For my birthday, or really any holiday, my primary request is always a trip. Our anniversary is in May. The twins birthday falls shortly after and Mother’s Day usually falls somewhere in between. This year, we celebrated the trifecta of events all in one weekend. We wavered on what to do for our anniversary up until Thursday night. We had been tentatively planning to do a canoe trip, but a couple days of torrential rains spoiled those plans. In a last minute decision, I booked us an anniversary weekend in Guntersville. We have never spent any time in Guntersville together. We camped at Buck’s Pocket a couple of years ago, but routed around the city. I went to college at Jacksonville State University and one of the routes I would take to and from led me through Guntersville. The lake is stunning, and it is a cute small town. Despite knowing these two things, we were still surprised at how much fun we had and all there was to do!
The Hike – Bethel Springs Nature Preserve
You may have observed that our day dates often include a hike (see this and this). We love hiking. Its something we did very frequently before we had kids. I even did the 52 Hike Challenge with Reese when she was a baby. Adding two more babies when Reese was still only 22 months old has REALLY slowed us down. Its difficult to carry three children and hike any measurable distance. Now they are more interested in walking, but their speed and endurance is lacking. I’m excited for a day soon when we can tackle some real mileage with the kids, but for now we save the short meandering hikes for the kids. When we have some time way, we enjoy hiking at a steady pace and in areas that may not be suitable for little kids. On this last minute trip, I just did some google searches for waterfalls hikes and even just pulled up google maps on my phone to look around. I recalled some posts from Huntsville Adventurer about Bethel Springs Nature Preserve. Additionally, the location made sense for our journey to Guntersville.
We arrived at the trailhead around 2:30 pm. The rain had tapered off, and we were the only car in the parking lot. Almost as soon as we set off on the hike, it started raining again. A quick radar check assured me that we could safely completely the hike and that the clouds would move out soon. We pressed on. Its been too long since I have been in the forest during the rain. The smell of wet soil brings back so many memories. I could vividly remember the summer I spent in the Belizean rainforest doing archaeology. I suppose I’d be a pretty terrible (former) archaeologist if the smell of soil didn’t remind me of an archaeological dig. We encountered some giant snails and wildflowers. There are several springs around the bottom of the hill, including one with the remains of an historic springhouse.
The hike is primarily an uphill climb to the waterfall. We took the Carpenter Trail to the right as suggested by the North AL Land Trust and All Trails. It is more of a meandering climb, but still noticeably uphill for a couple of out of shape parents. We rounded a corner and the falls came into view in the distance. I was wowed. My research indicated that it is the largest waterfall in Madison County, but it wasn’t the size that made it unique. The cascade over the fern and moss covered cliff followed by the water disappearing into a sinkhole made it especially impressive. There is no creek flowing out from the waterfall, it just goes back underground. Several years ago we hiked to Virgin Falls in Tennessee which is similar, but this waterfall is more beautiful, by far. We hike out via the Mill Trail which is a more direct, but steeper, route. The Land Trust website describes the trail as a 1.3 mile loop. Our Garmin watches had us at over two miles, which is probably more accurate when you include the Bethel Creek walk and connection to the parking lot.
Date Night in Guntersville
From here, we had a 30 minute drive to Guntersville. We immediately went to Lake Guntersville B&B to check-in. We really lucked out finding an available room on a Friday night last minute. This 1910 home is stunning and in a perfect location to walk around town. They gave us a couple free drinks at the B&B. We showered in our newly remodeled bathroom and relaxed on the porch before walking down to City Harbor.
City Harbor is mixed use development located directly on the water, but also adjacent to downtown Guntersville. It opened in 2022 and features condos upstairs and several restaurants. We were really impressed with the aesthetic and the food. If you are from the Huntsville area, you will recognize the Brewer’s Co-op, which we really enjoy, and La Esquina Cocina. We opted for dinner at La Esquina followed by a stroll through downtown, then dessert and a drink at the Brewer’s Co-op. Downtown Guntersville shuts its doors by 5:30 pm, even on the weekend, so we weren’t able to do any shopping. I would like to go back when we have more time because there were several stores I would like to visit including Fant’s Mercantile and Venture Out Supply Co. (aka Guntersville Outfitters). There were several other women’s and children’s clothing boutiques and a coffee shop.
While I hoped to sleep in, I was up with the sun and able to watch the sunrise from the amazing porch at Lake Guntersville B&B. I decided to take advantage of this extra time and take another walk. This time I explored the neighborhood briefly before walking toward the Sunset Trail, a greenway along the lake. It was beautiful! While I didn’t get to explore the entire trail, it is a spot a recommend taking a walk or bike ride. I plan to spend more time there when we return. I returned to our room to get cleaned up and packed up before 8:30 am breakfast. We chose to dine on the porch. I had French toast with a side of cheese grits and Conecuh sausage. Logan had a sausage and egg skillet with breakfast potatoes. Both were delicious! After our quiet breakfast on the porch, we hit the road home for the twins’ birthday festivities.
We were in only Guntersville for about 18 hours, but had a wonderful time! The scenery is beautiful, the food options were great, and there is lots to do. I highly recommend an itinerary like hours where you can safely walk from your accommodations to the restaurants. I always feel like I can get to know an area much better on foot.