Words by Sarah Deloach
As the hot summer lingers behind us, fall creeps up, and the temperature begins to drop. The changing of seasons doesn't mean all the fun is leaving too. With fall finally here, it's time to enjoy this pleasant weather to the fullest on the Alabama Coast.
If you want to get outside and experience this beautiful season somewhere where it won't be too chilly, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer just the opportunity to do so. Reveling in the natural wonders of the coast and seeing its gorgeous white beaches is possible on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. Nature lovers can bike, walk and run on this 28+ mile paved trail that flows through the 6,150 acres of the Gulf State Park. Nearby is the Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier, the largest one in the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama's only public pier. There’s a bait and tackle shop, concessions, and plenty of shaded seating for you to soak in the views out of the sun.
If you want a quiet and relaxing beach walk, check out the Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion, which gives visitors easy access to the public beach. Recently renovated, this site has new air-conditioned bathrooms and private showers to help guests cool down and freshen up. Guests can also enjoy water activities out on Lake Shelby. This large freshwater lake is perfect for a day of swimming, boating and fishing. Kayaks and paddleboards are available to rent to enjoy on the lake as well.
Whether you're traveling with kids or looking to know more about the area, Gulf State Park offers many educational opportunities to learn about the ecosystems and history of the park. At the Nature Center, Learning Campus, and the Interpretive Center, the learning possibilities are endless.
Fun-filled activities and educational opportunities aren't the only perks of the park. Gulf State Park has delicious dining options on-site, so you don't have to leave the park. Alongside the trail is Woodside, a restaurant offering Southern-style meals and perfect for those looking to grab a bite while hiking or biking. Located at the Lodge at Gulf State Park is FoodCraft, a casual beachfront restaurant that serves coastal classics like fresh seafood and burgers. Lastly, Perch is a fine dining experience overlooking the sugar-sand beaches for those wanting dinner with a view.
Many lodging options are available for guests to stay within the park and enjoy its amenities to the fullest. The Lodge, a Hilton Hotel, is an elite model of environmentally-friendly lodging and is located right on the beach. For those wanting to immerse themselves in the park's quietness and seclusion, Gulf State Park offers campgrounds and cabins.