Sure, Lake Martin is a fun place to live the lake life, but what if you don’t have a boat? It turns out there are a ton of fun things to do in Lake Martin that don’t involve a boat (kayaks excluded ). We put plenty of places to rent a boat and access the lake for boating and swimming in our Lake Martin boating guide. If you’re looking for Peanut Point, Pirate Island, Chimney Rock, or Goat Island, they’re in the boating guide. This article is for land lovers or people looking to change things up a bit.
There are so many hiking, biking, paddling, and horseback riding trails near Lake Martin that it’s almost a shame to spend all your time playing on the lake. Join us as we explore the fun things to do in Lake Martin without a boat.
Map of Things to Do in Lake Martin
The map below contains markers for all the fun things to do in Lake Martin highlighted in this article. We used native Google map markers with metadata and pictures whenever possible, so click around for a virtual tour. If the map doesn’t load right away, hit the refresh button, and it should appear .
Paddle the Harold Banks Canoe Trail
The Tallapoosa River runs 258 miles from Paulding County, Georgia, to Wetumpka, Alabama. In 2009, Harold Banks became the first person to solo paddle the entire river. In 2015, 25-river scenic miles in Tallapoosa and Chambers Counties were christened as the Harold Banks Canoe Trail.
The most popular and scenic section is a 4-hour/6-mile float from the Horseshoe Bend Bridge to Jay Bird Creek. This section contains Irwin Shoals, where you’ll find Cahaba Lilies blooming in the early summer or see bald eagles fishing the rapids. Other highlights include Laura’s Leap and Peter’s Island.
Technically, you can enjoy this section of the river without a boat since Alabama Power allows public access. However, it’s better from the water. Off The Beaten Path Alabama outfitters provide everything you need to enjoy the float from boats, shuttle service, and even a guide if you want. Pro-tip, these trips tend to fill up, so try to call a couple of days ahead to reserve your spot.
Fly Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures
Cries of “War Eagle” echo through this part of Alabama, which naturally makes one think about Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures at Wind Creek State Park.
You have your choice between the introductory and advanced courses along the scenic shores of Lake Martin. There are 11 zip lines and six skywalks suspended 20 to 70 feet in the air. The longest zip is 650′ long, and everywhere you look, you’ll find scenic views of the park and lake. There’s a minor pucker factor here, but as long as you have closed-toed shoes, you’ll be ok.
Hiking Wind Creek State Park
There are many more things to do at Wind Creek State Park than just zip lining. Besides their seven cabins, 586 campsites, and full-service marina, there’s a decent trail system that’s surprisingly hilly.
The easiest “must-do” hike is climbing the observation tower, where a spiral staircase twists up the side of this 1915 grain silo. You’ll find amazing lake views from the observation deck at the top of the silo. The entire park trail system includes 8-miles of hiking/biking trails and 20-miles of equestrian trail. The trails are a tad hilly and have too many fallen trees for optimal biking, but there are some beautiful vistas as you weave around the lake.
Hiking CRATA Trails
Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association (CRATA) is dedicated to designing, building, and maintaining quality, well-marked footpath-only hiking trails. They oversee 26-miles of hiking trails located around Lake Martin in Tallapoosa county and on the Tallapoosa River in Elmore county. CRATA trails range from steep and rugged to easy and wooded.
However, the most popular and dramatic trails in the CRATA system have to be the Smith Mountain Trails. It all starts with the 1-mile loop to the top of Smith Mountain. From there, you can climb the restored fire tower for jaw-dropping views of Lake Martin. If you’re looking for a little more adventure, the rugged Little Smith Mountain Trail is a 2.6-mile detour that takes you down to lake level and back up the hill again. When the water level is down in the winter, you can go island hopping on the Island Hop Trail.
Hiking Russell Forest
Russell Forest is a 25,000-acre playground with more than 100-miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The Russell Forest trail map shows five types of trail:
- Equestrian and hiking nature loops
- Equestrian, hiking, and bike trails
- Electric/Gas Russell Lands approved golf cart trails
- Cabin roads
- Paved roads
The roads and golf cart trails are well maintained and pretty much self-explanatory. The ‘equestrian, hiking, and bike trails’ are generally non-technical farm roads similar to gravel rides. The tricky part is understanding the ‘equestrian and hiking nature loops.’ Some of these can be fun single track, particularly up and down Heaven Hill. Others, like the Lakeview Trail by the stables, have heavy horse traffic and way too many mud traps to be suitable for biking. No matter how you choose to enjoy the Russell Lands, here are some important things to know:
- Users of the trail system must join the association to have access to the trail system. You can join on the Russell Forest homepage.
- Standard rules of etiquette apply – Bikers yield to hikers, and everybody yields to horses. This area has many equestrians, so this rule is particularly important.
- Apple and Google Play trail apps are available, which is needed because these trails don’t appear on Google Maps.
- Four-wheelers, motorcycles, and ATVs are prohibited on the trails at all times.
- The deli at Catharine’s Market is incredible!!! You have to eat here (and probably buy goodies on the way home for later…cheese selection, we are looking at you )if you’re hiking at Russell Lands!
Horseback Riding at Russell Crossroads
The Stables at Russell Crossroads offers guided trail rides on the Russell Forest trail system. It’s a beautiful way to explore the area and bond with these majestic animals. Let me put it this way; if I were a horse, I would want to live in The Stables at Russell Crossroads.
Stay at the Hank William’s Cabin
Children’s Harbor is a remarkable organization that provides children with serious illnesses and their families a place to be themselves. The 66-acre retreat facility at Lake Martin offers free camps for families and children to reconnect and meet other families with similar diagnoses. These illness populations include children with cancer, organ transplants, autism, severe burns, the visually impaired, and spinal cord injuries, to name a few. One of the ways they fund these services is through rental facilities at the Lake Martin retreat, including the Hank Williams Cabin.
The Hank Williams Cabin (known as such because Hank Williams stayed there) retains its original décor from when the famous musician lived here more than 60-years ago in all the best ways. You can almost imagine Hank penning Kowaliga as he sits next to you on the vintage couch and sips out of a Coca-Cola glass. Apart from immersing yourself in country music lore, you’ll wake up to views of the Children’s Harbor Lighthouse and watch the sunset from the private beach. It’s more than a place to stay. It’s an adventure, and it all helps a great cause.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Lake Martin
Lake Martin, Alabama, is filled with fun things to do, whether you’re on the water or not. Land lovers will still find that unique combination of the rugged outdoors, and upscale living makes the lake a one-of-a-kind destination. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, Lake Martin is sure to float your boat, even if you don’t have one.
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