Little River Canyon National Preserve | PARK AT A GLANCE

Little River Canyon Falls

Little River Canyon Falls

PARK OVERVIEW

Little River Canyon National Preserve is located on Lookout Mountain near Fort Payne, Alabama. While people think of Chattanooga, Tennessee, whenever Lookout Mountain is mentioned, it actually extends all the way into northeastern Alabama. Atop the mountain flows the Little River, the only river in the country that begins and ends on top of a mountain. Millions of years ago at the spot marked by Little River Falls today, the river started to wear into the mountain, digging deeper and deeper each year until it wore a 12-mile long, 600 foot deep gash into the rock, forming Little River Canyon. In 1992, the canyon and surrounding areas became the Little River Canyon National Preserve.

For the typical tourist, the park offers nothing more than a few views along a scenic, canyon rim drive and a spot for a family picnic along the river. Little River Canyon is a sportsman’s park, and an extreme one at that. Little River Falls marks the start of the Canyon Area, which runs the length of the canyon, terminating at Canyon Mouth Park. World class kayaking can be found below the falls, with water so dangerous that the U. S. Olympic Kayak team has trained here. Rock climbers can have a go at the miles of sheer canyon walls. Even the hiking trails are strenuous, some no more than a rock slide path down to the bottom of the canyon. So while the automobile tourist can pass away a few hours in the park, the sportsman will find a lifetime of adventure.

The area north of the falls is known as the Wildlife Management Area, or the “backcountry.” This area offers outdoor activities a little less strenuous, with easier trails and a calmer river open to canoeing and kayaking. Being that the park is a Preserve, hunting is allowed in the backcountry during scheduled hunting seasons. A high clearance vehicle is highly suggested for visiting this area. Fishing is allowed anywhere in the park with the proper Alabama fishing license.


OPERATING HOURS

The grounds of Little River Canyon National Preserve are open daily during daylight hours.

The Little River Canyon Center, which serves as the park’s Visitor Center, is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM, except when closed on national holidays.

Canyon Mouth Park opens daily at 8 AM. Closing hours vary per season, but it is typically open until 5 PM in the winter, 6 PM in the spring and fall, and 7 PM in the summer.

Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to check the official Little River Canyon National Preserve Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the latest times and schedules.


FEES

There is a fee to enter Canyon Mouth Park, but the rest of the park is free. See the park’s Fees and Passes web page for the current entrance fee.


SCHEDULING YOUR VISIT

Visitor Center
(allow 30 minutes)

Canyon Rim Drive
(2 hours)

Hiking Trails
(2 days worth of trails)

Kayaking and Canoeing
(20 miles of river)


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Last updated on February 20, 2020
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