Alabama is a state with a rich history and stunning natural scenery, from the white sand beaches on the southern coast to the Appalachian Mountains in the north. A lot of people don’t realize just how much scenic diversity Alabama has to offer!
Whether you’re passing through Alabama as part of a larger road trip or hoping to explore more of the state during your travels, we’ve done the research to find the best scenic drives in Alabama.
Traveling along these scenic byways in Alabama, you’ll get the opportunity to visit some of the state’s historical sites and get an appreciation for the incredible natural beauty of the southern United States.
1. Alabama Scenic Drives: Natchez Trace Parkway
Distance: 444 miles (entire route across 3 states), about 100 miles in Alabama
Time needed: We recommend planning for 1 day of driving the Alabama section of the parkway for stops and exploring.
Crossing the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, the Natchez Trace Parkway is one of the most historically significant scenic drives in northern Alabama.
In the past, this route was given the nickname “The Devil’s Backbone” on account of the bandits and robbers who liked to take advantage of passing travelers. Today, there’s no need to worry about theft, just the opportunity to explore small towns and amazing natural scenery in Alabama!
The Natchez Trace Parkway is mainly well known for its wildflowers, and there are over 100 native species found along the route visible at different times of the year. There are also opportunities for hiking, camping, and picnicking if you want to spend even more time outdoors!
Keep in mind that sections of this byway in Alabama are designated bike routes, so be sure to drive carefully and watch for cyclists on the road.
When to go: Any time of year is good to travel the Natchez Trace Parkway, but if you’re hoping to see the wildflowers along the byway, then spring through early autumn is the best time.
2. Alabama Scenic Drives: Alabama’s Coastal Connection
Distance: 130 miles
Time needed: 3 hours to 1 day, depending on stops
Traversing the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find some spectacular coastal scenery while driving this scenic byway in Alabama.
There are plenty of places to stop along the way to dip your feet in the warm water, get pictures of the lagoons and bayous, and taste some of the freshly caught seafood at local restaurants!
This area of Alabama is a natural haven, and you’ll pass by protected areas such as the Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary and Gulf State Park which offer opportunities to get out and stretch your legs along the trails. Birders will be particularly interested in this scenic drive in Alabama since the sanctuaries are home to some unique species of birds, and the region is an essential stop for many migratory species.
The Alabama coastal connection also passes some important historic sites like the historic Fort Morgan and the city of Fairhope, where you’ll find a fascinating history museum and lots of charming shops and restaurants in the downtown area.
When to go: You can travel the Alabama coastal connection at any time of year, but summer months are best for beachgoers, and spring and fall are best for birders hoping to see migratory species.
3. Alabama Scenic Drives: Talladega Scenic Drive
Distance: 26 miles
Time needed: 1-5 hours, depending on stops
One of the best drives in northern Alabama, the Talladega Scenic Drive takes you on gently winding roads through the Talladega National Forest set in the Appalachian Highlands. The route will bring you to Alabama’s highest point, Cheaha Mountain, where you can appreciate a stunning vista of the mountains and forest scenery!
Cheaha Mountain also makes a great point to stop for lunch since there are several restaurants and some souvenir shops near the peak where you can enjoy the stunning view and a delicious meal at the same time.
This scenic byway is close to Birmingham, and the route itself isn’t very long, making it easy to add to your itinerary for your road trip to Alabama. However, if you have time to explore, you can spend a whole day checking out the hiking trails and lookout points along the drive.
When to go: The byway is great to visit at all times of the year, although autumn is known for its stunning colors, and birders often travel the byway during spring and fall migration times.
4. Alabama Scenic Drives: Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail
Distance: 54 miles
Time needed: 1.5 hours direct or up to a day for exploring and stops
One of the most important historic byways in Alabama, the Selma to Montgomery route traverses the path marchers took during the Civil Rights Movement. There were three marches in total, the last one ending in Montgomery with one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s most famous speeches delivered to a crowd of nearly 30,000 people!
Driving this Alabama byway, you’ll have the chance to visit many of the historic points along the trail.
Marchers would usually walk between seven to 17 miles a day and camp at predetermined sites along the way, where farmers or homeowners welcomed marchers despite the threats they often received from those who opposed the Civil Rights Movement. Each of these campsites, such as the Robert Gardner Farm and the Rosie Steele Property, are now marked so you can take a break to visit these crucial resting places.
Make sure you plan on stopping for photos at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, one of the most notable sites on the route where marchers were confronted by law enforcement.
When traveling this scenic byway in Alabama, we’d recommend planning for extra time in both Selma and Montgomery to see the historical sites in these cities, like the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma and the Alabama State Capital Building in Montgomery!
When to go: Any time of year is great to travel the Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail.
5. Alabama Scenic Drives: The Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway
Distance: 80 miles
Time needed: 3-6 hours, depending on stops
Exploring the Appalachian region in the north is a must for any road trip in Alabama, and the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway is one of the best routes to take. The 80 miles of gentle twists and turns through the mountains bring you past stunning vistas and beautiful green landscapes!
For those interested in getting out to do some exploration and spend more time in nature, there are several trail systems along the route, including the Lloyd Owens Canoe Trail and the River Canyon National Preserve.
You can make a whole day out of this trip by picking one of the five landing points on the Lloyd Owens Canoe Trail and floating down the peaceful Tallapoosa River! It’s a fun activity the whole family can enjoy during a road trip in Alabama.
If you’re more pressed for time, there’s no need to get out of the car to appreciate the views on this scenic byway in Alabama, such as the incredible vista from Lookout Mountain. We’d still definitely recommend stopping for some photographs!
This Alabama byway also passes through several historical areas, such as Fort Payne and the Benge Route Trail of Tears Historic Marker.
The town of Heflin can either be the beginning or ending point of the trip, and we’d recommend spending a bit of time in the historic downtown area, where you’ll find some great local restaurants and buildings dating back to the 1890s.
You can also combine the Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway and Talladega Scenic Drive on the same day since the two connect near the town of Heflin.
When to go: Each season has something unique to offer; in the spring, the area is known for its incredible wildflowers, and summer is great for vacationers and hiking. In the autumn, you can appreciate the colorful leaves, and winters are generally mild and good for driving.
Further Tips For An Alabama Road Trip
Before you hit the road in Alabama, you may also want to be aware of the following:
- Pedestrians in Alabama have right of way (even if they are illegally crossing the road!)
- It is law in Alabama if using your windscreen wipers to also use your headlights
- Had a drink before getting behind a wheel? The BAC limit is 0.08% (0.2% for under 21s)
- You can check traffic and road conditions with ALDOT before your set out
- Never forget an important road tripping item again! Head over here to see our road trip essentials checklist and download your own printable copy.
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