Updated: Sep 10
The idea of travel is often met with thoughts of faraway locations, exotic scenery, and Instagram-worthy adventures. I've found local travel to be equally fun, loaded with opportunities for great pictures, affordable, and perhaps more accessible for family travel. Shorter commutes provide more time for exploring and less backseat arguing, so anytime you can jump into local adventures, go for it.
Nestled between Chattanooga, Tn, and Huntsville, AL, Jackson County is filled with gems and caves the whole family can enjoy!
Your weekend guide to Scottsboro Alabama with Kids
Where to stay?
When traveling with kids, it's always a good idea to choose somewhere with plenty of space and on-site activities. Goose Pond Colony Resort fits the bill providing spacious two bed/two bath cabins, campsites, lodges, swimming pool, nature trails, fishing, and watercraft rentals. Surrounded by scenic mountain and lake views, Goose pond has everything needed for the perfect family getaway.
Things to do in Jackson County, Alabama
Jackson County is home to several activities perfectly suited for families, couples, or singles. From the Scottsboro Boy's Museum in Scottsboro to Russel Cave National Monument in Bridgeport, there's plenty to do and learn while visiting the area.
The former farm is now a nature lovers paradise. From beautiful rolling hills, grassland, and one of the most diverse freshwater ecosystems east of the Mississippi, there's something for every outdoor enthusiast and budding enthusiast to enjoy. We passed plenty of wild blackberries while visiting. With kids of varied interest, they were all excited when eyeing the berries from the trail.
Don't forget to pack your binoculars. This is site 40 on the North Alabama bird trail, and if you're lucky, you may spot a few of the many birds native to North Alabama.
Tucked off an old country road is a cave cited as "one of the most complete records of prehistoric cultures in the Southeast." This NPS-designated monument is truly a sight to see, and honestly, you forget where you are as you make your way down the boardwalk. You'll find interpretive signs along the main trail that help bridge the gap between then and now. Pay attention; this information comes in handy for those looking to earn a Jr. Badge.
We truly enjoyed our visit here and stayed much longer than we planned. Depending on interest levels, this can be a 10-minute trip or hours long. Our boys ended up being really into it, which resulted in being there for many hours!
Be sure to check out the other trails that provide a view into a sinkhole and the visitor's center before leaving. There you'll find Jr ranger books, ranger demonstrations, and a small museum.
Sauta Cave Bat Emergence
This one was on our radar for years, and I'm so glad we finally made it! Whether you're into bats or not, it's something special about being able to say, " I watched bats emerge from a cave!" You'll be able to do so with a quick visit at sundown to Sauta Cave. This is the perfect pre-bed activity. It doesn't involve too much walking, and it makes for great conversation as you head back to your resort. If you're looking to experience this natural phenomenon, be sure to plan your visit between June and August, and don't forget an umbrella or poncho because bats poop.
* Be sure to use bug spray before visiting. We forgot and left with several bites.
These will vary, but Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce hosts a few different paddling events throughout the spring and summer. Our weekend led on a 4-mile roundtrip paddle to two caves via canoe and kayak. As a family that has dived into wild caving this year, we loved approaching and viewing from the lake. It gave such a different perspective, and I realized it's probably a great introduction to cave life.
This excursion is super family-friendly as it doesn't require any previous skills, knowledge, or gear (outside of PFD and boats).
Our favorite part was feeling the cool breeze as we approached each cave and surrounded so much natural beauty. It was charming and even relaxing. My 3-year-old fell asleep right in the canoe!
Although you can rent boats at the Goose pond resort, we rented Lakeshore watercraft. We actually ran into one of the employees before visiting, and he was extremely friendly and knowledgeable of the area. He suggested we check out Payne's historic soda fountain, and it was a big hit with the boys! The same friendly vibe carried over to the rental shop. We opted for a pontoon boat, but the selections range from paddleboards, kayaks all the way down to my childhood favorite, pedal boats. You can also rent jet skis and tubes if you're looking to pick up speed on the lake. This was a great way to enjoy the water without the work involved in kayaking. Pack a lunch and fishing rods to make a day out of it!
Yes, Jackson County is heavy on the caves, and there's a reason for that. It's home to the most caves per square mile when compared to any other county in America. That alone is reason to check it out, and if you think it's not your thing make Cathedral Caverns your first spot. This massive cave has the largest opening of any show cave and has one of the largest Stalagmites in the world. The gem for our crew was seeing an enormous shark's tooth on the ceiling of the cave. Although you'll see many throughout the tour and can find them while caving, we've never come across any as big as here. As you can imagine, the name comes from the Catherdral like formations, and while the pictures are great, they do this beauty no justice.
The tours run just about an hour long and cover any and everything you would want to know regarding the history of the cave. If you're prone to being cold, bring a jacket. The temp inside is a cool 60 degrees year-round.
Favorite part of the tour: listening to our echo and imagining what it would be like to make it to the very end of the cave!
A trip isn't complete without at least a little shopping. Unclaimed baggage is the perfect stop to find a lot of what you didn't know you needed! This unique shopping experience is the nation's only "retailer of lost luggage," and you never know what you may find. People travel from near and far searching for lost treasures, so visit early to avoid crowds.
We love a playground with equipment that caters to various age groups, and that's what you'll find here. Located not far from KCs BBQ, it's the perfect spot for littles to work off their meal. My kids enjoyed the sand, digging toy, and merry-go-round. We loved the abundance of shade and having restrooms nearby.
Stay for a while or camp out in one of the cabin rentals and visit daily!
Where to eat
KC's BBQ-extensive menu. Try the pulled chicken and smoked wings.
The Docks at Goose Pond Colony- Very fresh seafood. Try the shrimp and grits, cheese fritters and homemade bread pudding. Reservations suggested.
Paynes Soda Fountain- Very nostalgic, located in historic downtown Scottsboro. Get the classic banana split.
Pine Brothers Coffee- We didn't get to try it, but the reviews are great!
We covered a lot during our weekend family trip, but there's much more to be discovered. Make Jackson County your next stop in the yellowhammer state.