Day Hiking in Cane Creek Canyon

Logan and I visited Cane Creek Canyon on October 22nd while my parents had the kids to allow us a day to celebrate my birthday. It’s over an hour drive from our home to the Preserve south of Tuscumbia, AL. We used our kid free morning to sleep in and didn’t have a ton of time, so we opted to stick to the short loop near the main entrance. There was a search and rescue in progress, so we were routed in the opposite direction than the recommended loop. 

The fall colors were beginning to change but were not at peak quite yet. We have been in a substantial drought, so the waterfall was barely a trickle. Nonetheless, this place is a hidden gem. Particularly hidden because Google Maps routed us through the outskirts of Tuscumbia before arriving at the road to the preserve which passes a junkyard and some commercial chicken houses. Logan thought I was crazy for a minute, but in the end we were both thoroughly impressed and plan to go back in spring when the waterfall should be running and the wildflowers will be blooming.

Fall Colors in Cane Creek Canyon.

The Hike

The preserve has a detailed trail map and an extensive trail system. So extensive that we found it a bit difficult to orient ourselves at times, but the map and readily available signage made it easy to get back on track. We started at the main entrance to the site, but rather than heading down the trail adjacent to the check-in station, we continued down the gravel road and veered to the left which led us down into the forest. After a small descent, we could have continued on to the waterfall, but we opted to take the canyon rim out to the Point which has been described as one of the best viewpoints in North Alabama. The trail meandered through the woods with several well-marked junctions along the ways before approaching a picnic area with a pit toilet, water jug, and tables. Fifty yards downslope is the Point. Wow! What a view.

Views from the “The Point”.

From the point we took the “Steep, Strenuous” route down into the canyon. While short, it was quite steep and could be dangerous if the ground was wet and slippery. Once at the bottom, trails run along Cane Creek. The creek is wide and full of boulders. I imagine it is quite impressive after a storm, but it was barely moving during our hike.

From there we followed the wide trail up toward toward Tree Fern Cave, a prehistoric rockshelter that is very impressive to walk through. As an a former archaeologist, rockshelters are of great interest to me. We enjoyed exploring in there and could see why it would be an appealing space to take shelter for a few nights.

Sara hiking in Tree Fern Cave.

From there we finished our ascent out of the canyon and wrapped back around to where we started, but this time we took the path toward Karen’s Falls. Due to the drought, only a very minor trickle of water ran over the precipice, but the place was stunning no less. I am anxious to go back and see how different it looks with an actual waterfall. We climbed down into the overhang and around to the side of the falls. I am sure it is truly an impressive site with more water.

Looking at the cliff that would be Karen’s Falls.
The pool at the bottom of the falls.

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