On a last minute whim, we decided to make a day trip to Noccalula Falls in Gadsden AL and I am so glad we did. I had in my mind a place to hike with a pretty little waterfall, and admittedly, with the drought this summer, it was a “little” waterfall. As in, not much water flowing over, but little is not how I would describe it at all in person, nor is it just about the waterfall! This is a privately owned park that is part zoo and botanical garden, part historic buildings with a campground (with fully equipped cabins) and mini golf all situated around a great hike to its star attraction, Noccalula Falls.
Park admission is $6 per adult ($4 senior and military), $4 per child, 3 and under free. However, as cheap as it is, you might as well upgrade to a park and mini golf combo for an additional $2. Park admission gives you full access to the petting zoo, gardens, train rides, and the hiking trails that get you up close and personal to the falls. You can avoid the park fees and and have access to an overlook area to see the falls from the top, but that’s certainly not as fun.
We started our visit with the petting zoo. We were smitten with this deer and his knobby horns. He was very friendly. There were many animals, from donkeys to bunnies and several varieties of turtles, birds and snakes. The outdoor zoo area had the funniest lynx who was quite vocal. We had never heard a lynx before, can’t say I can describe it accurately either but it was a comical half growl, half whiny kid sound that left us cracking up for several minutes until we meandered off and let others enjoy his crazy sounds.
The train takes you on a loop around the park and I’m sure it would delight the little ones, but as Riley was such a mature 10yr old that day, it didn’t hold his interest and we didn’t complete the loop on it. Instead, just past the drop off where you go left for the petting zoo, go right. That is the entrance to the gorge trail that leads you down to the falls. Wear good walking shoes, it’s very steep and rocky in spots. However, it’s a wide path and well traveled, you won’t get lost. The geology through there was really cool. Big boulders that had cracked and looked like they were practically hanging in midair, just waiting to crush you if you walked under it. There are some neat little crooks and crannies to climb through but be warned, there was poison ivy in abundance if you left the path. It took around 20-30min for us to get to the falls, but we did get side tracked often. Once at the falls, it’s almost hard to explain how large and amazing the grotto is. Photos truly do not do it justice. We would have loved more time to hang out here and even take a swim if we had been prepared for it, but we weren’t.
After our hike we stopped at the mini golf course. It’s a fun course and really easy to lose your ball to the water, you’ve been warned. Nicely landscaped and it made a nice, competitive end to a good day.
All in all, I highly recommend this park and I know we will visit again. Hopefully with the camper next time for a long weekend to relax and explore more trails along black creek. I’ve seen photos of the falls when there is so much water that I’m not sure it would be safe to hike down to it, but that would be amazing to see too!