By Carmen Rodgers
School is out for spring break this week and if you have not planned a getaway there is still time to hit the open road.
The perfect retreat could be found in an Alabama state park. Almost everyone in the state lives within an hour’s drive of such a park so there’s no need to spend precious time on the road.
Several state parks offer springtime activities for the entire family, from riding mountain bikes and zip lines to riding the waves in the Gulf of Mexico.
Closest to Tallassee is Wind Creek State Park, located 7 miles south of Alexander City on the western side of Lake Martin. The state park occupies 1,445 acres and offers boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, hiking and equestrian trails, a large camping area and rental cabins. A grain silo built in 1915 that sits on the edge of the lake is topped by a viewing platform and has a nature center in its base.
The park has equestrian trails totaling over 20 miles and two hiking trails that total more than 5 miles. The park has nearly 600 camping sites in one of the largest state-owned campgrounds in the United States.
There are six resort parks in the Alabama State Park System, including Lake Guntersville, Cheaha, Gulf, DeSoto, Lakepoint and Joe Wheeler. These parks have pools, full-service restaurants and many unique attractions.
Overnight guests can lounge at the Gulf State Park campground pool and frolic at the adjoining splash pad with a tennis court just a few steps away.
At Cheaha Resort State Park, breathtaking views await throughout the 2,799-acre mountaintop retreat. Cabins, chalets and campgrounds offer overnight accommodations.
Adventures abound at Lake Guntersville State Park with the aptly named Screaming
Eagle Aerial Adventures zip line course allowing visitors to view the park as only the eagles could before the construction of this amazing attraction.
At DeSoto State Park, campers can enjoy canoeing or kayaking, go fishing or hiking, biking or rappelling. Exploring nature is easy with more than 25 miles of trails as well as an ADA-accessible boardwalk.
Lakepoint on Lake Eufaula offers more than just great angling. There’s also hiking, swimming, wildlife and bird watching, camping, picnic areas and playgrounds. Lakepoint Resort Lodge and Convention Center offers 101 hotel rooms, 29 cabins and 10 lakefront cottages.
Joe Wheeler State Park is divided by the Tennessee River, which forms the 69,700-acre Wheeler Lake. Bass, bream and catfish are plentiful in the sparkling waters.
Campers can bring a sailboat, a bike or golf clubs.
Several state parks offer plenty of campgrounds, and many offer seminars and craft projects. Guests can learn the basics of backpacking, a new craft, how to build survival tools and how to mine gems, among other subjects.
Several smaller parks offer cabins and campgrounds for outdoors lovers. Explorers can also visit Cathedral Caverns in Woodville, near Scottsboro, or Rickwood Caverns north of Birmingham in Warrior.
Cave tours offer easy walks and amazing views of these underground wonderlands.
Cathedral Caverns is wheelchair-accessible.
State parks are almost wholly supported by those who use them. Between 80 and 90 percent of the system’s funding, and 100 percent of the operating costs, come from user fees, not tax dollars.