Outdoor fun before the storm – Gulf State Park, AL

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Hugh S Banyon Backcountry Trail

Bugs BunnyWe have been dilly-dallying near the Alabama coast before continuing our trek north, wanting to make sure that Spring has sprung and temperatures are on the rise before we continue our adventure.  So here we are, hanging out at Gulf Shores for the next three weeks.  There’s lots to do here, but because this is our second trip into the Gulf Shores area, we’re trying to do a little more relaxing this time around.

While staying at Gulf State Park, we have finally found what we consider a perfect “10” campground.  Hearing a lot of good things about this huge 496-site park in the past, we tried to make reservations for our stay last year but discovered they were fully booked through March.  This is the only state park we are aware of that allows monthly stays from November through March, and a 14-day maximum all other times.

Gulf State Park, Alabama

Gulf State Park as seen from Gulf Oak Ridge Trail

What’s to like about this park?  First, it met all of our personal criteria; park location, site levelness and spacing, and not too much road or “people” noise.  It was just a great atmosphere to hang out in.  Easy access to several hiking/biking trails and many other amenities were icing on the cake.  If we were really going to be picky, we might complain about the lack of hills or mountains to scale or look at.  But that’s not the park’s fault, and besides, the white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast are only a mile away!  To see more things to do while at this park, click here.  We strongly recommend it to anyone coming to this area.

Live Oak Road, Gulf State Park,

We’re at site #37, Live Oak Road

Middle Lake, Gulf State Park

Middle Lake as seen through our dinette window

After birding with Laurel and Eric on our first two days here, we began to explore the park and hit the trails before the forecasted storm, wind and rain arrived.  Just walking through the campground can be a workout – it’s 2 miles end-to-end, not including any of the side roads or walking trails.  But to make it even better, it also has easy access to the Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail.  Traveling between Gulf State Park and Orange Beach, this complex of 6 attached paved paths covers 12 miles.  It’s believed that the area is historic, as it was once used by indigenous people and early settlers.  It took us 2 rides, one at 19 miles and another at 15 miles to cover all of the paths and get back to the park.  The Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail traverses a wide diversity of habitats, running along marshes, secondary sand dunes, swamps and over several creeks.

Hugh S Branyon Backcountry Trail

Trailhead of Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail from within the park

We took our rides early in the day and observed that the paths got busy later on. Leaving early also allowed us to encounter some wildlife along the way.

Lefty, the alligator

This mother alligator was seen along Rosemary Dunes Trail with her five babies on board

Gulf Oak Ridge Trail, Hugh S Branyon Trails

We liked Gulf Oak Ridge Trail, as it was shaded with a few mild elevation changes to keep our hearts pumping

Catman Road Trail, Hugh S Branyon Backcountry Trail

Looking at yet another water snake along Catman Road Trail

Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, Backcountry Trail

Steve with “helmet hair” at Rattlesnake Ridge Trailhead

Great Blue Heron on top of tree

Can you find the Great Blue Heron?

On other days, we walked all 9 of the unpaved connecting trails within the park.  It was flat, but we got fairly good workouts nevertheless.

Alligator  Marsh Trail, Gulf State Park

No, we did not see any alligators on this trail

Gulf State Park

Along Campground Road

Bear Creek Trail, Gulf State Park

Bear Creek Trail

On these walks I practiced capturing some wildflowers up close and low to the ground using my Point and Shoot Panasonic DMZ-ZS19.  It got some pretty decent shots.

We took the one-mile walk to the beach and then added several miles while walking along the shore.  There are over 3.5 miles of white sand beaches available in both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.  Best of all, it’s free!

Gulf State Park Beach

Gulf State Park Beach

Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans in a feeding frenzy were fun to watch

Common Terns

Unlike the Common Terns in Florida, these guys were skittish and wouldn’t let us get too close

Lowes RV Adventures

Yes, we are enjoying our last few days at the beach before moving on!

All of these activities were done within the confines of the sprawling Gulf State Park, with no driving required.  The park also offers birding, golfing, boating, fishing, kayaking and canoeing.  After four days of active fun the storm hit, and it was a doozy just like the forecasters predicted.

 

Next up:  What do you do when cooped up for three days?



37 thoughts on “Outdoor fun before the storm – Gulf State Park, AL

  1. No driving sounds wonderful, nice to have so much just outside your door. Love the alligator mama and babes!

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  2. We enjoyed our stay at Gulf Shores last year … those bike paths were a daily event for us … as was the beach walks. Good to see Lefty and her babies are doing well.

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    • Erin, it would be a shame if the trails and the beach are not being enjoyed while here at GSP.

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  3. Thanks for the campground recommendation. Looks like a great place to spend a week or two. Love your photo of the mama ‘gator with five littler ones on board!

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    • Hi Sue, yes, if ever you come to the east for a vacay, this campground should be high on your list.

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  4. Perfect 10 campground, Nice!
    Safe and happy travels, Steve and Mona Liza. Be careful with the looming bad weather.
    What the hell is that golden snake? Can you sell it to a pawn shop? Cheap joke again. 😀
    Love your crisp image of the alligators.

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  5. Looks ideal, water, trails birds…well I could do without the snakes 🙂 I have started a journal to record places that have been recommended (for when we get to hit the road permanently), this will definitely go in there! BTW, spotted the heron

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  6. We love Gulf Shores State Park, too! And it was especially great when we had the most fun neighbors down the street in site #37. 🙂 We really enjoyed the easy access to good biking trails in the park, too — your photos should be in a park brochure! (Hmmm…I’m wondering if your activities on your cooped up days are wardrobe related….wish we could have made it to the outlet mall there!)

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    • Thanks Laurel, if you and Eric had stayed longer we could hit the trails together too! And you just gave me an idea about wardrobe and will hit the outlet mall in a few days.
      We went back to TinTop yesterday and Steve had his oyster rockefeller! Yum.

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      • I would LOVE to have a platter of those oysters right now…..that would be the perfect dinner! Alas, we’re in Fredericksburg and too far away from the Gulf Coast for oysters. (I remember you saying you were going shopping sometime during your stay — have fun!)

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  7. We definitely look forward to exploring this state and this looks like the perfect park. We are finding a lack of good parks in the Carolinas. 😦

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    • I totally agree with you LuAnn about the lack of good parks where you are at 😦 and there isn’t any that meet our requirements. But if your meanderings takes you to Alabama Coast, the Gulf State Park is where you would like to be. You and Terry will like it.

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  8. What a lovely place to dilly-dally. Why move on? Loved the pic of the mother and baby allies! When I’m cooped up, I read, write nonsense, watch TV and grizzle that I can’t outside!

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  9. Very Nice! That looks like a great spot for all sorts of things to do. You two stay in shape thats for sure. Love the alligator photo, very cool.

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    • Thank you Cheryl, we do try to be active whenever there is a chance. This is an area you might like to visit on your way to the East Coast.

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  10. Looks like you found a winner. Super site with an awesome view. That is one long snake! I do love that mother gator with all those babies. That was the best find. Glad you found beautiful exercise trails. Sure makes working out fun.

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    • Yes Pam, this is a winner, the state park has almost everything we wanted except they don’t have hills or mountains.

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  11. Fabulous photos, Mona. The alligator mom with her babies is my favourite, but those brown pelicans and the common terns come a close second. You and Steve look so healthy and happy. What a lovely life you lead. 🙂

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  12. Looks and sounds like a great place to park for an extended time. Hope you weren’t stuck indoors too long 🙂

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    • Ingrid this is a great state park although they don’t have the hills like Cave Creek. The park is close to shopping and restaurants as well.

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  13. What an awesome park…this one will definitely be on the list for when we head back east! Beautiful wildlife photos….especially the mama gator with her babies. I do love the ocean!

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  14. That looks like a wonderful Park, just the kind we like. I loved the picture of Steve’s “smile bumps” while he was looking at the Alligator trail sign…….Thanks for taking us along.
    Sue

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    • Sue, in case your route takes you here in the south, the state park is the place to be. Sasha and Lewis will have plenty of room to play.

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  15. We really enjoy that area too. I just added your post to Pinterest. We haven’t done the alligator marsh trail.

    You two take the cutest photos. Keep enjoying the good life.

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