Fort Payne is a small town in northeast Alabama, built on a site of a fort. Just outside Fort Payne is the 14,000-acre Little River Canyon National Preserve. A short hike from Fort Payne is Lookout Mountain, with DeSoto State Park protecting its summit, including numerous hiking trails and campgrounds. Fort Payne is also known as the home to the popular country rock band Alabama, and the city houses the band’s fan club and museum.

1. Little River Canyon National Preserve

Little River Canyon National Preserve
© Courtesy of James Deitsch -

Little River Canyon National Preserve was established in 1992 on the boundary of DeKalb and Cherokee Counties, in rugged northeast Alabama, surrounding the Little River Canyon.

The preserve covers 15,288 acres, which are mostly owned and managed by the federal government. Besides the spectacular Little River Canyon, the preserve includes the pristine Little River, a unique environment that provides home to many threatened and rare animals and plants.

Visitors to the preserve can enjoy swimming, climbing, fishing, and whitewater rafting. Canyon Rim Drive runs along the west edge of Little River Canyon, providing spectacular scenic drives along the road and magnificent views from a series of overlooks. Hunting and trapping are allowed on the preserve. Explore weekend getaways in Alabama for more travel ideas.

4322 Little River Trail NE, Suite 100, Fort Payne, AL 35967

2. DeSoto State Park

DeSoto State Park
© Courtesy of Jim Vallee -

DeSoto State Park stretches over the top of magnificent Lookout Mountain in Northeast Alabama, only about 8 miles from Fort Payne. Developed in 1930s, it is rich in rushing waterfalls and fields of fragrant wildflowers, offering a serene environment for rest and relaxation.

Visitors can stay at luxury mountain chalets, log and rustic cabins, a modern campground, and a number of rustic, primitive campsites. There is also a restaurant, pavilions, meeting rooms, picnic area, a playground, a seasonal swimming pool, a nature center, a Civilian Conservation Corps museum and over 25 miles of hiking and biking trails. Visitors to the park can also enjoy kayaking, fishing, biking, rappelling, and bouldering or simply relax and just enjoy the nature. Browse our things to do in Alabama guide for more ideas.

7104 DeSoto Parkway NE, Fort Payne, AL 35967, Phone: 256-845-5380

3. Little River Canyon Center

Little River Canyon Center
© Little River Canyon Center

A part of Jacksonville State University, the Little River Canyon Center is located in Fort Payne, Northeast Alabama, next to the Little River Canyon National Preserve. Established in 2009, with a part leased to the National Park Service, the center includes a grand hall, a movie theater, a natural history library, a gift shop, exhibits, classrooms, an outdoor amphitheater, a deck, and a number of hiking trails. The center can be rented for meetings, corporate retreats, social gatherings, and other events. The center’s regular programs include concerts, workshops, lectures, organized hikes, and many other activities for students and visitors. The building uses many innovative and sustainable design elements such as geothermal heating and cooling, recycled building materials, and extra insulation.

4322 Little River Canyon Pkwy, Fort Payne, AL 35967, Phone: 256-845-3548

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4. Martha’s Falls

Martha’s Falls
© Courtesy of schankz -

Martha’s Falls, locally known as Little Falls or the Hippie Hole, is a popular swimming hole in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. It is located on the state line of Georgia and Alabama, with a short trail leading from the parking lot on Lookout Mountain to the falls, making it a popular spot to spend a hot summer day. The trail starts on the gravel service road, continuing along a rougher pathway and ending in about 100 yards of rocky downhill path opening up at Martha’s Falls. The area is lush and cool, with natural benches and rocks covered in ferns and moss. Watch out for protruding rocks before jumping into the inviting blue pool. It can get quite crowded. Browse our places to visit in Alabama guide for more ideas.

AL-35, Fort Payne, AL 35967

5. Things to Do in Fort Payne: Orbix Hot Glass

Things to Do in Fort Payne: Orbix Hot Glass
© Orbix Hot Glass

Orbix Hot Glass is glass art studio and gallery established in 2002 by Cal and Christy Breed on 26 acres of land hidden among Alabama’s Appalachian foothills, at the top of Lookout Mountain. Today, Cal and his team of glassblowers hand-craft each piece with infinite attention to form, color, and balance. The museum-quality sculptures are sold online or in the gallery on site, and their forms are influenced by the steep cliffs and turbulent waters of the surrounding landscape. For those interested in some hands-on learning about glass-making, Orbix hosts Blow Your Own Ornament events at their studio every Saturday.

3869 County Rd 275, Fort Payne, AL 35967, Phone: 256-523-3188

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6. Fort Payne Depot Museum

Fort Payne Depot Museum
© Fort Payne Depot Museum

The Fort Payne Depot Museum is located in a 1891 Richardsonian Romanesque building in downtown Fort Payne. The beautiful pink and white sandstone building next to the city park is a city landmark that served as a city railroad depot for over 85 years. When the railroad decided to dismantle the depot, a group of local preservationists purchased it, restored it, and opened it as a museum in 1986. The museum houses a number of permanent and rotating exhibits in two buildings, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum’s exhibits and collections tell the story of Fort Payne and DeKalb County. The Gussie Killian Collection has exquisite examples of Native American pottery, basketry, and artifacts, while the L.A. Dobbs exhibit showcases memorabilia from the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War. The Depot Annex in the Fort Payne Coal and Iron Building offers rotating exhibits and a collection of dioramas by Steve Fiora.

105 5th St NE, Fort Payne, AL 35967, Phone: 256-845-5714

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7. Alabama Fan Club and Museum

Alabama Fan Club and Museum
© Alabama Fan Club and Museum

Alabama is a country and Southern rock band from Fort Payne, Alabama, formed in 1969 by Randy Owen, lead vocals and rhythm guitarist, and his cousin Teddy Gentry, bass guitar and background vocals. Another cousin, Jeff Cook joined them as lead guitar, fiddle, and keyboards. They started under the name Wildcountry and toured the Southeast bar circuit in the 1970s. In 1977 they changed their name to Alabama. In the 1980s, the band had over 27 number one hits and seven multi-platinum albums. They sold 73 million albums and joined the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Fort Payne, where it all started, is a home of the Alabama Fan Club, which has been named the Country Music Group of the Century, and the museum. The museum houses Alabama's many awards, achievements, and collections as well as a souvenir and gift shop.

101 Glenn Blvd SW, Fort Payne, AL 35967, Phone: 256-845-1646

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8. Things to Do in Fort Payne: Vintage 1889

Things to Do in Fort Payne: Vintage 1889
© Vintage 1889

Vintage 1889 is a rustic eatery located in the 1889 historic Davis Hosiery Mill, which has been converted into an antique mall. Opened in 2013, this relaxed Fort Payne restaurant offers a friendly atmosphere in a cozy space with exposed brick walls and a lovely courtyard beneath the old water tower. Vintage 1889 serves delicious sandwiches made with high-quality ingredients. Try their Cuban sandwich with locally smoked pork. Most sandwiches are named after the owner’s family members; Nana's Roast Beef was what her grandmother made for her when she was a child. They have the largest beer selection in town with over 100 labels, eight on draft. The restaurant’s spacious Boarding Room is offered for special events.

151 8th Street NE, Fort Payne, AL 35967, Phone: 256-845–3380

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9. Jefferson's of Fort Payne

Jefferson's of Fort Payne
© Jefferson's of Fort Payne

Jefferson’s restaurant in Fort Payne is located just off the interstate, next to Taco Bell. This popular chain eatery is famous for its chicken wings, burgers, and oysters, but their menu is pretty extensive and there is something for everyone. The place has a nice, cozy pub feel, with several large TVs for watching ongoing games. It is a popular local hangout, both for lunch and for dinner, especially on Sundays when families come with kids and the kids eat for free. Wings are only 75 cents on Wednesday and they are served with a range of delicious sauces, mild or spicy.

802 Glenn Blvd. SW, Fort Payne, AL 35967, Phone: 256-845-9464

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10. Santa Fe Cattle Co

Santa Fe Cattle Co
© Santa Fe Cattle Co

Santa Fe Cattle is a popular local roadside eatery in Fort Payne, a part of the American chain famous for their Southwestern-inspired food, hand-cut steaks, ribs, fajitas, and buckets of peanuts in shells. This is one of the first things everyone notices when entering Santa Fe – loads of peanut shells on the floor. Kids love it and munching on peanuts is a nice way to spend time while your steak is being done. Santa Fe is also known for its freshly baked rolls and in-house made sauces. The atmosphere in the restaurant is relaxed and pleasant, with a row of comfortable booths on one side and country music in the background.

305 Ruby Tuesday Ln. SW, Ft. Payne, AL 35968, Phone: 256-844-9422

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11. True Adventure Sports

True Adventure Sports
© Courtesy of gabrielefusetto -

If you are heading up Lookout Mountain and the Little River Canyon National Preserve, your first stop should be True Adventure Sports, located little over a mile from the preserve in Fort Payne. This full-scale outfitter offers organized adventures, classes, guided trips, and all sorts of gear as well as lodging for individuals and groups. They provide 39 different adventures that include rappelling, canoeing, rock climbing, kayaking, ziplines, a sky swing, and much more. Among their highly experienced guides you will find certified rappel masters, WFR certified medics, certified mountain guides, confined space rescuers, and many other highly trained wilderness experts. Let them make your trip fun, exciting, and safe.

13102 AL-176, Fort Payne, AL 35967, Phone: 256-997-9577

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12. Manitou Cave

Manitou Cave

Located just a few blocks from downtown Fort Payne, Manitou Cave will leave every visitor filled with awe and wonder. This captivating Alabama attraction is not only filled with natural beauty but is also rich in archaeological and historical significance as it dates back thousands of years. Visitors can walk through the cave's intricate passages, marvel at the geological formations standing up to 40 feet tall, and study sacred Cherokee inscriptions found on ceilings 50 feet high. Manitou Cave offers guided tours for those wanting to gain a deeper understanding of this local treasure as well as the Native American heritage deeply ingrained within it.

Cave Street SE, Fort Payne, Alabama 35967

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13. Fort Payne Cabin Historic Site

Fort Payne Cabin Historic Site
© Africa Studio/

This historic landmark holds significant insight into the lives and hardships faced by the early Cherokee people in Alabama. In the 1830s, the cabin—along with the surrounding fort—was used by Federal Troops for the collection, holding, and removal of the Cherokee. As more than 1,100 Cherokee were forced to leave their homes, they were held in this site in open encampments until departing. The majority traveled west, taking on the 800-mile journey known as the Trail of Tears. Today, visitors can still visit the fort and find remnants of the seized cabin, including its stone fireplace and nearby stacked stone well.

106 4th Street, Fort Payne, Alabama 35967, Phone: 256-845-6888

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