The Rattlesnake Saloon — part rock shelter, part entertainment hotspot

Hidden Gems Alternative Travel Guide — Part 1

History buffs know that Alabama’s past is rich and complex. Home to outstanding civil rights museums alongside the Confederate White House, this state is full of must-see sites for any tourist who really wants to get in touch with America’s roots.

And tucked away in the northwest corner of Alabama, Tuscumbia’s Rattlesnake Saloon leans into even deeper history. Like, pre-history.

Rock shelters form naturally when erosion carves away at a cliff or bluff, ripping older, softer stone away from the stronger, newer strata. Prehistoric people used them as shelters and archaeologists routinely find tools, artifacts, and more. Pretty cool.

Modern Alabamans have turned one such shelter into an old-timey saloon full of character, good food, and better views.

The Rattlesnake Saloon (so named after a nest of snakes discovered during construction) was once a pigpen. In the 1920s, the original owner kept pigs under the shelter and cleverly drilled a hole through the rock to feed the hogs. The hole is now used to run cables and wiring through the woods and into the saloon.

photo Rattlesnake Saloon

Sit on the deck for a panoramic, picturesque view of the rock, waterfall (!!), and the saloon, but opt for a spot under the rock shelter to beat the heat. Enjoy an all-American meal of salads, burgers, and onion rings with cutesy names like Cowboy Buttons (fried mushrooms) and Snake Eyes & Tails (jalapeno poppers). Careful, that last one has a reputation for setting tongues on fire. If you’re really hungry, go for the 2-pound Gigantor burger.

Looking for more than just geological wonders and great food? That’d be enough for me, but the Rattlesnake Saloon caters to the late night crowd, too. Karaoke, live country music, line dancing, and a popular bar makes the saloon a hot spot for entertainment.

But how do you get there? you may be wondering. It’s in the middle of the woods! Not to worry, horse trails run right up to the restaurant and can be hitched right there at the restaurant.

photo Tripadvisor

Having a good time Take off your hat and stay awhile! The saloon is part of the Seven Springs Lodge resort, an unusual spot which offers camping, cabins, and repurposed grain silos as lodging. Perched on 20k acres of woodland, take your horse through the trail and visit the historic native American shelters and centuries-old Indian burial locations. The awe-inspiring Stanfield-Worley Bluff Shelter, a significant archaeological site famous for 10,000-year-old artifacts, is within riding distance.

Equestrians, you can bring your own horse and board him in one of the Lodge’s 150+ stalls or let your horse socialize with others in the pens. There’s a small fee to take your horse on the trail. Forgot to bring your own horse? Don’t worry, you can rent one.

If you go, remember that the saloon is outdoors in a steep, rocky part of the woods and yeah, there are horses. Be smart and wear sturdy shoes.

Better yet, wear cowboy boots — everybody else does.

This is the first stop on our tour of America’s best-kept travel secrets. Some will be big, some will be tiny, but all of them will be out of the way. Learn more about my project here.

Sporadic but enthusiastic writer of travel, pets, humor, horror, and miscellany. Yarn addict, cheesecake lover, book reviewer, dog person.