FORT PAYNE – Little River Canyon is a beautiful place to take in picturesque canyon views and enjoy picnicking, solitude, nature, or hiking in the woods as the fall season approaches.
Little River is unique because it flows for most of its length atop Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama. Forested uplands, waterfalls, canyon rims and bluffs, pools, boulders, and sandstone cliffs offer settings for a variety of recreational activities. Natural resources and cultural heritage come together to tell the story of the Preserve, a special place in the Southern Appalachians.
Located on the boundary of DeKalb and Cherokee counties, in the rugged yet verdant landscape of northeast Alabama, Little River Canyon National Preserve was established in 1992 to protect the landscapes of the Little River Canyon. The authorized boundary of the preserve currently contains 15,288 acres, 11,042 acres of which are federally owned and managed. Protected within the preserve boundary are the spectacular Little River Canyon, the pristine Little River, and a number of rare and threatened plant and animal species. Together with the adjacent Desoto State Park, Little River Canyon National Preserve provides abundant scenic views and varied recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike.
The preserve sits at the southern edge of the Cumberland Plateau, a distinct physiographic region just to the west of the main Appalachian Mountain uplift.
Little River Canyon National Preserve is also home to three named waterfalls and multiple unnamed seasonal falls during the winter and spring or after periods of intense rainfall.
Little River Falls
The most popular feature of Little River Canyon National Preserve is Little River Falls. At 45 feet high, Little River Falls demonstrates the power of water as it carves its way through the sandstone bedrock and creating the beautiful canyon surrounding it.
Access to Little River Falls can be found from the paved parking lot on the west side of the Highway 35 bridge. An ADA accessible boardwalk leads visitors to a close view of the falls.
Little Falls (formerly known as Martha’s Falls)
This small waterfall was formed by water cascading over a sandstone ledge the width of the river and is a favorite swimming spot in the summer.
Little Falls can be accessed from a gravel parking lot on Highway 35 approximately .3 mile (.5 km) west of the Little River Falls parking lot. A short hike leads to 137 stone stairs down to the river.
Graces High Falls
One of Alabama’s highest waterfalls, the 133 foot Graces High Falls, is a seasonal waterfall and dependent upon heavy rains to bring it to life. Winter and spring are the best times to witness the beauty of this waterfall from the overlook on Little River Canyon Rim Parkway.