With 555 square miles of mountains, valleys, forests, rivers and lakes, Etowah County is one of the most diverse areas for outdoor sports and recreation in the southeast. Whether it's a trophy buck or largemouth bass, chances are you'll find it here. Or you can hike, bike, ATV or horseback ride through scenic trails, as well as sail, jet-ski or canoe on a river or lake.
Golf is a year-round activity at Gadsden’s 257-acre Twin Bridges municipal golf course (named in Golf Digest’s 2004 list of America’s Best New Courses) and at the Hidden Oaks, Wills Creek and Gadsden Country Club courses. The Silver Lakes championship golf course on Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a 20-minute drive from downtown. Golf Digest’s Metro Golf Survey ranked Gadsden as the #9 metropolitan area in the nation for being golfer-friendly.
Boating, fishing and hunting
Boardwalks, piers, boat ramps and marinas provide convenient access to the Coosa River, Lake Gadsden, and the 11,235-acre Neely Henry Lake which is on the Alabama Bass Trail. The city is host to many local, state and national fishing tournaments, and has co-sponsored such events with the Bass Federation, Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society, the Women's Bass Fishing Association, and Crappie USA.
Information about hunting seasons and bag limits for deer, dove, quail, duck, goose, turkey, fox, rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, bobcat, beaver, wild hog and coyote is at www.outdooralabama.com. There are local ranges for bow, pistol, rifle, muzzleloader and skeet shooting.
Noccalula Falls Park, three miles north of downtown, features a 90-foot waterfall that is listed as one of "America's most stunning natural wonders" by The Weather Channel. Nestled among the trees in the park is a pioneer village, a group of rustic, hand-hewn log buildings representing a display of pioneer living conditions. Other park attractions include a botanical gardens, animal habitat, walking trails, sightseeing train, playground, carpet golf, picnic pavilions, war memorial, RV and tent campground, cabins and meeting facilities.
The James D. Martin Wildlife Park and Heronry, part of the Alabama Birding Trails, are located on the 300-acre Lake Gadsden in the center of the city. It contains a boardwalk, pavilions, and bicycle and pedestrian trails. The wide range of upland, wetland and open water habitats support a variety of species including water fowl, songbirds, birds of prey, amphibians, fish, small mammals, insects and native plants.
Tigers for Tomorrow, home to more than 130 animals, is a federally licensed exotic animal park and a premier rescue preserve specializing in tigers, lions, cougars and leopards.
Local sports activities include Little League, Babe Ruth and Pony League baseball; youth football, basketball and soccer associations; adult softball leagues and tournaments; tennis tournaments; bowling leagues; swim meets; and water skiing. Also, there are private schools for gymnastics, cheerleading and martial arts; eleven fitness centers and a large YMCA; an indoor trampoline park; and an 18-hole disc golf course here.
The Gadsden Sports Complex consists of a five-field softball complex, two baseball fields, a twelve-court tennis center, a combination football/soccer field, a one-mile lighted walking track and a sports coliseum. The complex has hosted numerous regional and state-level competitions in softball, tennis, soccer, football and basketball. The coliseum is home for the city’s Therapeutic Recreation Department.
Other municipalities in Etowah County also have sports complexes, and throughout the county are public parks (some with sand volleyball courts), basketball and tennis courts, picnic areas, playgrounds and community centers.
There are several nearby offroad parks for dirt bikes, ATVs, side-by-sides, four-wheel drives, rail buggies and rock crawlers, including the Choccolocco Mountain Off Road Vehicle Park and Campground.
Bicycling and skating
The Black Creek Trail Complex is a five-mile-long crushed stone path along the Black Creek Gorge, from Noccalula Falls to Black Creek Road, with mountain biking and walking loops. A skateboard park and a roller/inline skating rink also are here. The nearby 33-mile-long Chief Ladiga Trail is a multi-use path for walking, jogging, bicycling and skating, and is Alabama's premier rails-to-trails project.
Kayaking, rock climbing and hiking
The Little River Canyon National Preserve, about 45 minutes away, has areas for hikers, horseback riders, four-wheel drive vehicles, primitive camping, picnicking, swimming, class III to VI whitewater kayaking, cliff climbing (most routes are expert level) and rappelling; an 11-mile scenic drive overlooks the 600-foot-deep canyon and river.
The Gadsden Scuba Center offers diving lessions and tank refills. Dive Land Park in Glencoe is a 150-foot-deep quarry dive site, open to certified divers from April through October. Dive Alabama, an hour away in Birmingham, has SCUBA training, equipment rentals, air and nitrox fills, and a 140-foot-deep quarry dive site.
Other adventure sports
The Cloudmont Ski Resort has two 1,000-foot beginner/intermediate slopes with an elevation of 1,800 feet and a vertical rise of 150 feet. Skydive Alabama offers parachute jumps from up to 18,000 feet, tandem jumps, and accelerated freefall lessons. True Adventure Sports provides zip line and sky swing experiences. Each is just an hour's drive from Gadsden.
Dining and nightlife
With more than 100 establishments, dining options in the Gadsden area run the gamut from coffeehouse cafés, pubs, southern BBQ to international fare; details are here. Nightlife activities include dance clubs, music venues, taverns, and more. A list showing locations is here. Etowah County destinations highlighted in an Appalachian Regional Commission national promotion campaign are Back Forty Beer Company, Maraella Winery, and Wills Creek Vinyards.
On the First Friday evening of each month, Broad Street in downtown Gadsden changes from a roadway to a stage. Classic cars, motorcycles and other vehicles can be viewed on Broad and side streets, and entertainers are found at major intersections. Venues such as the Gadsden Museum of Art and the Hardin Cultural Arts Center frequently have special events tied to First Friday.
The City of Attalla’s Second Saturday festivals feature musical entertainment, an antique car and motorcycle show, food vendors and children’s activities. As in First Friday, many businesses stay open late.
Annually, Rainbow City's Alabama Chocolate Festival features a taste-off competition, recording artists, arts and crafts vendors, amusement rides and children's activities. The City of Southside's CityFest and the Hokes Bluff Festival have an antique car shows, children’s areas, vendor marketplaces, prizes, and concerts. Glencoe's Celebration in the Park and the Altoona Day City Celebration have music, food and games. The Etowah County Fair has musical entertainment, food, games, amusement rides and a petting zoo, among other attractions.
And, for weekend getaways, the Smoky Mountains and Gulf Coast beaches are within a half-day drive.