THIS FACILITY IS NOT RESERVABLE. Houston Recreation Area is situated on the shore of Lake Lewis Smith in Bankhead National Forest. This popular destination has day-use areas with picnic areas, including a group shelter, and facilities for boating and swimming.
Visitors have access to a sand swimming beach and boat ramp. Popular activities include boating, jet skiing and water skiing.
The lake provides excellent fishing for Kentucky Spotted Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass. There are also hiking trails in the area, including the 1.4-mile High Rock Loop and the 1.9-mile Fox Run Loop.
There are hot showers, water spigots and flush toilets on the premises.
Bankhead National Forest is located in northwestern Alabama, and its prominent feature is the Sipsey Wilderness. Known as "The Land of a Thousand Waterfalls," it's an area of abundant streams, old-growth forests, limestone bluffs and lush canyons.
Lake Lewis Smith boasts more than 500 miles of shoreline marked by high rock bluffs. The water is clear and deep and provides excellent fishing.
Two nearby attractions within Bankhead National Forest are the Little Natural Bridge and the 19th-century Pine Torch Church. Another popular attraction in the local area is Houston Civil War Jail.
ADA Access: N
There is hiking, swimming, mountain biking, boating, fishing, and swimming here. Incredible scenery including waterfalls, old growth forests, canyons, etc. Close to waterways. The campground is medium sized, dense forests surround the campsites. The amenities are pretty standard. Fairly easy access to Birmingham and Huntsville.
Yay: great wildlife, as this is in the middle of a huge wilderness area.
Nay: closed winters but there are some other places open year-round nearby.
Surprise: The host was wonderful and recommended to visit Mize Mill Falls and Caney Creek Falls, both incredible places.
This is a great area to visit if you want a nicer place to stay but easy access to the nearby Sipsey wilderness. The site is really well kept with hot showers and toilets along with individual well spaced campgrounds. The sites are very private and what is great is that they each have their own picnic benches and areas to hang things. While you are staying here make sure to drive up the road and get some hiking in. There are plenty of entries into the hiking areas and each provides access to waterfalls and rivers galore. You really feel like you are in a different world. Totally worth the drive!
During my time in Alabama, I kept hearing wonderful things about Sipsey Wilderness, and its many waterfalls, rocky landscapes, and great hikes. Since it's "wilderness," there are no established campsites, and there is a strict "leave no trace" policy. That being said, the opportunity to pick your own home away from home on your backpacking trip leaves you with a plethora of gorgeous options! Be sure to check the water levels before your trip, because while Sipsey is always beautiful, it isn't abnormal for many of the waterfalls to be dried up after a hot summer. Also, if you park at the Sipsey River Picnic Area Trailhead, be sure to pay the $3/day parking fee. They will give you a steep ticket otherwise! I had read about the fee, but upon arriving didn't see where to pay and figured it must have been an outdated post. Turns out, there was just a car blocking the pay station, which is near the chemical toilet when you turn into the parking lot. It's a dated deposit system, where you put your payment in an envelope, drop it in a dropbox, and put the perforated proof of payment tag on your dashboard. So be sure to bring exact change!! I was expecting something a little more modern, so even if I had seen the deposit box, I wouldn't have had exact change on me.
The trails can get a little complicated, as there aren't really any trail markers, so be sure to buy a map of the area and bring it along with your compass. I found a map at mountain high outfitters at the Summit in Birmingham, AL, and it served us well. The 209 trail follows the river and is known as one of the more scenic routes. Nearby sites within the Sipsey Wilderness include Big Tree (the biggest tree in AL), Eye of the Needle, Ship Rock, numerous waterfalls, and several scattered cemeteries. All of these will be marked on a good map.
The area is very buggy, and the trails can get cramped/overgrown in parts, so I'd recommend wearing long pants and lots of bug spray!