When you are ready to explore Gulf Shores, Alabama with your family, head to the Gulf State Park. The park is home to more than 2 miles of the most beautiful sugar-white sand beaches, the Gulf of Mexico’s 2nd longest fishing pier, Lake Shelby, and the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail System. Whether you are looking to explore by boat, on wheels, or on foot, the Gulf State Park has an adventure waiting for you.
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
I was recently in Gulf Shores, Alabama and had a great time exploring the area. One of my favorite places was the Backcountry Trail, the 25 mile multi-use trail system running through the heart of Gulf Shores. This trail system takes you from Orange Beach, through Gulf State Park to the City of Gulf Shores without taking you on the main road.
The combination of paved paths and raised boardwalk trails are popular with cyclists and runners alike.
For a different experience, take a Segway Tour. A group of us donned helmets and hopped on for a tour with Coastal Segway Adventures. Our guide, James, was great and shared some great stories about the area.
After a brief lesson in riding a Segway, he took us on a 2 hour guided tour of the park. We zipped around, stopping often to take pictures of the different things we saw.
Along every path you will see a variety of plants and trees. There are benches, park swings, and tables along each trail to allow guests to stop, sit and relax.
Some of the wildlife that you can see in the park include: deer, fox, coyote, bobcat, otter, alligators, lizards, snakes, opossum, armadillo, eagles, squirrel, rabbits.
The park features 7 different trails that give visitors a total 25 miles and 6,000 acres to explore. A Segway is a fun way to see the 6 different ecosystems ranging from sandy beach to Live Oak maritime forest and learn about the history of the area.
Thanks to the State Park Project, an oil spill restoration project, Backcountry trail recently added an additional 10 miles of trails to their existing 15 miles within Gulf State Park.
The project provided for the raised boardwalk off of Lake Shelby, which is the park’s largest spring-fed lake. It sits directly across from the Gulf of Mexico and is a popular site for swimming, water skiing, and paddle sports like kayaking.
The Picnic Area is a favorite among families with smaller children because of the swimming area, public restrooms and covered pavilions.
Gulf State Park Adventure and Welcome Center
If you want to explore the area on bicycle, kayak, or paddle board, you can stop at the welcome center to rent one. The center is open daily 9am to 4pm. I didn’t have the chance to stop in at the Gulf State Park’s Nature Center. But I’m told that it’s a good place to learn more about the area’s wildlife. They offer weekly programs such as guided nature walks, educational programs, and beach walks. Find those Gulf State Park Activities here.
Camping in Gulf State Park
If you wanted to camp in the area, Gulf State Park Campground offers:
- 496 improved full-hookup campsites
- Paved pad
- Picnic tables
- Pedestal grill tops.
- Large enough for RVs with pullouts
- 11 primitive camping sites
- 11 modern air-conditioned bathhouses
- camp store
- laundry facilities
- swimming pool with splash pad
- Sports court & horseshoes
- Nature Center is nearby with weekly activities
- Limited WiFi
Gulf Shores has picturesque beaches that you could spend your entire vacation on. But I highly recommend heading over to The Backcountry Trail and Gulf State Park for a visit. They are both great places to stop and explore when you are in the area. Be sure to check out these Gulf Shores restaurants I recommend too. You'll be hungry after exploring and these local eateries will really hit the spot.