Are you venturing south this spring and summer? If you’re looking for a state that isn’t necessarily known for camping but should definitely be put on your radar, we’ve got a fun little surprise for you – Alabama is packed with amazing campgrounds. Whether you want to boondock or enjoy all the amenities, you’ll find all the options in campgrounds throughout Alabama. In fact, the hardest part of your trip will be deciding which campgrounds to visit! Whether you want to fish or hike, swim or stargaze, you’ll find the perfect spot for you in Alabama. Check out 10 of the best campgrounds in the state below.
Gulf State Park
Picture yourself strolling along a white sand beach, luxuriating in the sun while crashing waves and calling gulls provide the soundtrack. It can only be Gulf State Park. Not only does this oceanfront destination offer two miles of beach to explore, you’ll also find nature trails, a fishing pier, a swimming pool and Lake Shelby. Rent a kayak or go parasailing, or learn more about the Gulf Shore region at the park’s Nature Center. On the shores of Lake Shelby, you’ll find an almost 500-site campground with bathhouses, hookups (if you need or want them), picnic tables and grills. Reserve early to get one of the lake- or creek-side sites.
Black Warrior River Trail
If you’re in the mood for some boondocking or dispersed camping, the Black Warrior River Trail has much to offer. Running from the foothills of the Appalachians to Tuscaloosa, you’ll find plenty of spots to park your van, take a dip or go fishing. Along the way, you’ll pass waterfalls, dams, sandstone cliffs and Alabama croton forests. Find primitive camping with a few restrooms near Bankhead Lock and Dam, and full-service campsites near Burchfield Branch Recreation Area and other sites along the river trail.
Lake Lurleen State Park
If you want to get away from it all and take respite in nature, head to Lake Lurleen. This lovely lake stretches for over two miles, and its depth means the waters stay cool and refreshing, even in Alabama’s summer heat. There are more than 90 campsites ring the lake. Some offer electrical hookups and wooden decks, and all with picnic tables, fire rings and water. Spots fill up fast so make reservations online or by phone ahead of time.
Cathedral Caverns State Park
Visitors to Cathedral Caverns State Park can take their pick between full service campsites with water, sewer and power, power and water only sites, or primitive sites without power or water. No matter which you choose, this park is a don’t miss destination, thanks to the cave system. Cave tours run all week long and offer the best way to explore these amazing natural features. Inside the cave’s 126-foot-tall entrance, you’ll find Goliath, one of the planet’s biggest stalagmites with a massive circumference of almost 250 feet.
Talladega National Forest
Primitive camping is allowed throughout most of Talladega National Forest. You don’t even need a permit unless it’s deer hunting season, so check with the park rangers before choosing a spot for the night. Don’t-miss sites include the Chinnanee Silent Trail, which encompasses six miles of lovely waterfalls and forest, and the Doug Ghee Boardwalk, located at 2,400 feet elevation atop Cheaha Mountain, right in the heart of the park.
Known as Alabama’s Amazon, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is the nation’s second-largest river delta. Campers can explore miles and miles of wetlands, estuaries, bayous draped with Spanish moss, ancient hardwood forests, and cypress-tupelo swamps. It’s also the starting point of the Bartram Canoe Trail, a series of floating camp platforms along the estuary system. Van camping is available at Meaher State Park, which offers 60+ sites with a boardwalk and fishing pier.
DeSoto State Park
If waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife float your boat, steer your camper van to DeSoto State Park. Just eight miles from Fort Payne, this mountain getaway is home to DeSoto Falls, a 104-foot-tall wonder that thunders down the hillside. You’ll also find 25 miles of hiking and walking trails to explore, along with 11 miles of mountain biking trails. Within the 3,500-acre park, you’ll also find spaces to picnic, kayak, canoe, rappel and even take a dip in the seasonal Olympic-size pool. The on-site Benefield Interpretive Center offers hands-on programming, and the Civilian Conservation Corps museum is the perfect place to spend a rainy day.
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
History buffs won’t want to miss the chance to camp at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. Nested in a green, tree-lined valley around Roupes Creek, the area was once a thriving iron operation. Today, the ironworks are historical reenactments, but you can still tour the blacksmith’s shop, the millers’ cabin and pioneer homes, and take a ride on the miniature railway. There are more than 17 miles of trails to hike, bike and explore, as well as numerous historical sites scattered in the trees. The park has almost 300 campsites; 100 are primitive and the rest have power and water (some with full hook-ups available) and are served by bathhouses.
Joe Wheeler State Park
Tired of roughing it? For a bit more of a “glamping” experience, head to Joe Wheeler State Park. It’s known as resort park, and it’s easy to see why. Set on the shores of scenic Wheeler Lake, camping here is a bit more upscale. Here, you’ll find an 18-hole golf course and a full-service boat dock and marina. There’s a lodge and restaurant next to the campground, too. Choose from 116 sites, most with water and electricity hookups. Along with fishing, boating and swimming, you can hike and mountain bike in this 2,500 acres park.
Tuskegee National Forest
The Tuskegee National Forest offers primitive camping within designated areas. Camping here is free, but you will need to pick up a permit at the Tuskegee Ranger District office. With 14 campgrounds spread across 11,000 acres, you can choose from a range of forested spots. Popular activities within the area include hunting, the Uchee Shooting Range, hiking on the 8-mile Bartram Recreational Trail, and the Tsinia Wildlife Viewing Area.
No matter which Alabama campgrounds you want to visit in your camper van, we do recommend making reservations whenever possible. Campsites tend to fill up fast, especially in the summer months. Want more info on the best places to camp on your next rec van adventure? Browse our blog! No matter where your destination lies, if you need the perfect van to get you where you want to be, Rec Van is here to help.