The Keel Mountain Preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy in Alabama maintained by the North Alabama Land Trust. The 310 acre preserve is located 7 miles west of Gurley, Alabama and features a forest landscape of oak, hickory, smoketree and cedar trees with limestone bluffs, sinkholes and a large waterfall referred to as the “lost sink”. The park is popular among in state and out of state visitors alike. Parking is available in small gravel lot adjacent to McMullen Road. The trail varies in texture from dirt to small gravel to large rock slabs. Lower portions of the trail are often muddy due to the abundance of groundwater in the area.
Starting from the parking lot, hikers make their way past a Buck Ditch, a small stream, before turning west. As the trail continues, you will pass a number of exposed boulders, narrow vertical sinks, and a limestone rock face covered in foliage. The trail is wet in several areas and require maneuvering around the mud as you make your way through the woods. At little over half a mile into the hike, the trail curves sharply east and begins a greater elevation change. Gradually curving back to the north, the surface of the trail becomes rocky and steep in a couple of areas just before you reach the falls.
The falls are a stunning sight cascading 100 plus feet into the sinkhole cavern beneath it. The sunken landscape adjacent to the falls is closed to visitors; however, the waterfall is easily viewed from the rim. It offers a nice place to relax and enjoy the cool breeze before hiking along the same path back to the parking lot. The trail does continue past the “lost sink” however it is poorly maintained and ends with little more to see than the forest itself. Most visitors choose to end their hike at the falls.
Overall the hike is moderate and a good one for families. The “lost sink” waterfall at the terminus is worth the hike. It is best to visit the falls after a good rain to see its full beauty.
For more information and trail maps visit the North Alabama Land Trust website – www.landtrustnal.org/trailmaps