gulfState Park Sign on a Cloudy Day Gulf State Park Alabama

Where is Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park is located on the Gulf of Mexico in the state of Alabama. The park resides in the town of Gulf Shores and in Baldwin County. The park offers visitors access to the Gulf Shores’ beaches, marshes, streams, pine forests, and three lakes. Park amenities include an interactive nature center, an 18-hole professional golf course, a fishing pier, various nature trails, a modern campground, and a swimming pool complete with a splash pad. Gulf State Park is located about an hour away from Mobile, three hours and thirty minutes from New Orleans, and four hours away from Tallahassee, Florida. Other outdoor recreation areas near Gulf State Park include the Yellow River Wildlife Management Area and Blackwater River State Forest. 

How Large is Gulf State Park 

Gulf US State Park covers over 6,500 acres. The park’s white sand beaches extend for over 2.0 miles providing visitors with ample room to soak up the summer sun and enjoy the Gulf of Mexico’s waters. Lake Shelby, the largest of the park’s three lakes, covers over 750 acres. The rest of Gulf State Park’s land is split between marshes, streams, and pine forest. Hiking trails in the park total over 28 miles. Seven trails included in this milage make up the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Tail complex and provide visitors with the opportunity to explore nine distinct ecosystems throughout the park.

Sand Dunes on Beautiful Sunny Day Gulf State Park Alabama

Gulf State Park Weather

In the summer season, hurricanes frequently make landfall near Gulf State Park. These weather events are common off the Gulf of Mexico but do often cause the park to close. Gulf State Park has an extensive hurricane evacuation procedure it follows to keep visitors safe in the event of a life-threatening storm. Aside from the occasional hurricane, the park’s climate is normally hot and humid. During the summer months, temperatures in the park fluctuate between 70-100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures average between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. On average, Gulf State Park experiences around 85 days of rain per year. The yearly precipitation total in the park averages 70 inches. 

When did Gulf State Park Become a State Park

Ownership of Gulf State Park transferred to the state of Alabama in 1939. Before this transfer, the Civilian Conservation Corps did extensive work in the park. The corps constructed cabins, park facilities, and even a casino. In 2004, the park was ravished by hurricane Ivan. During the rebuilding process Gulf State Park drafted and completed plans to build a new fishing pier, the park’s swimming pool, and the current nature center. Through the years, Gulf state park has received several awards including the TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award in September of 2020.

View of Gulf Shores in Gulf State Park Alabama

Things to do in Gulf State Park

Whether visitors are hoping to relax in the sun, play a round of golf, or hit the trail, Gulf State Park will provide. List of Parks outlines the most popular adventures below:

Soak Up Some Sun

The main attraction at Gulf State Park is the miles of white sand beaches the park contains and for good reason. These beaches provide families and other visitors the perfect opportunity to relax, bathe in the sun, and enjoy the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf State Park contains several different points where visitors can access the beach. These points and their coordinates are listed on the park’s website. 

Drop a Line

Saltwater and freshwater anglers will rejoice together on a trip to Gulf State Park, for the park offers opportunities to drop a line in both types of water. Saltwater fisherman can surf fish from the park’s beaches or cast from the park’s fishing pier. Freshwater fisherman can cast into Shelby lake targeting a variety of species.

Search for Treasure

Geocaching, the sport of finding hidden treasures placed by other geocachers using a GPS system or a series of clues, is alive and well in the park. Interested visitors can set up a free account on the geocaching website. From there, visitors can locate caches and trade treasures. 

Hit the Trail

The park’s 28 miles of trails follow paved paths and boardwalks through a variety of ecosystems. Visitors looking to experience all of the park’s nine distinct ecosystems should explore all the trails contained within the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Tail complex. Visitors looking to see an alligator should hike down the Gopher Tortoise Trail near Lake Shelby. 

Pedal Around the Park 

Bikers visiting Gulf State Park can either bring along their own bike and equipment or rent a bicycle from the park. These bikers can then access several trails in the park designated for two wheels. One of the park’s most popular biking trails is the Rosemary Dunes Trail. 

Pull Out the Binoculars

Gulf State Park is home to a variety of wildlife species. The diverse list of species found in the park includes mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and a variety of avian species. The most popular sighted species include fox squirrels, eastern gray squirrels, opossums, alligators, ospreys, herons, and several species of snakes, turtles, and frogs.

Pitch a Tent

The campground at Gulf State Park contains 496 sites with electric and water hookups and 11 primitive campsites. Tent campers are allowed to occupy all sites within the campground. Campsites come equipped with picnic tables, RV pads, and pedestal grills. The campground also contains 11 air-conditioned bath houses, volleyball courts, a camp store, and a swimming pool.

Visit the Interpretive Center 

The Interpretive Center at Gulf State Park allows visitors to learn more about the park’s distinct ecosystems and diverse wildlife before heading out on any of the park’s hiking trails. Visitors arriving at the Interpretive Center can expect to find several interactive displays and exhibits. 

Grab a Bite to Eat

Gulf Shore State Park operates five restaurants including the Woodside Restaurant, Perch Bar and Terrace, and The Dragonfly. At these fine establishments, visitors can grab a bite to eat, down a refreshing drink, and create lasting memories with the whole family. 

Beach Ball with Alabama Written on it on Beach in Gulf State Park Alabama

When to Visit Gulf State Park

A visit to Gulf State Park can be achieved and enjoyed any time of the year. Visitors looking to experience the park in summer should be aware of current weather forecasts and constantly stay updated on the likelihood of hurricane related weather events. Crowds form in the park year-round but are slightly slimmer in the spring and fall. Visitors looking for warm getaway during the winter months should plan a trip to Gulf State Park

Must Have Things to Bring to Gulf State Park

A trip to Gulf State Park requires packing and planning. However, the packing process will be significantly easier if you check out the list of essential items visitors should bring with them to the park located below:

Water & Snacks 

Whether it's a day at the beach or a week of exploring the park’s various trails, your trip to Gulf State Park is going to require water and some snacks. Our National Park Visitors Guide suggests high energy snacks like beef jerky and protein bars which are best for hiking.

Swimsuit & Sunscreen 

The Alabama sun can be quite intense all year round. Visitors looking to spend the day on the beach should especially look to bring their swimsuit and amble sunscreen with them. The park store and other nearby outfitters sell both supplies if you happen to forget.

Sturdy Hiking Boots

Even though most of the park’s trails are either paved or equipped with a boardwalk, visitors looking to hike in the park should remember to bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots with them to the park.

Fishing Rod & Tackle

Freshwater and saltwater anglers should look to bring the proper gear with them to the park. Anglers looking to fish from the park’s fishing pier and in Shelby Lake will need to obtain a freshwater and saltwater fishing license before doing so. 

Wildlife Guide & Binoculars 

Identifying the various species that call Gulf State Park home can be made easy with a proper wildlife field guide. Visitors should look to purchase an Alabama or North America specific field guide for their trip.

Camping Gear

Campers staying at Gulf State Park should obviously bring their tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping mats with them to the park. However, they should also look to bring other camping supplies like a flashlight, bug spray, camp pillow, and other camping equipment to make their stay more enjoyable.

View of Sunny Day Showing Gulf State Park Alabama

Where to Stay in Gulf State Park 

Visitors looking to stay in Gulf State Park should make reservations for the park’s campground or cottagers online through the park website. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel or other lodging establishment can find various options in Gulf Shores.

Food Near Gulf State Park

The closest food to Gulf State Park actually lies within the park. The state park operates five different restaurants. Each of these restaurants serve a specialized menu of food and drinks. Visitors looking for more options can also explore the Gulf Shores. The city has a variety of restaurants and bars visitors will enjoy.

View of Sunset Over Gulf in Gulf State Park Alabama

Airports Near Gulf State Park

The closest international airport to Gulf State Park is located in Pensacola, Florida. The Pensacola International Airport is located an hour and fifteen minutes away from Gulf State Park. Another airport near Gulf State Park is the Mobile Regional Airport in Mobile, Alabama.

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