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Exploring Dismals Canyon in Northern Alabama

Dismals Canyon Alabama - MerryAboutTown

Alabama is one of those states that everyone has heard of but very few people know much about. If you ask people what they know about Alabama you could get a variety of very different answers. One thing that people SHOULD know about Alabama, though they may not, is that it is beautiful. Rolling hills, tall trees and lush green foliage are the norm all around the state. It is VERY different from where I now live in Alberta.

After our trip to Natural Bridge that I wrote about previously, we continued on to visit Dismals Canyon. Dismals Canyon is named for a glowing larvae, Dismalites, that calls it home. Dismalites glows bright blue-green at night to attract insects that they eat for food. I’ve never gotten the chance to visit the Dismal Canyon at night to see the Dismalites though there are guided night time tours available. Don’t worry, though, even without a Dismalite spotting, Dismals Canyon is worth the visit.

Fording the Creek at Dismals Canyon Alabama - Merry About Town.jpg

The hike along the bottom of the canyon is approximately 1.5 miles long with various jaunts in to little areas that have been named for their appearance. Fun names like Witches Cavern, Dance Hall and Fat Man’s Misery leave you trying to determine how people decided to name it that (though some are pretty obvious). It’s also interesting to note that over the years, the canyon was inhabited by Paleo, Cherokee, and Chickasaw peoples.

Dismals Canyon Adventures - Merry About Town.

Every corner leads you to a new and interesting area to explore full of the plants and trees of Alabama. This canyon actually houses one of the oldest primeval forests east of the Mississippi River. Make sure to take a moment to look closely at the mosses and ferns that grow on the canyon walls. It’s like there is a tiny forest growing on the rocks.

Moss Up Close - Merry About Town

Living in the city made us enjoy this visit to a natural, unspoiled area. However, I think anyone can enjoy the natural wonder of such a gorgeous area. The Dismals Canyon website has more information about all aspects of the park, maps, directions, etc.

Exploring Dismals Canyon Alabama - Merry About Town

Things to Know:

Upon arrival, you visit the General Store to sign in and pay your admission fee of $10 for adults and $6.50 for children.  The tour of Dismals Canyon is self-guided and is not handicap accessible in any way. You have to climb up and down quite a few stairs to access the canyon. The trails are pretty easy once you are in the canyon but there are lots of uneven terrain and the stones crossing the creeks in two places are not in great shape (i.e. your feet will most likely get wet). Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy and/or wet and dress for hiking. Oh and don’t forget your camera!

And if you happen to fall in the water, do like we did and roll your socks up in the window to dry as you drive home. 🙂

Drying wet socks in the car window


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Saturday 12th of April 2014

Hey Merry, I'm the webmaster/photographer for Dismals Canyon. Thanks for the post. Your bit about the socks had me laughing at the end. I may want to put that on the website just for giggles. I live in Tupelo, Miss., but I've been going to Dismals Canyon for about 25 years and love it. I may put a link on the site to your piece - if you don't mind.


Monday 14th of April 2014

Ron, You can definitely link to my post! I laughed at the sock issue too. My son would NOT listen when I told him where to step to not get his feet wet then SPLASH...in he went. Thanks for coming by to comment!