Take a walk through fields of green where vibrant blossoms sprinkle the ground with color and strong oaks shade picnicking pals and relaxed sunbathers. Hear the tranquil trickling of nearby waters and breathe in the crisp, fresh air while sunlight flickers through leafy branches dancing in the calming breeze. Welcome to your happy place — it’s one of the many idyllic parks and trails of Birmingham. Escape this spring to any of these 12 outdoor havens!
12 of Birmingham’s Best Parks & Trails
There’s no better place to find yourself on a sunny Saturday than Railroad Park and the Rotary Trail. Serving as Birmingham’s own Central Park, this exciting urban green space stretches far and works to connect the community through walkways, open spaces, fresh water sources and a communal plaza — all neighboring Regions Field, Good People Brewing and other popular destinations for tourists and locals alike. Rent a Zyp bike, attend a yoga or cooking class at the park, roll out the picnic blanket, bring the kiddos for movie night or a concert, or bring the dog out to run free. Railroad Park’s amenities are unparalleled, and this is the ideal springtime experience.
Meander west along First Avenue South to the iconic “Magic City” structure, announcing your arrival at the Rotary Trail. Built to commemorate the Rotary Club of Birmingham’s 100th Anniversary, this modern trail is meant to connect Railroad Park to Sloss Furnaces, acting as an anchor element of the Jefferson County Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System. The park boasts charging stations for your smartphones, creative play areas, picnic tables, creative landscape design and convenient exit and entryways at each cross-street.
Guarded by the Steel City’s favorite iron man, Vulcan Park & Museum is one of the best places not only to see the city, but also to learn of the history that brought Birmingham to fruition. Vulcan Trail, which sits just outside the north side of the museum, is part of the Red Rock Valley trail system and is easy enough for the entire family to enjoy. Venture inside the museum to find the comprehensive history of Birmingham and a local goods store, The Anvil, which sells gorgeous memorabilia and locally made souvenirs. Fabulous new installments are in Vulcan Trail’s future, thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, which has begun work on a $4 million project extending the trail, a re-landscaped north slope with an added connecting trail to Vulcan and an LED light show on the statue’s pedestal. The groundbreaking is set for May 19, 2017. We can’t wait to see Vulcan’s growth!
Red Mountain Park stretches over 15 miles of trails, including the Smythe or Ike Maston trails, which are the two hardest trails in the park. Smythe Trail is .53 miles long, but covers a large elevation change of 180 feet, and Ike Maston is the longest trail in the park, traveling through the heart of the mountain, up and downhill and providing a technically challenging route for hikers and runners. If you’re on the lookout for an easier trail, BMRR South is an old railroad bed, making it flat with minimal grade change. The trail travels 2.13 miles from the Hoist House to Mine #14. Other fabulous park amenities include three treehouse overlooks named Rushing Rendezvous, Riley’s Roost and Haskell Hideaway. Remy’s Dog Park is an extremely popular destination for the dog lovers, and the thrill-seekers will relish the Adventure Area with the Vulcan Materials Zip Trip, Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest and Kaul Adventure Tower.
If taking a long stroll through vast rose gardens, greenhouses and Japanese gardens is more your speed, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is your spot! Open 365 days of the year, Alabama’s largest living museum is also the only public horticultural library in the United States, and it boasts public computers, free Wi-Fi and free admission. The Gardens also rank as the fifth highest native plant collection in the United States. After getting lost in the Asian Glade, Crape Myrtle Garden or Ireland Old-Fashioned Rose Garden, grab a bite at the cafe, visit a beautiful shop on the property or peruse the public library housed in the gardens. The beauty of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens never disappoints!
A National Historic Landmark, Sloss Furnaces produced iron for nearly 90 years and was the catalyst for our city’s seemingly magical overnight growth, giving us the name, the “Magic City.” The furnace’s pipes, towering smokestacks and rusted web of industrial infrastructure give visitors a glimpse into what used to be while appreciating the tireless work of those who built our city. The furnaces offer many educational classes, including guided tours and an iron pour class where attendees can create their own piece of cast iron art. The highly anticipated Sloss Music and Arts Festival, or “SlossFest,” brings thousands of music lovers from all over to explore the furnaces while enjoying live music and wandering through lines of local artists selling everything from handmade posters to henna tattoos. Nothing says Birmingham quite like Sloss Furnaces!
Located in Vestavia Hills on the end of Rosemary Lane, McCallum Park radiates serenity and relaxation while offering a rejuvenating escape for all. This park features a large, open green space, a playground area for the kiddos, covered picnic areas, restroom facilities, a freshwater creek for splashing around and a shaded trail system. Grab your family, friends or furry ones and take a break from the stress of the world, splashing along the beautiful creek or exploring the winding paths!
Located in Pelham, Oak Mountain State Park started as a 940-acre park atop Double Oak Mountain and has grown to over 9,900 acres, making it the largest park in the state of Alabama! There are over 50 miles of trails ranging from easy to intense, plus a pump track and BMX course for the die-hard bikers looking for an adventure. The Red Trail has even been included in the International Mountain Biking Association’s “List of Epic Rides”! On top of all of that, the park features cable skiing, boat rentals, basketball courts, nature programs, an 18-hole golf course, driving range, beach and swimming areas, horseback riding facilities and more. All in all, Oak Mountain Park has everything you need for an adventurous weekend in the great outdoors!
Jemison Park Nature Trail is a three-mile trail easy enough for all skill levels. This trail is just right for those wanting to pack up the whole family and get active! Surrounded by wildflowers and a towering canopy of trees, you’ll feel deeply connected to nature and the serenity it provides while walking along natural or paved trails and hearing the bubbling stream in the distance. There are benches and picnic tables dotted along the path, perfect for taking a pause or even enjoying a picnic. Jemison Trail is a Birmingham favorite among walkers, runners, bird-watchers, nature lovers, dogs and kids of all ages!
Ruffner Mountain is a 1,038-acre nature preserve and one of the largest privately held nonprofit urban nature preserves in the country. In 1977, the Ruffner Mountain Coalition, along with members of the Birmingham Humane Society and Vulcan Trail Association, saved the nature preserve from plans to build an apartment development. And, much like Sloss Furnaces and Red Mountain Park, hikers can see iron mines from the late 19th century while exploring the preserve. With four miles of trails that branch through the mountain, the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is open Tuesday through Sunday for running, hiking and exploration of Alabama’s nature and wildlife. No bikes allowed! Ruffner Mountain also offers an educational program in partnership with Fresh Air Family in which field tips, camps and group programs are available for children and families to visit and learn the importance of nature conservation. Ruffner Mountain will take your breath away with its untouched beauty.
Located in the heart of Homewood, this three-mile, multi-use trail cuts through the floodplain forest along the banks of Shades Creek. The trail is perfectly paved for joggers, bikers, roller-bladers and walkers while providing the opportunity for Birmingham residents to explore floodplain habitats along one of the most important streams in the Birmingham metropolitan area. Shades Creek Greenway encourages avid studiers of nature and bird watchers to stroll and take in the beauty. You might even encounter adventure-seekers wading in the creek for minnows and crayfish. This lush greenway runs parallel to Lakeshore Drive and eventually connects to Jemison Park. What a fabulous way to explore the rich biodiversity of Homewood’s wildlife!
Head to Hoover to explore this stunning 349-acre preserve. Noted as the “perfect balance of nature and community,” the preserve features abundant forest systems, streams, waterfalls, wildlife, four rare species of plants and a rare variant of Little River Canyon Sandstone Glade that is thought to be one of only 35 occurrences around the world. Rock climbers will enjoy Boulder Field, which includes a number of challenging rock formations for all skill levels. And hikers, nature-lovers and preservation advocates will enjoy the almost 12 miles of hiking trails. It’s hard not to be charmed by this stunning oasis.
This serene wooded hike is a hidden gem. The trail starts at The Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest and ends at Vestavia Hills Elementary Central, making it ideal for an after-school stroll with the kiddos. The trail is preserved through volunteers of Keep Vestavia Green and features a nature trail, bridge and breathtaking waterfall. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of a busy day, head to the library for a book, then escape for a rejuvenating stroll in the forests of Vestavia Hills!
Now get out, get active and explore Birmingham’s parks and trails!
A special thank you to Morgan Bearney of Vulcan Park and Museum, Kasey Moore of Red Mountain Park and Libba Vaughn of the Freshwater Land Trust for sharing their expertise on their respective parks and trails!
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