Staying at The Lodge at Gulf State Park

Today I want to share one of the highlights of our year. We took a family trip to Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama over Spring Break in mid/late March 2021.

We drove from our home in Fayetteville, Arkansas to Gulf Shores. The drive takes approximately 11 hours, so we broke up the journey by spending the night in a hotel on the way down. After so many hours in the car, we were eager to get out of the car and explore the Lodge.

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

The Lodge at Gulf State Park is A Hilton Hotel. We booked the 1 King – 1 Bunk Bed Studio Suite. The girls loved the bunk beds and the view of Lake Shelby across the street. My husband and I also used the studio suite as a cozy office space.

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Lake Shelby Gulf State Park
View of Lake Shelby

Another feature of the room we liked was the private balcony. This was a relaxing spot to sip a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise over the ocean. The girls also used the balcony as an art space to do watercolor paintings.

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

The only challenge with the room was the small mini fridge. For families who need gallons of milk like ours does, I recommend bringing a good cooler. We also took advantage of the onsite restaurants including Roasted Oak coffee shop, Dragonside pool side, and Food Craft. My favorite meal was the Gulf Shrimp and Grits.

Restaurants Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Outdoor seating at Food Craft Restaurant at Gulf State Park
Pool Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

The average temperature in Gulf Shores, Alabama in March is between 58 and 70 degrees F according to The beautiful outdoor pool was not heated, but our girls were brave and enjoyed splashing around in the pool almost as much as they liked playing in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.

This was our youngest daughter’s first time seeing the ocean. As a parent, I can’t imagine a better memory than watching my kids take in the vastness of the ocean for the first time.

Ocean Views Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

We also had a blast searching for seashells on the long, white beaches that stretched for miles outside the Lodge.

Sea Shells Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Shells on the beach Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
looking for seashells Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama top family vacation

We decided to leave a day early because of Red flag conditions and thunderstorm forecasts. This left us feeling like we had more to explore including the hiking and biking trails around Lake Shelby. Here is a map of the full park. Here is a link with more ideas about things to do in Gulf State Park.

We stayed at the Lodge, however the park offers a variety of accomodations including camping (Gulf State Park Campground Map).

Overall, I highly recommend the Lodge at Gulf Shores State Park. If you want to enjoy warmer temperatures, plan for later in the season. However, if you want lower prices, Spring Break was an awesome option for our family. Personally, I’d like to go back during Sea Turtle season which is May through October.


Planning a Memorial Day Trip to Estes Park, Colorado 2021

This year I decided to go back to school to get a master’s degree in teaching, and I also started working part-time as a preschool teacher. I love it, but I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write on this site. Now, as the school year is winding down, I’m excited to start planning our summer and begin writing again. The first thing on our list is our annual Memorial Day trip to the mountains. It is hard to believe that we will be heading to our cabin in Estes Park, Colorado in just a couple of weeks.

This Memorial Day, we are excited to host our friends who have never been to Colorado before. As we talked through the new timed-entry permit and the restrictions on hiking in areas of the park due to recent wild fires, I realized that planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park feels pretty complicated this year. I’ve attempted to summarize the new system below:

Rocky Mountain National Park Timed-Entry Permit

What: 2 hour reservation to enter the park. There isn’t a restriction on how long you can stay. Parking is not guaranteed. Reservations must be made in advance.

Cost: $2/vehicle + normal park entry fees

When: May 28 – October 11 (pilot program)

Where: There are two types of permits, one for the Bear Lake Road CorridorĀ and another for the rest of the park.

Bear Lake Road Corridor + Rest of the Park– required between 5 am to 6 pm.

Non-Bear Lake Pass – required between 9 am to 3 pm.

How: Reservations for May and June can be made online now through Reservations for July open up on June 1.

More Information: National Park website.

hiking suggestions

Some of our favorite early season hikes such as Hollowell Park, Cub Lake and Fern Lake are inaccessible right now (as of 5/16/21) because of damage caused by wildfires in 2020. Before planning hikes, make sure to check out the latest information on closures here.

This year we hope to visit the Wild Basin, Gem Lake, Lily Lake, Bierstadt Lake, and Sprague Lake.

The Wild Basin tops our wish list because it wasn’t impacted by the wildfires and the elevation is lower compared to other areas in the park, which means typically there is less snow in May/June. There are also several beautiful waterfalls, and the trail is pretty easy for young kids to hike (ages 4- 7).

Gem Lake also avoided fire damage. Even though it is a short hike, it gains a lot of elevation (1,000 ft.). I’m not sure if we will make it to the top, but there are great views along the way and unique rock formations that the kids will love. Even if we make it half way, the hike will be memorable.

Lily Lake is our go-to hike. No matter what time of year or time of day, it’s always a great choice. We enjoy adding the Lily Ridge trail to lengthen the otherwise short hike around the lake.

Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake are in the Bear Lake corridor. This means they are popular attractions and require the Bear Lake corridor pass. These start at decent elevations, so it’s possible to encounter slush or even significant snow in May. We’ve spotted elk and moose in this area, and the views of the continental divide are truly spectacular at both destinations.

I can’t wait to share our favorite places with our friends. Even though it’s a little complicated, I know our trip will be well-worth the extra effort. I’m also hopeful that the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park that have been overused will benefit from less traffic, and that those impacted by fire will be soon on the road to a beautiful recovery!

Related Posts:

How to Survive a Long Family Road Trip

Memorial Day in Rocky Mountain National Park

Moose Spotting Makes for a Memorable Morning Hike Around Sprague Lake