The city of Scottsboro, Alabama was once inhabited by Cherokee Indians before the area became developed along the Tennessee River.
The region was a great source of water and food and locals used the river to ship freight to larger cities.
For decades, the thriving river trade was the city’s main source of income due to low-lying riverside land which was not suitable for placing railroad tracks.
It was also prime location of the Scottsboro Boys Trail, one of the most important cases in Civil Rights history.
The city’s fascinating past can still be revisited today in its buildings, parks, heritage centres, and along the banks of the creeks.
There’s much to explore, and outdoor activities for all, so if you’re touring through Alabama, don’t miss out on a trip to Scottsboro.
1. Stephens Gap
Jackson County is abundant with limestone caves, but one which is most appealing, especially to ‘spelunkers’ is Stephens Gap which was discovered in the 1950s.
Spelunking is a form of cave exploration, where daring adventurers often endure wet underground chambers and dark passageways to reach awe-inspiring subterranean grottoes.
Stephens Gap has two entrances, one of which you can access vertically, and the other which you can reach on foot.
The trail towards the vertical cavern is steep with rocky steps and ledges which can remain treacherous after wet weather, so be sure to wear adequate footwear, and if possible, bring a local guide who knows the area.
2. Scottsboro Boys Museum & Cultural Centre
If you’ve been exploring venues associated with the Civil Rights Movement throughout your Alabama journey, you will probably have heard of the Scottsboro Boys Trails.
On March 25th, 1931, nine young black men were on the railways looking for work when they were removed in Scottsboro.
Deputy officers in charge that day found two white women and persuaded them to accuse the young boys of heinous crimes.
In weeks and months that followed, incredible events began to unfold, which began with the boys being charged, convicted and some even sentenced to death.
This caused an international outcry which continued for several years, until, eventually the men were released and pardoned.
The museum gives a fascinating insight into how the all-white jury, fuelled by the media at the time convicted the nine boys, and you can see documents, exhibits and photographs pertaining to the trail.
If you are staying in or passing through Scottsboro, and you’re interested in the Civil Rights Movement, this is one museum you shouldn’t miss.
3. Unclaimed Baggage Center
Have you ever wondered what happens to unclaimed baggage from a transatlantic or domestic flight? Well wonder no more.
It ends up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro. They are the only American store which buys and sells unclaimed baggage from airlines.
In fact, they have thousands of items arriving into the store daily, so you never see the same thing twice.
The store is now so popular, it has become one of Alabama’s top tourist and shopping attractions, so if you’re looking for a unique souvenir of your stay, or want an unusual gift for family and friends, check out the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro.
4. Neversink Pit
Neversink Pit near Fackler is one of the most photographed sinkholes in the world.
It measures 40 feet across the top and its cavity drops a stomach-churning 162 feet below.
You can view it from the top of the sinkhole amongst greenery, waterfalls and rocks, or if you’re an experienced climber you can gain a permit and see it from the bottom of the pit.
It doesn’t matter how you view it, Neversink Pit is spectacular from any angle, so don’t forget to bring your camera.
5. Jackson County Park
Jackson County Park on the edge of Scottsboro is a scenic area with a lake where you can really get back to nature.
You can rent a waterside cabin and spend days hiking woodland trails, hire a boat, bring a picnic, or dine in the small and friendly BBQ restaurant.
The park is popular with anglers looking to hook their catch of the day, and children will enjoy swimming in the cooling waters on hot summer days.
Whether you are visiting for the day or plan to stay a while, there’s plenty to occupy all ages at Jackson County Park.
6. Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge
Sauta Cave was once used by Cherokee Indians to mine for gunpowder, and this practice continued throughout the American Civil War, as it was one of the largest saltpeter mines in the region.
Although you can no longer enter the caves, you can walk the park’s beautiful woodland trails and photograph indigenous flora and fauna.
If you’re travelling to Scottsboro during summer months, head for Sauta Cave to see the famous bat emergence.
Between the months of June and August, flurries of around 400,000 bats emerge from the cave to search for food, and you can view this happening in real-time from a specially-constructed viewing platform.
For wildlife enthusiasts it’s an experience not to be missed.
7. Scottsboro-Jackson Heritage Centre
Scottsboro-Jackson Heritage Centre is an historical and cultural museum which displays the customs, history, traditions and artwork of the region.
You begin your tour 12,000 years ago, when the first Native Americans lived in the county.
Discover artefacts from this period and explore advancements through centuries from the pioneers and industrial era to the present day.
There are three main exhibits to explore including ‘Sagetown’ pioneer village, ‘The Little Courthouse’ and the Antebellum-design ‘Brown-Proctor House’, so if you want to delve deep into the rich history of Scottsboro, this is the place to be.
8. Rock Zoo
Nestled along a winding back street near Fackler, Alabama is the fabulous Rock Zoo.
Yes, you guessed it, it’s a roadside exhibit of zoo animals carved out of rocks! The zoo was started in the 1970s by local man Leonard Dawson who was bemused by the fact that a boulder he saw looked like a rooster, so he painted it and popped it at the side of the road for passers- by to see.
His family continue the tradition to this day, and now there’s a whole plethora of rock painted animals lining the roadside.
You can see rock elephants, chickens, cows and even a giraffe! If you’re tired of visiting museums and state parks and are looking for something more obscure to see on your Alabama trip, you should take a drive to Rock Zoo.
9. Payne’s Sandwich Shop and Soda Fountain
Payne’s was originally founded way back in 1869, but the owners thought it would be more fun to remodel the shop/diner in true 1950’s fashion! With black and white chequered floors, red and chrome stools, dining booths and an original soda fountain, you will believe you’ve been transported back in time.
Put a dime in the old jukebox, sit back and tuck into delicious filled sandwiches, slaw dogs, sodas and desserts, as you imagine what life was life in Scottsboro during this vibrant era.
10. Pisgah Gorge Falls
If you’re after that perfect Alabama photo opportunity, you may just find it at Pisgah Gorge Falls.
The towering 100 feet cascading falls are surrounded by nature and woodland trails, allowing you to view this natural spectacle without any crowds.
This hidden gem is well-worth the walk, and you can easily spend an hour or two by the falls or stop for a picnic.
The hike from the car park is less than a mile, but terrain is uneven so pack a good pair of walking shoes and enjoy some leisure time discovering flora, fauna and birdlife.
11. Caldwell Park
Located near Downtown Scottsboro, this picturesque recreational area offers relaxation time and leisure pursuits for all.
You can wander along the woodland pathways, enjoy a picnic in the shade, or let the kid’s loose in the children’s playground.
Annual events such as Art Sunday are held throughout the year, when exhibitors display their crafts and artwork in the park, and the city welcomes people in their thousands for the event.
12. The Docks Restaurant
Overlooking the scenic Tennessee River is The Docks Seafood and Steakhouse in Goose Pond Colony Resort.
You can arrive by boat or drive 6.5 miles to the restaurant from Scottsboro.
The relaxed, fine dining restaurant is set in an idyllic riverside location among pine trees and woodland.
It’s the perfect place for a romantic dinner for two, or a special family or group meal.
The Docks signature dish is their delicious shrimp and grits, made from fresh Gulf shrimp, accompanied by Andouille sausage and southern stone ground grits from a local mill.
In summer months you can dine on the deck and watch spectacular sunsets as you sip a glass of wine.
It’s the perfect choice for the last night of your stay, as memories of the food and fantastic riverside vistas are sure to stay with you for years to come.
13. Zipline the Screaming Eagle
A short drive from Scottsboro on the shores of Lake Guntersville, you can experience the thrill of a lifetime at the Screaming Eagle Zipline Adventure.
Let the instructor clip you onto the zip line, then simply relax and enjoy woodland and lake views as you soar 250 feet above the ground between trees, and across suspension bridges.
There are tailored adventures for children over 8 years of age, and group tours are available if you fancy hosting a team-building day or are organising a fun family day out.
14. Lake Guntersville State Park
Following your thrilling zipline adventure, you may decide to stay and explore Lake Guntersville State Park.
Located in the Tennessee Valley overlooking the reservoir, the park boasts over 36 miles of biking and hiking trails, nature centres, a fishing area, beach and an 18-hole golf course.
Bird-watchers will enjoy trying to spot bald eagles, and you can even learn more about these majestic birds of prey with regular educational talks.
If you wish to stay overnight, book into the resort lodge, or stay in the modern campgrounds and cabins near the lake.
15. Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center
Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center sits on a hilltop near the public library overlooking the city theatre.
It is set in the Guntersville Armory building which was constructed back in 1936 for Company E, 167th Infantry Division.
The museum’s fascinating collection includes a 12-foot fishing boat which used to travel the river, archive photographs and exhibits showcasing life in Alabama during the 1800s.
There’s a selection of beautiful watercolour paintings by local artists and interesting Native American exhibits dating to the Paleo-Indian era.