FORT PAYNE, ALABAMA
39 to 57 Miles
2700 to 3800 Feet
Little River Canyon in northeast Alabama has been called the Grand Canyon of the East. The waterfall alone is worth seeing but cyclists get to ride along the canyon rim. The Little River Canyon road routes come in two sizes – 39 miles and 57 miles. Both have one surprise after another. Leave extra time to take in the scenery and bring a camera.
Alabama’s Little River Canyon slices through the middle of Lookout Mountain as it flows southwest, eventually meeting the Coosa River at Lake Weiss. The canyon itself is a National Preserve and contains one of the cleanest and wildest waterways in the south. The new deal era Little River Canyon Parkway runs along the western rim.
The canyon and falls aren’t the only thing to see. Along the way you will ride along an escarpment with broad views to the west. The longer of the two routes touches the edge of Mentone, a sleepy little town with cafes and shops, known for its “Colorfest” in October. There is a small Civilian Conservation Corps museum near the start. Look for giant clumps of Oak Leaf Hydrangea, the Alabama State Flower, growing wild along the route.
Expect gently undulating terrain with mostly moderate grades and a few flat stretches past small farms as you travel to and from the canyon. Alabama being what it is, there is some chipseal so you may want to lower your tire pressure a few PSI. Fall is probably the best time to enjoy either of the Little River Canyon routes.
- If you think you can ride Cherokee County 275 north from Canyon Mouth Park then think again. Drive it first.
- Parking is available at the Lost Falls Trailhead in Destoto State Park. The trailhead is popular with mountain bikers and has toilets.
- Store stops are available near Little River Falls at mile 29 and again at mile 35. Those opting for the longer route can try their luck in Mentone around mile 49.
- Desoto State Park will have water and restrooms at mile 38.
- Fort Payne sits in the valley to the west and is the closest town with full services.