Kid’s View: Little River Canyon Hiking

March 9, 2015 in front, Spring 2015 Issue by Lookout Alabama

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Little River Canyon National Preserve offers adventure and amazing scenery.

by CADEN GRIDER, AGE 12 | photos by OLIVIA GRIDER and JOHN DERSHAM

First of all, I would like to express the pure beauty of Little River Canyon. It is like jumping into a piece of art – but jump carefully and watch where you land. The canyon walls are steep. When most people see the canyon, they can’t take their eyes off it. I tend to ask myself, “Is this real?” every time I see it. “Can a place be this beautiful?” And then, “Where can I hike around here?”[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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Eberhart Point
To really know the magnificence of Little River Canyon, you have to climb down into it. And what better place to do that than Eberhart Point, one of the deepest parts of the canyon? The view from the overlook prompts my three questions above. The steep rock cliffs and river below are simply astonishing. A wide, gravel-covered path leads to the river below.

As I descend about 600 feet into the canyon, I can’t believe how tall the cliffs are. And the water! It is clear up close and a fascinating aqua color from a distance. The view from the bottom of the canyon makes me want to stay and set up camp. (But that’s not a good idea. The National Park Service doesn’t allow camping in the canyon because of the risk for flash  floods.)

Near the river, I also see the ruins of a chairlift that once was part of Canyon Land Park, an amusement park on Lookout Mountain in the1970s and early 1980s. It had carnival rides and even a zoo.

I go to the water’s edge and watch it rushing over rocks and large boulders. Two kayakers row up to the shore after a trip downstream. The trail continues along the river, but I save that adventure for another day. I love this trail and it’s alluring qualities. Don’t bring small children on this one, though, because the climb back up is a doozy.

Beaver Pond Trail
Right across from the gorgeous Lynn Overlook is the Beaver Pond Trail. It is a winding trail that goes through a hardwood and pine forest. Three bridges cross a burbling stream. Most of the trees are short, and sunlight streams through them.

You can take the short way (1/3 mile) or the long way (3/4 mile). Either way, at the end you arrive at Beaver Pond. It’s a small pond created by a beaver’s dam in the stream. You can walk out on a short pier to get a better look.

We take the long way around and venture off the path a little after the second bridge. We see a clearing that turns out to be a glade. The ground is covered with gray rock and thick, green moss. This would be a great place for a picnic.

Bear Creek Canyon Trail
This trail gives you a little bit of everything and more! A stroll through a cow pasture, a walk through the woods, a climb down into Bear Creek Canyon (which joins Little River Canyon) and a relaxing setting by the creek. If you stay at Bear Creek Cabins (see story page 16), you can enjoy this trail.

My friend Dylan Wisener accompanies me on this trail. We walk through the expansive cow pasture that’s part of the Bear Creek Cabins property, through the forest, a short way along a road and onto the canyon trail. (The owners of Bear Creek Cabins are happy to tell guests the way.)

This is where our climbing journey starts. The narrow trail is fairly flat at first, then gets very steep. Ropes tied to trees help us along the most challenging areas.

It isn’t difficult for Dylan and me. We go down quickly (my mom might not have fared as well). At the bottom of the first roped section, we begin to see a waterfall crashing into the creek below. After we knock out the second rope (which is easier), we arrive at a bend in the creek.

I can’t get over the beauty of the place. It’s similar to the bottom of Little River Canyon, but the river is narrower and the canyon isn’t as deep. An almost vertical rock wall rises on the other side of the creek.

This is definitely my favorite trail of all. This trail does have steep climbs and drop-offs just beyond its edges, so small children should not go on this trail.

If you counted the number of times I said beautiful or a synonym of beautiful in this story, it would be nowhere near enough. Little River Canyon and the area around it is more than beautiful. It’s almost heavenly. But don’t take my word for it – go see for yourself!

If You Go

GETTING THERE: Little River Canyon National Preserve is at 4322 Little River Trail NE, Fort Payne, AL 35967.

To reach Beaver Pond Trail: Turn off Alabama Highway 35 onto Highway 176 (scenic drive) just west of Little River Falls. The trail entrance and a parking area are right past Lynn Overlook.

To reach Eberhart Point: This is the last improved overlook along the Highway 176 scenic drive.

ALSO CHECK OUT: Martha’s Falls Trail, a moderate hike that leads to the upper portion of the canyon and a small waterfall. A parking lot is east of Little River Falls on Highway 35.

Little River Canyon Center, where you can watch a short film about the canyon and attend nature and arts and crafts programs.

The many canyon overlooks along Highway 176, which follows the canyon’s western rim.}

MORE INFO: www.nps.gov/liri; jsu.edu/epic/canyoncenter; 256-845-9605;256-845-3548

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