Many fantastic day hikes and day hiking opportunities abound in and around Birmingham, Alabama due to the area being located in the spectacular Ridge and Valley physiographic province. The parallel ridges and valleys offer up a variety of hiking opportunities of various lengths and difficultly levels. This article will introduce you to some of the best day hiking opportunities easily accessible in and around metro Birmingham.
Birmingham, Alabama (Paul McDaniel)
Oak Mountain State Park
First of all, plan a visit to one of metro Birmingham's larger parks, including Oak Mountain State Park and Ruffner Mountain. Oak Mountain, one of the mountain ridges on the southern side of the metropolitan area, is the largest state park in Alabama. There are many hiking and mountain biking trails crisscrossing the park. Additionally, the park's lakes provide fishing and canoing opportunities.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Center is a large urban mountain park in Birmingham, just to the south of the airport and east of downtown Birmingham near the Irondale community. Many trails wind throughout the mountainous park, leading to examples of the region's iron ore mining history and several spectacular views of Jones Valley, downtown Birmingham, and the airport. A number of ruins from the iron ore mining days are still standing alongside hiking trails in several areas of the park. Be sure to also check out the small nature museum at the park's visitor center and office next to the parking lot.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Spending time at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Birmingham Zoo (in the Mountain Brook area, to the southeast of downtown Birmingham) can amount to a good day of hiking. Leisurely hikes of a few hours can be done on the many trails and pathways leading through the many types and variety of gardens at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The Birmingham Zoo is also quite large and extensive, and what otherwise might be construed as a walk can be turned into a decent hike here with many animals from around the world to see.
Japanese Garden, Birmingham Botanical Gardens (Paul McDaniel)
Moss Rock Preserve
Moss Rock Preserve, on Shades Mountain in the southern Birmingham suburb of Hoover, offers a variety of day hiking opportunities. Trails here lead you through large boulder fields, popular with rock climbers, along streams, near waterfalls, and through woods and across various rock formations.
Moss Rock Preserve (Paul McDaniel)
Shades Creek Greenway
Various city parks and greenways around metro Birmingham can also facilitate day hiking. Of particular interest is the Shades Creek Greenway in Homewood (south of downtown Birmingham); Georgetown Lake Park, Howard Lake Park, and Star Lake Park in Hoover (south of central Birmingham); and the Vulcan Trail, near Vulcan Park, along the crest of Red Mountain (with spectacular views of downtown Birmingham).
Urban Hiking in Downtown Birmingham
Downtown Birmingham itself can serve as a day hiking opportunity. Urban hikers can explore the many streets (on a grid pattern) and urban neighborhoods of central Birmingham, including downtown and the central business district, Southside, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Five Points, Highland and Forest Park, Lakeview, and more.
Birmingham, Alabama (Paul McDaniel)
Tannehill State Park
Tannehill State Park, southwest of the metro Birmingham area, offers day hikers the opportunity to explore a Civil War era ironworks site. Other trails offer hikes through the surrounding hills and woodlands.
Red Mountain Park
In the near future, there should be another large urban mountain park for day hikers and others to enjoy. Red Mountain Park, a tract of land larger than New York City's Central Park, is currently under planning and development and is located just to the southwest of central Birmingham. Red Mountain is so named because of the abundant iron ore deposits.
- Try to take time often to enjoy the great outdoors!
- A good day hike is good for the body, mind, and soul.