Waterfalls, Boulders, and Glow Worms: Alabama’s Dismals Canyon
Just Chasing Rabbits March 18, 2016
When my lovely friend Deanna informed me about a place in nearby Alabama with GLOW WORMS….do you even know how fast we made plans to go see it?!

Dismal Canyon's Temple Cave
This home of “glow worms” is actually called Dismals Canyon and is located in Northwestern Alabama, not too far from us here in Tupelo, Mississippi. While not a National Park, the area became a National Natural Landmark in 1975.

See Related: North Mississippi’s Seashells and Shark Teeth

The glow worms are actually known as “Dismalites.” To see the glow, visitors can join night tours to see the Dismalites in their blue shining glory.

We arrived earlier in the day to hike around the canyon itself during daylight hours. With boulders, caves, and waterfalls, we knew we needed to have time to wander and enjoy the canyon itself.


Dismal Canyon's Rainbow Falls Waterfall
Dismals Canyon’s Rainbow Falls
The 1.5 mile hike of the canyon starts at the gorgeous Rainbow Falls near the visitors center. We stopped here to get some photos of the falls, but didn’t stay too long because of the copperhead snake that was staring us down.

See Related: Hiking Diamond Head Crater- Oahu, Hawaii

The Temple Cave
The surroundings definitely give a feeling of stepping back in time. The Temple Cave was used as shelter for humans during the Stone Age, over 10,000 years ago!


Both Cherokee and Chickasaw have also used this area.

See Related: The Native American Winterville Mounds of Greenville, Mississippi

Mark photographing next to a huge boulder at Dismals Canyon
Mark taking photographs next to a huge boulder at Dismals Canyon.
The boulders found in Dismals Canyon are amazingly huge. I found it hard to show the true size in photos, but the photo above, showing Mark next to one of the behemoths, definitely gives a good sense of the immense rocks!

See Related: Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

The Secret Falls at Dismals Canyon
The Secret Falls at Dismals Canyon.
On the day that we visited, the area was very humid, and light rain would come and go. The air was thick and muggy, but we quickly realized that we were not fighting any bugs. There are no mosquitoes in the canyon!
Jenni taking a break at Dismals Canyon hike.
Jenni taking a break in the humid August heat.

Luckily, we also didn’t have to fight off any other critters. While we did see one snake at Rainbow Falls, we kept our eyes on where we stepped to prevent any other snakey surprises.

Along the trail, we came upon a sign hung between two boulders that cautioned, “SNAKE DEN.” That’s all I need to know. Keep walking. Quickly. Other direction. K, thanks.

We met a family near the Secret Falls that told us about a strange bird-like creature. They found it near the snake den, they said. “Just duck under the sign and keep walking.” Nope. While the “thing that kinda looked like a bird” did trigger my curiosity, there’s no way I’m looking for a bird monster near a snake den.

A Dismalite, or glow worm, at Dismals Canyon
A Dismalite! Look in the center at the little brown squiggle. That’s it! If you notice the white “stitching” around it, that’s it’s web.
After our hike, we took most of our gear back to the car and visited the on-site soda fountain for a quick snack. I had the Moon Pie Sundae and Mark had the Pecan Pie Sundae. Both are highly recommended.
During our ice cream break, darkness had taken over outside, and time came for our night tour to see the Dismalites.
Our tour guide met our group at the Country Store/Soda Fountain and led us back down into the canyon. The experience of walking through the canyon is MUCH different at night. Everything seems much more spooky and dangerous.
The glow of a Dismalite, or glow worm, at Dismals Canyon
The glow of a Dismalite!
We were warned to watch where we step and to help keep an eye out for snakes because the tour guide had recently seen a huge timber rattlesnake on another night tour. We all became immediately vigilant in our search for snakes.
We were led to several different areas of the canyon (all snake-free, thank goodness!) where we would turn off our flashlights, let our eyes adjust, and finally see the blue glow of several Dismalites.
Overall, we may have seen 20-30 of the little glow worms. Our group had to take turns getting up close to them to really get a sense of the glow. It was still magical to see such a rare thing!
We were told to come back in the spring when we can see hundreds and hundreds of the Dismalites, so we’re planning on a return-trip, for sure!
The canyon is a beautiful place to hike and explore. Be sure to check out the Dismals Canyon website for more information, prices, hours, and directions.
Have you visited Dismals Canyon? Have you ever seen any glow worms or other bioluminescent creatures? Let us know in the comments below!
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Waterfalls, Boulders, and Glow Worms: Alabama's Dismals Canyon
Jennifer is the founder of Just Chasing Rabbits travel blog. She lives in Mississippi with husband/travel companion, Mark, and doggie-daughter, Gizmo. After obtaining a BA degree in studio art and working in the field of photography for years, Jenni has combined her love of travel and photography to form this blog. Mark and Jenni share their experiences in hopes of inspiring others to have wonderful adventures and see the world.
You can follow Jenni on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


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