Back in early August, when the Alabama heat and humidity threatened to do us in, we decided that the only place we wanted to be outdoors was in a body of water. Shannon knew about this place, but it had been years since he’d been. We loaded up with Jango and headed to the Little River Canyon National Preserve.
It was already sweltering hot at 10am so a stop at Mars shaved ice in Centre, AL for breakfast, was an excellent idea.
Little River flows along Lookout Mountain in Northeast Alabama. It is a beautiful place, with forested sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, and pools. There is a scenic drive along the canyon rim, with 8 overlooks with beautiful views. We had decided to drive along the 11 mile scenic drive first, before heading over to the Hippie Hole.
Just as we started back towards the trailhead, the storm clouds arrived. This is not at all unusual for this time of year in Alabama. These intense, bursts of rain and thunder come in like a beast. We got to enjoy about 45 minutes of a downpour that did not let up in intensity, while we sat in the humid truck, with an inpatient puppy. Thank goodness we’d also stopped to fill the cooler with beer and ice. Shannon pulled into one of the overlook parking lots while we waited for the rain to let up and the view was incredible.
The rain eventually stopped, and the clouds moved out. We were left with a beautiful, sunny, still hot, humid, and perfect-for-swimming, day.
It was about 1:00 when we started towards the Hippie Hole. There is a trail, marked with signs, that direct to Little Falls. The name “ Hippie Hole” is not formally recognized by the NPS. But it should be because it’s what everyone calls it.
Had it not rained right before we set out, i feel certain that it would have been much more crowded on this insanely hot day. We could tell by the soaking wet Tshirts and towels that had been left behind that there had been a mad dash out of there.
One of the main attractions here at the Hippie Hole, are the surrounding cliffs that people love to leap off of into the water. In fact, leaping in from the rocky face is the easiest way to access the water.
I have no idea how high the cliffs were that we jumped from, but i chickened out of one of the lower/smaller ones that I’d guess to have been 25-30’. Mainly because the one that I did jump from was about a 10-12’ drop. Looking down into the water before jumping, I could clearly see a boulder a few feet below the surface. As soon as I went under, my feet were both planted firmly on the top of that rock. I’ve worked in Pediatric health care too long not to envision all the head, neck, and spinal cord injuries that have no doubt resulted here. I know better than to voice my concerns in the moment #killjoy. But needless to say, I didn’t jump from higher cliffs, and cringed every time someone did!! The highest one had to have been 80-100 feet high. Insanity.
The water was absolutely divine. It’s hard to find water that stays cool by August in the South. Swimming pools have long been brought to boiling temps and barely cool below body temperature. This place has deep spots, that keep the cold water from the bottom mixed in with what is heated at the surface. The most refreshing body of water in all of Alabama in August, I’m certain.
After a couple of hours, the crowds started to reappear. We were sufficiently refreshed and decided to make our way out. We did find our way but I’ll note that the trail out is not plainly visible from here. In the summer, the trees and their leaves form a solid barrier beyond the water.
A little more about Little River Canyon : It was established as a preserve in 1992 to protect the surrounding landscapes. It contains 15,288 acres, 11,042 of which are Federally owned and managed. It is adjacent to DeSoto State Park, which is another beautiful place. It sits at the Southern edge of the Cumberland Plateau, a region just West of the Appalachian Mountain range. It is the most spectacular site in this region, as one of the deepest canyons east of the Mississippi. In the winter and spring months it hosts world-class whitewater paddling. It is also home to some rare and endangered species of both plants and animals.
A beautiful place, and we had a great time!