Plan Your Visit

Plan your visit

Surprise pit entrance to Fern Cave.


There is no visitor center for this refuge. Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge is located on the western slope of Nat Mountain. If you are coming from Huntsville, take US Highway 72 East to Gurley. North of Gurley, turn left on Jackson County 500 just after US Highway 72 crosses the Paint Rock River. CR 500 is closed at a gate but access by foot traffic is still allowed. Road access is extremely difficult. Follow the old road as it winds along the Paint Rock River down the southwest base of Nat Mountain and look for National Wildlife Refuge signs.

Fern Cave is a satellite refuge of the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Complex in nearby Decatur, AL. Fern Cave NWR is currently unstaffed and all management activities are carried out by Wheeler NWR staff. 

Contact us at The Administration Office:

Project Leader
2700 Refuge Headquarters Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603
Phone: (256) 353-7243
Fax: (256) 340-9728 


Know Before You Go

There are no visitor services such as restrooms or water fountains present. Due to the remote nature of Fern Cave NWR, visitor access is extremely limited. The primary means of public accessibility is by way of Paint Rock River, where it serves as a refuge border.  Access via road will involve an extensive walk/hike. Please be aware of current weather conditions and your individual capabilities. Be sure to bring insect repellent and drinking water. 

Points of Interest

Some of the main points of interest at Fern Cave NWR are the various cave entrances. Remarkably, there are dry and wet entrances to the cave. One is naturally submerged, while the others are above land. One of the unique entrances has become an ongoing roosting site for vultures in the area. The cave itself can only be accessed with a special use permit only, due to potential disturbance of certain endangered species.