From the Gulf Coast to the Appalachian mountains, the Heart of Dixie has plenty of variety.
Even if “Sweet Home Alabama” isn’t already on your road trip playlist, you should add the southern state to your camping itinerary. With its mountains, inland lakes, and Gulf Coast beaches, Alabama has plenty to offer campers, whether you prefer hiking to mountains and waterfalls, diving into Civil Rights history, or renting a seaside cottage—all served with a warm spoonful of Southern hospitality, of course. Opt for a seafront or lakeside campsite in summer when temperatures soar beyond 90°F, or choose a fall or winter trip for cooler weather ideal for hiking.
Hikers and campers are in their element in Alabama’s northern wilderness, dotted with caves, waterfalls, and woodlands. Go hiking and kayaking in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains at DeSoto State Park, peep the fall foliage at Little River Canyon National Preserve, and discover the caves of Cathedral Caverns State Park. Or head to the shores of Alabama’s largest lake to camp, boat, and spot bald eagles at Lake Guntersville State Park.
Urban campers can find plenty of distractions in Birmingham, but Alabama’s largest city is also within easy reach of some of the state’s most memorable natural landscapes. Great hiking, biking, and camping can be found in Talladega National Forest, after which you can scale Alabama’s highest peak at Cheaha State Park and explore ancient caves at Rickwood Caverns State Park. Other popular campgrounds are found at Lake Lurleen and Wind Creek state parks.
Montgomery is the gateway to south Alabama and neighbouring Selma is a key stop on the Civil Rights trail, but outside of the cities, south Alabama is all about lakeside camping. To the east, Lake Eufaula is known as the “Big Bass Capital of the World” and has a wide choice of campgrounds, while nearby Blue Springs State Park offers plenty of lake camping. To the west, the Tombigbee River Valley is also prime for getting on the water.
Alabama’s 60-mile stretch of Gulf Coast shoreline is the place to cool off from the summer sun, spot shorebirds along the wetlands, or tee off at one of many coastal golf courses. RV parks are easy to find around the resort towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, while Dauphin Island remains a perennial favorite for beach camping. Alternatively, snag an RV site with full hookups at Gulf State Park, or book a cabin on the shores of Lake Shelby at Meaher State Park.
Yes, there is free camping in Alabama, primarily in its national forests. The main national forest in Alabama is the Bankhead National Forest, which spans over 180,000 acres and offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including free dispersed camping. These campsites are generally primitive, with no facilities, so you'll need to come prepared and practice Leave No Trace principles. It's essential to check the specific regulations and requirements for the area you plan to camp in, as some locations might have restrictions or require permits.
Yes, boondocking, also known as dispersed camping or dry camping, is legal in Alabama on public lands, such as national forests and some state lands. One of the popular places for boondocking in Alabama is the Talladega National Forest, where you can camp for free outside of designated campgrounds. However, it's essential to follow the rules and regulations set by the managing agencies, such as staying within a certain distance from roads and water sources, and adhering to the "Leave No Trace" principles. Additionally, some privately owned lands on Hipcamp may also allow boondocking, but you should always check with the landowner and obtain permission before camping.
Alabama has 22 state parks, many of which offer campgrounds for tent and RV camping. Some popular state parks with campgrounds in Alabama include Chewacla State Park, DeSoto State Park, Gulf State Park, and Monte Sano State Park. To learn more about state parks and campgrounds in Alabama, visit Hipcamp's Alabama State Parks page.