ eyes light up (like the train or petting zoo).

Dismals Canyon

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 83 miles (about 1 hour 30 minutes)

Things to do in Dismals Canyon:

  • Hike the 1.5 mile loop trail
  • Go on a Dismalites Night Tour
Hiking trail with steps going up between two stone canyon walls covered in moss
Hiking Trail in Dismals Canyon

Dismals Canyon is one of the most one-of-a-kind things you can do in Alabama. Wait, let me walk that back. It’s one of the most one-of-a-kind things you can do IN THE WORLD. Because outside of the Australia and New Zealand, Dismals Canyon is one of the only places in the world to see glow worms.

To see the glow worms you’ll want to visit in the spring or fall, and book a tour in the evening. You’ll have to call to make reservations ahead of time, and you may have to call a few times before you get through.

But glow worms aren’t the only thing to do here. It’s also just an absolutely gorgeous place to hike. There’s a 1.5 mile loop trail on the canyon floor that will take you through rock formations (be sure not to touch them!), along a stream, and by some waterfalls. It’s so beautiful and one of my favorite places to hike in North Alabama!

Little River Canyon National Preserve

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 76 miles (about 1 hour 30 minutes)

Things To Do in Little River Canyon:

  • See Little River Falls
  • Sightseeing on Canyon Rim Drive
  • Go Hiking
  • Swim in the Blue Hole
Wide waterfall, about 50 yards across

Little River Canyon, formed by the Little River, is a great place to explore the beauty of North Alabama. Plus it’s part of the National Parks system, for all you stamp collectors out there.

The best things to do at Little River Canyon are to see Little River Falls, which is an absolutely roaring waterfall with an easy walk to the viewpoint, and to drive along Canyon Rim Drive and see the canyon overlooks.

There are lots of places where you can stop for short hikes and beautiful views. My ideal day? Bring a picnic lunch and spend the late morning and early afternoon driving along the scenic drive and making stops along the way.

In the summer you can also take a dip in Blue Hole (get there early on the weekends!).

Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 88 miles (about 1 hour 40 minutes)

Things to do in Cloudland Canyon:

  • Go hiking
  • Play disc golf
  • Go geocaching

While I think taking a weekend trip to Cloudland Canyon is the way to go, it’s also totally doable as a day trip from Huntsville!

Cloudland Canyon is a beautiful North Georgia State Park with lots of hiking and other state park activities like fishing, disc golf, and geocaching.

I really love this place, especially the incredible canyon views. There are over 64 miles of trails ranging from easy to strenuous. You can choose to hike along the perimeter of the canyon for views, or hike down into the canyon to see waterfalls.

Every part of this park is just gorgeous and its perfect if you really want to get away and soak up the outdoors.

Best City Day Trips from Huntsville, Alabama

Chattanooga, TN

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 102 miles (about 1 hour, 45 minutes)

Things to do in Chattanooga:

  • Visit the Tennessee Aquarium
  • See Rock City
  • Visit Ruby Falls
View of stone outcropping with waterfall coming down the side at Rock City
Rock City

Chattanooga is definitely one of my favorite Southern cities (apart from that traffic jam that seems to always be present on 24…if you know you know.)

It’s a mid-sized city with tons of outdoor activities, great dining, museums, and more. To me, it has vibes similar to Asheville, North Carolina: a cultured city tucked in the mountains.

It’s of course famous for the Tennessee Aquarium, but my real favorite thing to do in Chattanooga is Rock City. Other fun things? Riding the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway and wading through The Passage next to the aquarium.

And while it makes a great Huntsville day trip, Chattanooga is also perfect for a weekend getaway!

Franklin, TN

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 95 miles (about 1 hour 45 minutes)

Things to do in Franklin, Tennessee:

  • Learn Civil War history at Carter House or Carnton
  • Downtown boutique shopping and dining
  • Get away from it all in Leiper’s Fork

Franklin, Tennessee is just about 30 minutes south of Nashville, but it’s a completely different kind of place. It’s a slow-paced Southern town with fine dining, bougie boutiques, and amazing art and culture. Really, it’s where the celebrities from Nashville ACTUALLY like to spend time. (Because I’ll tell you right now it’s NOT on Broadway in Nashville.)

You can spend an afternoon browsing boutique shops, take kids to learn more about the Civil War and the famous Battle of Franklin, or relax in the even smaller town of Leiper’s Fork.

It’s such a special and lovely place, and it’s especially perfect as a day trip for families with older kids or a girls getwaway.

Birmingham, AL

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 101 miles (about 1 hour 30 minutes)

Things to do in Birmingham:

  • Visit the McWane Science Center
  • Visit the Birmingham Zoo
  • Climb The Vulcan
  • Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
looking up at large iron vulcan Statue
The Vulcan

Birmingham has a special place in my heart. Being from Alabama, it seems like a city I am in all the time for various reasons (or at least driving through) and now I have lots of family and friends who live there.

And while I see people complain about Birmingham all the time and say it’s on the downslope, I actually really love it. There’s amazing history as a center point for the Civil Rights movement, some of the best food in Alabama, and great activities for kids.

We especially love going down to the Birmingham Zoo. Or, if it’s just a couples trip, I love taking an evening trip down just to eat at some of their amazing restaurants.

Nashville, TN

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 110 miles (about 2 hours)

Things to do in Nashville:

  • Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Go to the Nashville Zoo
  • Visit the Nashville Farmers Market
  • Enjoy Cheekwood Gardens

Nashville is a super popular day trip from Huntsville. It’s an easy drive straight up I-65, and there are tons of family-friendly activities in the city.

One of our favorite things to do is to visit the Nashville Zoo. It’s a paradise for young kids, not just because of the animals, but also because they’ve recently renovated parts of the zoo to include an incredible playground area.

The beautiful Cheekwood Estate & Gardens is also a popular spot, where you can stroll through the beautiful gardens and explore a mansion. (This one is still on my list!) Or stop by the Nashville Farmers Market, full of food vendors, restaurants, and shops.

Tuscumbia, Alabama

Driving Distance from Huntsville: 70 miles (about 1 hour 15 minutes)

Things to do in Tuscumbia:

  • Tour Ivy Green
  • Visit the Alabama Music Hall of Fame
  • Enjoy time outside in Spring Park
Small white house with blue shutters, large yard, and brick path leading to it
Ivy Green

If you want an easy day trip from Huntsville, Tuscumbia is perfect. It’s a small town that’s mostly known for being home to Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s childhood home. It’s a really fascinating place where you can see not just her house, but a small museum about her life, the little house next door where she lived with Annie Sullivan, and more.

Drive out to Tuscumbia and tour Helen Keller’s house. Then enjoy a walk around Spring Park and have lunch downtown before heading back to Huntsville. Or, if you have extra time, you could also visit the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

More Southeast Adventures

Reading Recommendations


Like this post? Save it for later!