Tourism Tuesdays September 18, 2018

Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Fall Tourism Workshop

2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat set for Huntsville Marriott, Oct. 14-16

Registration open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference

State tourism website features Fall Color Map

NBC’s Lester Holt to visit Montgomery on ‘Across America’ tour

How the nation’s best restaurant came to be in Birmingham

New SEC Network show ‘TrueSouth’ kicks off in Alabama, of course

Can you paddle the entire 650 mile Alabama Scenic River Trail? Two men are making the journey

Varied terrain makes Alabama a mountain biking destination

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


Alabama Tourism Department’s 2018 Fall Tourism Workshop 
The Alabama Tourism Department will host its semi-annual Tourism Workshop, Thurs., Oct. 11. The workshop will held be in Montgomery at the Alabama Center for Commerce Building, 401 Adams Ave., from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. This workshop is designed for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone else interested in enhancing tourism in their area. Many of ATD’s staff members will be in attendance at this workshop and you will have an opportunity for one-on-one time with each of them. There is no registration fee. For additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at rosemary.judkins@Tourism.Alabama.Gov

2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat set for Huntsville Marriott, Oct. 14-16
The Alabama Welcome Center Retreat gives the Alabama Tourism Industry the opportunity to showcase our communities with the devoted staff of the Alabama Welcome Centers. Each center closes so that all employees can participate in this educational retreat. The industry trade show gives us the opportunity to share with the staff members of each center exactly what we have for them to share with their guests, the thousands of travelers stopping at Welcome Centers for travel advice. Hopefully, we will give them enough to entice their visitors to stop, see and stay a little longer with us.

The registration fee is $150 for all industry partners, with or without a table top. This fee includes a table top in the Tourism Partner’s Showcase and functions through Tuesday morning breakfast. Each additional partner pays $150 as well. This fee goes up to $175 on Oct. 1. There will be NO refunds after Nov. 1 as we will have given all guarantees to our sponsors and to the hotel by then.

For Details Contact: Patti A. Culp, Alabama Travel Council: or 334-271-0050.
Book your group rate for the 2018 Alabama Welcome Center Retreat.

Registration open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference
Registration is open for the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference, which will be hosted at the historic Pitman Theatre in downtown Gadsden on Oct. 22-24. The Pitman Theatre will be the site of all educational sessions and the host hotel is the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. Speakers will share their experience and expertise on a range of topics including social media training, agritourism and wineries, marketing to millenials, and tourism and the digital movement. Conference events will also be held at Noccalula Falls Park, Back Forty Beer Company and the Gadsden Museum of Art. An early bird rate of $95 per person is available until Oct. 5. Registration is $150 per person after Oct. 5. To register for the Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee Rural Tourism Conference, visit

State tourism website features Fall Color Map
An interactive map on the Alabama Tourism Department’s website allows visitors to see the predicted fall color change for each weekend this fall. The map, a list of recommended viewing sites and a fall color driving route are all available on the state tourism website at (

Large concentrations of hardwoods make Alabama State Parks some of the best places to enjoy the fall color change. Joe Wheeler has an excellent viewing spot next to the dam and near the cabin area on the Lawrence County side. Autumn scenery can be found at DeSoto State Park at Little River Canyon and DeSoto Falls. Monte Sano has views of the Tennessee Valley along the Warpath Ridge Trail and its overlook. Cheaha’s Bald Rock and Pulpit Rock trails both have excellent views. Cheaha is the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level.

With cooler days and lower humidity, autumn hosts a variety of outdoor festivals. Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, recommends several events designed around being outdoors and enjoying the fall weather.

Outdoor events scheduled for this fall include the Cullman Oktoberfest on Oct. 3-7, which celebrates German culture with authentic food, costumes, and music. The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention on Oct. 4-6 will have 18 different categories of live music competitions on the campus of Athens State University. The Barber Vintage Festival at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham on Oct. 5-7 features hundreds of vintage motorcycles.

The National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores on Oct. 11-14 features fresh gulf seafood, live music and arts and crafts. The city of Mentone celebrates its annual Colorfest on Oct. 20-21 with a weekend of arts & crafts, family activities and live entertainment. The Kentuck Festival of the Arts on Oct. 20-21 in Northport features more than 270 artists and craftspeople.

The Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Weekend on Nov. 2-3 at The Hangout in Gulf Shores features all-star chefs and live entertainment. The 75th annual National Peanut Festival in Dothan on Nov. 2-11 is the nation’s largest peanut festival. Alabama Frontier Days in Wetumpka on Nov. 7-10 will have re-enactments from French Colonial times to the Early American period.

The World Food Championships return to The Wharf in Orange Beach on Nov. 7-11 and will feature more than 1,500 contestants on more than 400 champion teams from across the country and across the world competing for the ultimate food crown.

A complete list of fall events is available at

NBC’s Lester Holt to visit Montgomery on ‘Across America’ tour
From the article on (WSFA-12)

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt will visit Montgomery on his nation-wide “Across America” tour.

During the week of Oct. 8, Holt will anchor NBC Nightly News from five states over five days. The exact date Holt will be in Montgomery hasn’t been released.

In addition to Montgomery, he will visit Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; San Diego, California and Tampa, Florida.

“Spread across five states in five days, Holt drills down on the issues that impact Americans in their hometowns and highlights those working to strengthen their communities and inspire others. “Across America” engages in conversations beyond the breaking news from Washington to zero-in on the challenges facing Americans just weeks before many head to the voting booth,” NBC News said in a news release.

This is Holt’s third nationwide tour.

Earlier this spring, Holt traveled to Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. The series began in January 2017.

How the nation’s best restaurant came to be in Birmingham
From the article by Eric Velasco on

After ordering a quail appetizer at Highlands Bar and Grill, I’m torn between two wines the waiter has recommended.

“How about a half-glass of each so you can compare?” says Patrick Noling, a longtime server at the Birmingham restaurant that is considered one of the nation’s best. “I mean, why not?”

Why not, indeed? Highlands is totally devoted to the guest experience.

Booking a table is difficult these days, since the James Beard Foundation bestowed one of its most prestigious annual culinary awards on Highlands (Outstanding Restaurant in America), and named Highland’s head pastry chef Dolester Miles this year’s national Outstanding Pastry Chef.

Winning the nation’s top restaurant award in its 10th consecutive year as a finalist validates the hard work and constant search for excellence by everyone at Highlands, says Frank Stitt, a multiple Beard Award-winner himself since opening the restaurant in 1982.

Stitt says he kept thinking being a finalist was just as good as winning. “But that is not the case,” he says. “Some pay attention to the nominees. But people really pay attention to the Outstanding Restaurant winner.”

Birmingham suddenly is a dining destination for gastronomes across the country. The week after the awards, a couple drove from Minneapolis to experience Highlands. Desserts, led by Miles’ signature Coconut Pecan Cake, have nearly doubled in sales.

With Highlands, Stitt revived Birmingham’s once-moribund dining scene. The restaurant was instrumental in building today’s tight relationships between local farmers and eaters. And Stitt helped make Southern cuisine a national obsession. Pardis Stitt, the chef’s wife and partner whose oversight includes the front of the house, exemplifies the grace and attention to detail that makes an evening at Highlands such a special experience.

On a visit to Highlands, let servers guide you when ordering. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of the constantly-changing menu, how each element on the plate is cooked, and what libations pair best.

Highlands’ menu reflects what’s fresh, mainly sourced from a network of farmers, fishers, and foragers from Alabama and nearby. When asparagus grows, thick stalks are paired with crawfish tails, which reach peak flavor about the same time. The plate cradles shockingly sweet baby beets.

With the grilled quail appetizer, the Beaujolais wine that Noling recommends stands up to the lemony, salty, smoky dark meat. Fried chicken livers on the plate coax soft fruitiness from the red wine. Mint in the accompanying peach salad makes tart-citrus flavors explode in Noling’s other recommended wine, Gruner Veltliner.

The expansive wine list reflects Stitt’s deep expertise and his passion for sharing lesser-known bottlings and vintners. “I love introducing people to the Austrian Riesling that will change your life,” he says.

Vegetables on the menu, some harvested from the Stitts’ own Paradise Farm, are as carefully conceived as the meats with which they are paired.

Curried roasted cauliflower compliments the earthy, almost livery flavors of pasture-raised venison in sorghum sauce sourced from Tennessee’s Muddy Pond Mill. Even a simple carrot puree grabs your attention and holds it to the end.

Miles and her pastry crew make desserts for all Stitt’s restaurants, including Chez Fonfon and Bottega. Winning the Outstanding Pastry Chef award is a team effort, she says.

“Miss Dol,” an employee since Highlands opened, became pastry chef in 1988. She is the creative mind behind several desserts, including the much-celebrated, four-layer Coconut Pecan Cake. Moist and rich, it is so popular a customer recently ordered a baker’s dozen for a wedding.

It began as an occasional special, but quickly achieved permanence. “Customers started saying how good it was,” Miles says, as she gently pats toasted coconut on one of the Chantilly cream-laced cakes. “People kept asking for it.”

The food and feel at Highlands Bar and Grill is the synthesis of Stitt’s culinary experiences as a child and his explorations as a young adult.

Growing up in Cullman, he ate food fresh from the dirt of his mother’s family farm. He milked cows, watched his grandmother churn butter, and fondly recalls picking strawberries and asparagus with her.

His mom had a worldly palate and generous spirit. “My mother brought love and care to the table,” he says. “Many say she was best cook in Cullman. She always had an extra place set in case a friend stopped by.”

His parents also loved dining out. Stitt recalls going as a nine-year-old to the Four Seasons in New York, where well-dressed waiters finished dishes and flambeed desserts tableside.

“It was like Oz,” Stitt recalls, staring off as if reliving the memory. “It was a magical land of excitement, formality, and fun with such exotic food.”

While studying philosophy in college in California, Stitt wound up at the groundbreaking haute-Bohemian restaurant in Berkeley, Chez Panisse, working for legends Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower.

Among the first modern restaurants to regularly promote locally produced food, Chez Panisse’s greatest influence on Stitt was its chefs’ cooking philosophy. “They introduced people to these provincial- and country-French dishes that were well-researched and had cultural and historical origins.

“Later, Stitt worked for and soaked up knowledge in France from Richard Olney, one of the world’s best food writers and experts in French ingredients, gastronomy, and wine.

Stitt layers those influences at Highlands. But he rejects the label fine dining, which suggests fanciness for fanciness’ sake. Highlands has, he says, “a real lightheartedness of spirit.” The atmosphere in the main dining room is akin to a dinner party with friends; in the bar it’s a cocktail party with the best food and service.

“Eating at Highlands is like wearing your favorite shirt and jacket,” Stitt says. “It’s good quality and it’s sharp. But it makes you feel comfortable.”

For the complete article please see

New SEC Network show ‘TrueSouth’ kicks off in Alabama, of course
From the article by Bob Carlton on

So, yes, when the SEC Network kicks off its new Southern culture show “TrueSouth”  tonight, of course, the premiere episode will take place in Birmingham, Ala.

I mean, if there’s one thing that Southerners are more passionate about than football, it’s food.

And in Alabama — home to both the reigning college football national champions (Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide) and the most outstanding restaurant in America (Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill) — we do both of those things better than just about everybody else.

As the SEC likes to boast: “It just means more.”

The SEC Network’s first deep dive into lifestyle (i.e., non-sports) programming, “TrueSouth” debuts on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. Central time on the network. Three subsequent episodes will air on consecutive Tuesdays in the same time slot. The 30-minute show is presented by YellaWood, which is based in Abbeville.

John T. Edge, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, is the writer and host for “TrueSouth,” and ESPN writer Wright Thompson is the show’s executive producer. Edge and Thompson both live in Oxford, Miss., where their houses are eight blocks apart.

You’re not likely to find two other guys who care more about the South, or know more about it.

“This really is a total collaboration with John T. and I,” Thompson says. “He loves these cities and these restaurants, and as he was describing them to me, I was immediately like, ‘Yes, I see your vision; let’s go do that.'”

In  tonight’s opening episode, “TrueSouth” visits the metro Birmingham area to tell the stories of Johnny’s Restaurant, a popular “Greek and three” lunch spot in Homewood, and the 111-year-old Bright Star in Bessemer, a favorite of the late Alabama football coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant.

In upcoming episodes, “TrueSouth” will explore the food cultures of Nashville, Athens, Ga., and Shreveport, La.

“In Birmingham, we focus on the story of Greek immigrants and their impact on the city through Johnny’s, as the new guard, and Bright Star as the old,” Edge says.

“It’s a show about immigrants and how they transform the South, how they’ve transformed Birmingham and about the legacies of that immigration and what it means to be a Greek in 2018.”

The Birmingham episode also includes a stripped-down performance by vocalist Paul Janeway and guitarist Jesse Phillips of Birmingham’s St. Paul & the Broken Bones, which was filmed at the Bright Star, as well as an appearance by hometown rocker Lee Bains III of Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires.

Edge also interviews Birmingham News and columnist and 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner John Archibald, along with Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

Edge says they made a conscious decision to launch the show with the Birmingham episode.

“The network had a say about that, too, a strong say in that,” he says. “And they liked the narrative coming out of Birmingham, the story we were telling.

“We didn’t need to start with Birmingham, but I think if we are going to tell a story about the South, we want a long span of time over which to tell it,” he adds.

“The Birmingham story starts with the first Greek immigrant to Birmingham in the 1880s and moves forward into the 2010s. That reach, that span, is kind of ideal for us to start.”

Edge is quick to add that “TrueSouth” is not a food show, but rather, a show about food culture, and how that defines an evolving South.

“This wasn’t made for the Food Network,” he says. “This wasn’t made for the Cooking Channel. This isn’t that — decidedly, emphatically, it ain’t.

“This is a show about Southern culture that uses food as a way in, and I hope it’s smart enough to be worthy of Birmingham.”

And even though it is airing on the SEC Network, “TrueSouth” is only contextually about college football, Edge adds.

“To my mind, this is a smart network move to take advantage of the fact that people who watch the SEC Network are really watching stories of the South on their screen,” he says. “They are already watching the drama of daily life in the South unfold. They just happen to be looking mostly at Saturday. We’re going to introduce them to the rest of the week.

“College football is a part of this show because college football is a part of the South, and it is a deeply important reflection of the South,” he adds. “But this isn’t a show about the intersection of food and sports in the South.

“The folks at the SEC Network are smart enough to recognize that if you broadcast a show about food in the South, folks who turn to the SEC Network to understand their region through sports will also come to understand their region through food.”

Thompson, a senior feature writer for and ESPN The Magazine, grew up in Clarksdale, Miss., and he says his main motivation for doing the show is to set the record straight about what it means to be a true Southerner.

“If you’re from the South, then you have complained bitterly about people who get it wrong,” Thompson says. “And they get it wrong from all vantage points and all ideologies.

“I mean, I read stories constantly about Mississippi and the Mississippi Delta, where I’m from, and I wonder if the people have ever been there or not. . . .”

“This is a show by Southerners, about Southerners, for Southerners,” Thompson adds. “And we are working very, very hard to get it right.”

In upcoming visits to Nashville and Athens and Shreveport, “TrueSouth” tells the story of those cities through the lens of two restaurants that may appear different on the surface but that also fit into a broader narrative.

“It’s not just finding great places,” Thompson says. “It’s finding two great places that speak to each other, that talk to each other, that, taken alone, they are just a restaurant, but, taken together, they tell us something about this place, both about the South and about this city, about Birmingham and Athens and Shreveport and Nashville.”

“In Nashville, we tell a story in black and white of the meat-and-three restaurants that define Nashville,” Edge says. “We focus there on Arnold’s Country Kitchen and on Silver Sands, owned by Sophia Vaughn, who cooks a turkey hash for breakfast that will fuel you for a week.

“In Athens, we are focusing on Scott’s Bar-B-Q and Polleria Pablo — one an old-guard barbecue joint, the other a-new guard Peruvian ceviche and roast chicken joint.

“Our fourth one is Shreveport,” Edge continues. “Shreveport is a look at survival. It’s a portrait of survival in the south, and again, the method and the structure are based on two places that talk to each other in that town of Shreveport and Bossier City across the river.”

Although he has been to Birmingham often, Thompson says he had never previously eaten at Johnny’s Restaurant or the Bright Star before making the show.

He’ll be back.

“I’ve come close to getting in the car in Oxford and driving to Johnny’s for lunch,” he says. “I watch this video, and every time I look at the clip we have of the chicken pot pie, I think about getting in my car and driving over there.”

Thompson has also become a fan of Birmingham’s Garage Cafe, where the “TrueSouth” crew gathered for after-work beers.

“I love Birmingham,” he says. “It’s a really cool, great city. It was fun because the crew was from all over — from Oakland and Los Angeles and Indianapolis — and basically, we set up shop every night at the Garage.

“I was like, ‘When we finish shooting, I’ll be at the Garage buying cold beers. Anybody wants one, come on up there.’

“It was really fun. People really liked Birmingham. Everybody will be back, for sure.”

For the complete article please see

Can you paddle the entire 650 mile Alabama Scenic River Trail? Two men are making the journey
From the article by Pat Byington on

Can you paddle the entire 650 mile Alabama Scenic River Trail? That is what Will Denton, 79, and John Denton, 66 started doing earlier this month.

The Dentons, who are cousins, began their journey at the start of the Alabama Scenic River Trail near the Georgia state line on Sept. 1. They have paddled between 12 and 20 miles each day since, sleeping on the riverbanks or in nearby hotels at night. The duo’s trip will end at Fort Morgan where a bronze sign marks the end of the 650-mile core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail.

“Basically, it’s gone really well. The weather could not have been better,” said Will Denton.

“It’s wonderful. You can do this same trip in a boat (motorboat), but you miss an awful lot.” “One day we had just portaged around Weiss dam, and on that day, after we portaged, we saw an eagle, a wild turkey with seven or eight chicks, and a number of fish, eating birds.”

According to the Dentons, they have traveled 150 miles in the first 10 paddling days on the water.

“It’s remarkable for anyone to travel 650 miles by paddle boat, but it’s especially notable that the Dentons are tackling this challenge in their retirement years,” said Jay Grantland, executive director for the Alabama Scenic River Trail. “Their strength of will can be an inspiration to people much younger than them.”

The Alabama Scenic River Trail began 10 years ago with the 650-mile core section of trail the Dentons are paddling. Since then, the trail has grown to include more than 5,000 miles of waterway, making it the longest river trail in a single state.

Welcoming the Dentons trek on the Coosa River is the Coosa Riverkeeper‘s Executive Director Justinn Overton.

“It’s so exciting to hear these folks are enjoying their time on the Coosa River as they journey towards its tailwaters in Wetumpka. The Coosa River and her lakes provide recreation for thousands of Alabamians all year long, but not many can say they’ve paddled the entire length of the river!”

Travelers making the journey on the Alabama Scenic River Trail can visit their website at: to learn where all the campsites and access to the waterways are located. They also have a list of individuals who assist paddlers on the river trail.

Now the big question.  Do you think you could paddle the entire Alabama Scenic River Trail?

For the complete article please see

Varied terrain makes Alabama a mountain biking destination
From the article by John N Felsher for Alabama Living on

Many Americans grew up riding bicycles as their primary form of independent transportation until they learned how to drive automobiles. In recent years, cycling enthusiasts have taken their sport to higher levels, literally and figuratively. Today, Alabama offers riders abundant trails running through terrain as varied as sandy beaches and mountaintops.

“When it comes to mountain biking, Alabama is a hidden gem,” says Philip Darden, manager of James Bros. Bikes in Opelika and the Alabama representative on the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) executive board. “The state really has a lot to offer bikers from beginner to expert levels. The quality of rides is exceptional. I’ve ridden many different trails and some of my favorites are right here in Alabama.”

In 1989, SORBA formed to promote mountain biking and added regional chapters for cycling aficionados. Many association members periodically volunteer to build and maintain biking trails on public properties.

“I really encourage anyone who wants to try mountain biking to contact one of the riding associations,” suggests Mary Anne Swanstrom, president of SORBA-Huntsville. “Mountain biking is not about speed. It’s about the experience and the camaraderie of riding with other people. I’ve seen children as young as three years old ride bikes that don’t even have pedals. The children push their way along.”

Learning to ride
People who want to try mountain biking shouldn’t buy the first cycle they see in a department store. People riding rugged mountain trails need strong equipment that can take abuse.

“There’s a big difference between riding a bicycle around the neighborhood and going on a mountain trail,” says Marcus Tillman, trail director for the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association and the Anniston recreation trails manager. “Quality mountain bicycles start at about $400 to $600. More advanced bikes might cost $1,000. I’ve even known people to pay $15,000 for a custom state-of-the-art bike.”

Writing a big check doesn’t necessarily put a rider on the correct seat. Like riders, bikes also come in varied sizes. Darden recommends visiting a bike shop to get the proper equipment specifically suited to one person.

“In the last few years, mountain biking equipment has really gotten much better,” Darden says. “A prospective mountain biker needs a bike that fits that person’s size. People at a bike shop know how to put a bike together for a specific person. A correctly sized bike is more enjoyable to ride.”

Besides the bike, a rider needs a good helmet, which might cost $40 to $60. Many experienced riders also recommend wearing full-fingered gloves with padded palms and comfortable biking shorts with chamois pads. A new cyclist might also buy a small backpack to hold valuables, snacks, cell phone, maps and other items while riding.

Even with the best equipment, someone who hasn’t ridden a bicycle in years should not immediately hit the toughest mountain trails. Start pedaling around the neighborhood to build up leg muscles and endurance while becoming familiar with the equipment. Then, ride an easy trail, perhaps one with a few small hills, and progress from there.

“Someone getting back into biking should ease into it and learn how to use the equipment properly,” Tillman says. “Riders need to become comfortable with when and how to shift gears properly. People also need to practice braking. Grabbing just the front brake is usually not a good idea. People need to learn how to use the rear brakes and feather the front brakes.”

All kinds of terrain
Fortunately, riders ranging in skill levels from beginner to expert can find many trails coursing through diverse habitat all across Alabama. Many city, county and state parks offer trails of varied lengths and degrees of difficulty. In addition, cyclists can ride trails through many national forest or Forever Wild properties.

The largest state park in Alabama, Oak Mountain sprawls across 9,940 acres just south of Birmingham. Cyclists at all skill levels can ride several trails. Experienced riders like the Double Oak Trail, also called the Red Trail, which runs approximately 22 miles through mountainous terrain. In 2010, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) placed Oak Mountain on its list of Epic Rides, making it one of the “must ride” trails in the world.

Chewacla State Park south of Auburn offers riders more than 30 trail miles. Named for the Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers who helped build and maintain it, the CAMP Trail runs about a mile through relatively flat terrain around the campground. Other trails, like the eight-mile long For Pete’s Sake Trail, wander through rugged, rocky terrain.

“As a former president of CAMP, I’m most familiar with Chewacla,” Darden says. “We want to build trails that are easily accessible so people can jump into the sport without any previous experience and feel comfortable riding. We also want riders to have opportunities to progress in their skill levels so they continue to grow as mountain bikers.”

CAMP and other volunteers worked to construct a dual slalom trail, the first of its kind in the state and unique to most of the Southeast. The Chewacla trail will host the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference’s 2018 Mountain Bike Championship in early October.

The Coldwater Mountain Doug Ghee Nature Preserve and Recreation Area covers 4,183 acres of Forever Wild property in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains by Anniston. Because of its status with the IMBA, people from surrounding states and even foreign countries frequently visit Coldwater Mountain, giving the Anniston area a tourism boost.

“The greater Anniston area has more than a hundred miles of trails,” Tillman confirms. “In terms of habitat, Alabama is one of the most varied states in the union, but the crown jewel is Coldwater Mountain. It has 37 miles of trails right now, but when we finish, it will have 70.”

The new Duck River Reservoir in Cullman just opened a 20-mile hiking and mountain biking trail that circles the entire lake. Susan Eller with the Cullman Economic Development Agency says it’s already attracted cyclists from across northern Alabama, and they intend to market it to local residents but also to create tourism dollars.

South of Anniston, Cheaha State Park offers incredible riding opportunities. Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama, reaches 2,413 feet. People can also bike through parts of the Talladega National Forest, including Coleman Lake Recreation Area  north of Heflin.

In northern Alabama, many people ride the trails at Monte Sano State Park near Huntsville. In the fall, park visitors enjoy spectacular views of mountains emblazoned with colorful foliage. Riders can choose among 14 miles of trail that range from very easy to extremely difficult. The adjacent Monte Sano Land Trust Preserve offers another 20 trail miles.

“Northern Alabama has some wonderful bike trails,” Swanstrom says. “On Monte Sano, the terrain is rocky, so people need to have some ability to ride the trails. Mountain biking is a wonderful way to enjoy nature and the mountain scenery while getting good exercise. It’s a very social sport, whether people just get out with a few friends to ride or they join hundreds of other people participating in an organized ride.”

Although lacking mountains, cyclists can still find ample cycling opportunities in southern Alabama. In Mobile County, Chickasabogue Park provides 17 miles of trails wandering through hardwood forests, sandy pine flats and over bridges crossing lowlands. In southeastern Alabama, Dothan coordinated with the Alabama State Lands Division to build a 319-acre park that features 10 miles of trails.

“The Dothan Forever Wild trails are multi-use, but their primary purpose is for mountain biking,” says Evan Lawrence with Alabama State Lands. “The terrain is somewhat flat, but the city added some features. The trails go through mixed hardwood and pine forests and cross Beaver Creek, which is very swampy.”

All over Alabama, cyclists can usually find a place to ride close to home with a quick internet search. For Alabama state park information, see

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living.

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
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