Had the Mayflower not been packed to the gills for this road trip, I would’ve brought my cowboy hat just for this amazing experience. I mean how often do you get to visit an actual saloon, complete with hitching posts for your horse? That’s right, if you happen to bring your horse to ride the trails around Seven Springs Lodge and its accompanying Rattlesnake Saloon, you can hitch Trigger, Silver, Secretariat, or whatever horse you’re riding just outside while you wash down the day’s difficulties with a beer or two. Y’all…this place was so cool!
The ride to the Rattlesnake Saloon was much more beautiful than any of us thought it would be. The place actually sits on top of a mountain, and the drive up the mountain is quite scenic. But then you park in a gravel lot and go wait at a small, covered signpost that says “Saloon Taxi Pickup” and begin to wonder if the photos online were all exaggerated. That isn’t to say the views aren’t gorgeous; at that point you’re standing at the front of the Seven Springs Lodge where folks camp and trail ride, but there isn’t a cave or saloon in sight. There is a green field, plenty of horse stalls, some silos-turned-bathrooms, and a whole lot of people getting ready to head to the watering hole, but the sign tells everyone to wait.
We actually weren’t expecting as many people as were there the day we arrived. We quickly realized, however, that this place draws folks from all over. They have a guestbook in the saloon that’s been signed by people from all 50 states and 30 countries, so it’s the real deal. We gazed around the property as we waited, and it wasn’t long before we heard the low hum of a truck coming from the direction of the silos. A moment later the truck came rolling around the corner pulling a large trailer similar to what you would take a hayride in, and folks at the front of the line piled in and off they went back in the direction the truck came from. This cycle repeated until we found ourselves on the trailer, and we truly weren’t expecting what came next.
Our truck rounded the corner near the silos and began a fairly steep descent down a rocky road, and it was that moment we could hear the bluegrass music being played by a live band, smell the burgers being cooked, and see an enormous cliff face that created the perfect overhang to protect from the elements. The saloon itself is built under this massive overhang, and the majority of the seating is in this giant, open-air cave. People were milling about, some were dancing, and the band was jamming out on a stage set up at the back of the cave wall. It’s truly a sight to behold, and I’ve never seen anything like it.
The truck dropped us off just outside the overhang and we were directed to our open table that sat just feet away from the actual saloon building. The saloon itself normally has seating, but due to pandemic restrictions they’ve found it easier to just have everyone sit outside. They have plenty of room, trust me. Nonetheless, you can still go inside the saloon and check it out, and it has all the charm of an old western saloon. Rattlesnake skins adorn the columns, a taxidermy scene showing a snake chasing a rabbit sits overlooking the main floor, taps are flowing behind the bar, and there is most definitely a swinging door at the entrance!
The inside of the saloon was a must-see, obviously, but the outside was where the party was at. This entire place was lively as the band played and the beer flowed, but they almost blew the proverbial roof off the cave when they busted out their rendition of one of my favorite songs, “Dixieland Delight,” by none other than Alabama. During the famous fiddle solo (which the band’s fiddler absolutely rocked, by the way) a man got up on the dance floor and started two-stepping his way around the cave. It was such a surreal moment, to be under a giant cliff overhang, drinking beer at a true saloon, listening to live country/bluegrass music, and watching an impromptu dance as everyone clapped in time with the beat. It was one of those experiences that we travelers live for, where you become encompassed in the culture and at that point in time you realize you’ll be telling stories about that moment.
The Rattlesnake Saloon was one of the coolest places we’ve visited. It was almost unreal when you look at the circumstances behind the place. The property was just an old farm, and as the generations grew so did the use of the massive cave. It originally housed a pig sty, and the owner had a hole drilled through the rock so he could drop feed down to the pigs without having to navigate on foot all the way around the giant cliff face to the bottom. As the decades wore on, however, the land needed to be repurposed for the turn of the century. The family built the lodge and Rattlesnake Saloon as an intriguing way to update their property, and it has clearly taken off with nothing but positive reviews.
We couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend our last night away from home. The Rattlesnake Saloon is an absolute must-see experience if you’re ever in northern Alabama. We’d like to come back and stay at the camp site one day, as well, and it isn’t a bad drive for anyone in Georgia, Tennessee, or even Mississippi. No matter what, though, the saloon itself is simply something out of another world. I still can’t believe I’ve lived in the southeast my entire life and never knew this place existed. Remember: bring your best hat, and it’s beer for your horses.