6 Best Biking Experiences in Alabama’s Gulf State Park

I’ve been a fan of Alabama’s Gulf State Park for years, and it was on my first visit in 2015 that I fell in love with the area. Since then, Alabama’s Gulf State Park has developed over 28 miles of paved trails and boardwalks, which are perfect not only for walkers but also for those who want to cycle. So what type of bike is best?

I’ve ridden a mountain bike, a beach cruiser, and an e-bike on these trails, and my best experience was on the beach cruiser. When you board a beach cruiser, you travel at a slower pace, which is life along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

That said, if you want to hit all the trails in one ride, I would ride an e-bike for the full experience. And of course mountain bikers will have fun here too.

Bike from Beach Bike Rentals
(Photo credit: Sara Broers)

Where to find a bike

You can bring your own bike to ride the trails in Gulf State Park. My husband and I rented beach cruisers from Beach bike rental at Orange Beach. You can hop on the trail from this bike shop, making it a convenient rental location. We also brought our mountain bikes and e-bikes from home.

Pro tip: If you don’t have the ability to travel with your bike, you can always take one of Gulf State Park’s free bikes via the bike share program. The first 3 hours of use are free, and for a small fee you can continue your ride.

When planning your time in Gulf State Parkhere are my tips for the best activities depending on the type(s) of bikes you bring, borrow, or rent – based on my recent experience cycling in the park.

1. Pack a lunch and visit the Shelby Lake Picnic Area

Best for: Beach Cruisers and eBikes

The Lake Shelby picnic area can be a great place to start your bike ride, with ample free parking for all cyclists. This is a fantastic spot along the Gulf State Park bike paths for a picnic. Pack a picnic and find a table near the lake for a memorable lunch with a view.

A short bike ride would be to cycle the 5.3 miles around Lake Shelby. This loop trail is flat and offers incredible views of the lake, which sometimes includes a bald eagle overhead. If you prefer a longer bike ride, follow the signs to take you to other areas of Gulf State Park.

Pro tip: If you are adventurous and want to kayak or try Segway riding, you can do these activities at Lake Shelby, in addition to enjoying your bike ride. Be sure to explore both directions of the trail as you can easily get to the beach pavilion and other areas of the trails from this picnic area.

The Author at the Gulf State Park Pavilion
The Author at the Gulf State Park Pavilion
(Photo credit: Sara Broers)

2. Spend time on the beach and at the Gulf State Park Pavilion

Best for: mountain bikers

The Gulf State Park Pavilion offers another fantastic place to start your biking adventure in Alabama’s Gulf State Park. There are daily parking fees when you start your hike here at the lodge. If you are a beach lover this is a great place to check out the bike paths and then hang out on the beach. Shower stalls are on site, making it easy to change clothes for the day. Once you hop on the trail and cross the freeway on the bike overpass, you will have the opportunity to take several paths.

The interpretive center near the beach pavilion is an amazing place to learn about the park’s nine ecosystems. With over 6,000 acres to explore, these ecosystems are diverse, with marine life and terrestrial wildlife. Several hands-on exhibits for families are located in this center.

Visit before, during, or after your biking adventure in Gulf State Park. This place is one of the places you will want to include on your itinerary because it is educational, fun and unique.

Fun fact: This pavilion is Alabama’s most environmentally friendly building and the first fortified commercial building in the world.

3. Visit a living museum at the Gulf State Park Nature Center

Ideal for: bike rental companies

This bike path is more than a path; it’s an educational experience that includes an opportunity to explore and learn new things at every turn. The nature center is a living museum that features plants and animals native to the region. If you’re lucky, you’ll stop here when a program with a naturalist is ready to begin.

Pro tips: If you need to rent a bike, you can rent one at the Gulf State Park Nature Center. If you desire a picnic, the area around the nature center is sure to have the perfect spot for you.

Share the walk loop with Segway riders
Share the walk loop with Segway riders
(Photo credit: Sara Broers)

4. Enjoy beautiful water views on the boardwalk loop

Best for: ATVs and beach cruisers

The Boardwalk Loop is ideal if you want to experience a bit of everything. Plan to travel 7 miles to complete this route, making it a great option for someone biking with a mountain bike or beach cruiser. You can ride nearly 3 miles of boardwalk, which offers incredible water views that you won’t find while biking on the sidewalk.

Pro tip: If you need a bike, start your ride at the Gulf State Park Pavilion, where you can pick up a bike through the bike-share program.

The scenery changes quite frequently as you go from walk to walk. Be vigilant, as this trail is shared with walkers, Segway riders, and other cyclists.

Lefty, the three-legged alligator is a popular attraction along this route. I’ve hiked this trail a few times and saw it once. Of course, Lefty isn’t Gulf State Park’s only resident alligator.

Runners taking the boardwalk loop will pass through Middle and Little Lakes, the Beach Mouse Bypass, Boulder Park, Butterfly Garden, and a scenic shelter on the Little Lake.

A gazebo at Gulf State Park
A gazebo at Gulf State Park
(Photo credit: Sara Broers)

5. Gulf State Park Loop: Drive through the forest and stop at Woodside for a bite to eat

Best for: mountain bikers

If you want to experience a large part of the park and ride a bike a lot, that’s the bike path you’ll want to ride. The north side of this trail offers shade with several large oak trees along the Gulf Oak Ridge Trail. Park your bike and take a walk on the bridge that overlooks the area. This view is one I didn’t expect to find in Gulf State Park. With so much of the park being flat, it is eye-opening to see the difference in terrain from above.

The Gulf State Park Loop Trail will be 15 miles and maybe a little more with some of your little stops and detours. I also plan to have a meal at wood restaurant.

This is where you can enjoy a local meal throughout the day. Breakfast is my favorite time of day to dine at Woodside. The morning calm is welcoming and I never tire of their cookies and gravy. A game of cornhole or yard dice will be on hand when you stop for a break from your Woodside bike ride.

When was the last time you had the opportunity to relax at a restaurant in the woods with local food while riding a bike? If your taste buds are like mine, you’ll be planning a return visit to Woodside!

An alligator at Gulf State Park
An alligator at Gulf State Park
(Photo credit: Sara Broers)

6. Camp and bike alongside wildlife at Gulf State Park Campground

Best for: e-bikes and beach cruisers

There are over 2 miles of paved trails in and around Gulf State Park Campground. If you are a camper and you are curious about what Gulf State Park Campground is all about, I highly recommend hitting the trails on a bike for an inside look.

You will notice that there are several level campsites located in the heart of wildlife in Gulf State Park. Snakes and alligators are found near the campsite, making it an adventurous place to camp! Before your visit, understand the rules of the region, because wildlife safety is your top priority. Write down your favorite campsite and book it for your next biking adventure in Gulf State Park.

When you cycle in Gulf State Park, you quickly connect with nature. Several times I walked through the park I saw bald eagles, snakes, alligators, and lots of birds. If you’re camping and riding the bike paths, you’ll have a prime parking spot. Signage is located in the area indicating free parking for motorcyclists, it’s up to you to take advantage of these areas. Water fountains and tire repair stations are also found near the parking areas and along the trails.

Depending on the type of bike you ride, the speed at which you move will determine the number of miles covered. Last time I hiked the trail I had my electric electric bike with me and loved navigating the north side of the Gulf State Park Loop trail. I enjoyed cruising under the shady oaks and fell in love with the lookout along the way.

Above all, follow the excellent signage for bikers in the park. You will have a great time biking in Gulf State Park along the Alabama coast. Spend 2 hours or the whole day exploring. Pack your sunscreen, water bottle, insect repellent, jacket and binoculars for a fun day you won’t forget.

The author on a Propella pedelec
The author on a Propella pedelec
(Photo credit: Todd Broers)

A Note on the Best Electric Bikes for Traveling

For this particular trip, we packed our Electric Electric Bikes. They bend well and fit in the back of our Subaru Outback. Once we decided where we wanted to start cycling from, we took them out and jumped on

There are many types of e-bikes to choose from. I also own a Propella Electric Bike and it’s much lighter than my Lectric e-bike, but it doesn’t fold or fit in the back of our Subaru Outback. I rode my Propella e-bike closer to home, where it’s carried in the bed of our Dodge Ram truck. If you want an easy-to-ride, lightweight e-bike, a Propella e-bike will meet your needs in a pinch.

To learn more about e-bikes, consider

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