Outdoor fun before the storm – Gulf State Park, AL
We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?