Warmer weather months beckon folks outdoors, and one of the most enjoyable ways to experience Alabama’s natural beauty is via a good, old-fashioned hike! If you’re ready to take a break from the treadmill or simply want to break up the monotony of your regular daily grind, get outdoors and check out these great, nearby hiking hot spots:
Moss Rock Park
Preserve Way, Hoover • (205) 444-7777
With more than 12 miles of trails to explore across 250 acres, Moss Rock Park is a fantastic option for all levels of hikers. Easy-to-follow, color-coded trails make finding the perfect option a snap. Explore the streams, boulders and other natural features, and keep your eyes peeled for the indigenous wildlife, which includes rat snakes, frogs, barred owls, gray fox and so much more. History buffs will enjoy the Native American cliff shelter found in the Boulder Field, while plant lovers will relish the more than 100 species of tree, plant, vine, shrub and wildflower species. [View the complete list of what you’ll see here.] Countless species of birds—transient, seasonal and permanent residents—wow all ages, and if you have an insect lover in your family, this is a great destination, as well!
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve
1214 81st St. S., Birmingham • (205) 833-8264
Get out and explore more than 12 miles of trails covering more than 1,000 acres of former mine land. The largest privately held urban nature reserve in the United States, Ruffner Mountain is home to a variety of native wildflowers, plants and other wildlife. Guests are welcome to hike and run on the trails, and educational opportunities abound at the nature center, where a variety of programs are offered to school-age children, scouts and the general public. Pack a lunch and enjoy your meal at the Mountainside Pavilion.
Quick tips: No bikes or other wheeled vehicles; dogs are allowed, but must be leashed.
Oak Mountain State Park
200 Terrace Drive, Pelham • (205) 620-2520
Make a day of it when you explore the 9,940-acre Oak Mountain State Park. Alabama’s largest state park, Oak Mountain is ideal for hikers, offering more than 25 miles of trails to explore. Elevations and landscape vary—take the Yellow Trail, which offers lakeside views, or opt for a more vertical climb on the Blue Trail, which climbs nearly 500 feet to an 1,100-foot elevation. Native wildlife and plant species abound, and if you can’t take it all in during a day hike, opt to camp overnight. If you’re up for more action after your hike, additional activities offered in the park include boating, basketball, golf, swimming, fishing, horseback riding and a lot more.
If you’re looking to make a longer outing out of your hiking adventure, check out The Nature Conservancy of AL website, which is a great guide to all that Alabama has to offer in the way of preserves to explore.
Always remember to follow these common-sense hiking tips:
- Wear sunscreen, preferably a sports, no-sweat variety.
- Use bug repellent in the summer months.
- Always carry plenty of drinking water.
- Use caution when touching plants or flowers to avoid poison ivy and such.
- Let someone know where you are hiking and what time you are going.
- Allow plenty of time to get back to your car before dark.
- Don’t look down at the trail all the time while you hike. You might miss Mother Nature winking at you.
And lastly, mark your calendar for National Trails Day, taking place Saturday, June 6. How’s that for motivation to get out and explore?! Have fun and be safe!