With a cool autumn breeze blowing over the rocky outcrop known as the King’s Chair and the brilliant hardwoods in brilliant autumnal colors, you really get a true impression of the city of Birmingham. On the horizon, you see the skyscrapers that mark the city as a bustling business center. But there is another side of the magical city that is often overlooked: the natural beauty that surrounds it.
Enveloping the city are gently rolling mountains, rushing whitewater and calm, calm rivers and streams, and much more. There are a myriad of ways to visit these natural wonders.
Visitors to Birmingham have a seemingly endless variety of outdoor activities to enjoy. Let me introduce you to eight of the best you should not miss on a trip to Birmingham.
You will be surprised at the number of kilometers of hiking trails located near and around the city. Your first stop for a walk in the woods should be Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham. Just 30 minutes from downtown, Oak Mountain has 25 miles of incredible hiking trails that lead you to spectacular views. The most difficult hike, but the one with the best views, is King’s Chair, a 4.2 mile loop that takes you to a large rocky outcrop with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valley.
Your hike begins on the Blue Trail from the start of the north park trail. The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is a usage fee of $ 5 per day for adults, $ 2 for those 61 and over, and children 4 to 12.
For nature walks, I recommend hiking the trails at Ruffner Mountain Nature Reserve or Moss Rock Nature Reserve. Both reserves offer lovely walks through the deciduous forests around Birmingham.
Ruffner is located just eight miles from the city center, but you’ll feel like a world away from the city following one of the 12 miles of easy to difficult trails that zigzag around the ridge. Trails lead you through calming wetlands where wildflowers light up the path in season, provide stunning views from outcrops, and reveal historic mining structures buried in the woods. The reserve also has a nature center where you can learn about the local environment and wildlife.
Ruffner Mountain trails are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. March through October, and then 5 p.m. November through February. Visitors must purchase a $ 5 parking pass.
Moss Rock is located on the edge of an upscale housing estate just south of Birmingham in Hoover, but you wouldn’t know that walking the park’s 12 miles of moderately difficult trails to several small waterfalls and geological features fascinating as Hole in Rock and Turtle Rock.
Moss Rock is free and open from sunrise to sunset.
The state’s premier mountain biking site is located just 57 miles east of Birmingham in the town of Anniston at Coldwater Mountain. There is a trail here for beginners and experts. In fact, there are 35 miles of trails in all.
For novice cyclists, try the Baby Bear Mountain Bike Trail, a short 1.1 mile ride over rocks with a short but quick descent. More advanced riders will love the McGazza Trail which is rated as extremely difficult. McGazza’s strengths are its huge bumps and steep, fast descents.
The trailhead at Coldwater is located on Coldwater Pump Road and is open from sunrise to one hour after sunset. The trails are free. Trail descriptions and maps are available on the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association website.
In the heart of Birmingham city center, there is a fabulous green space that celebrates the city’s rich history, culture and the arts – the 19-acre Railroad Park. Known as the ‘Birmingham Living Room’, the park is a historically affluent area of the city where one can find artisans and musicians playing or working their art almost every day of the week. It’s also an amazing place to do some sidewalk biking.
Hand-poured bricks and original cobblestones create the paths lined with a multitude of fragrant flowers that bloom throughout the year and surround a shimmering lake, a beautiful curtain of rain, a wetland and many streams.
After your ride, stop at the Box Car Café for a delicious lunch outside under brilliant blue southern skies with the city skyline as a backdrop.
Railroad Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
White water kayaking
Ready for a little whitewater action? Take a kayak or rent one from Yak Shak or any number of outfitters in the area and experience Mulberry Fork. The best section of the river is a 3.1 mile paddle that goes from the old US 31 Bridge to the Birmingham Canoe Club (BCC) takeaway outlet on White Water Drive. The paddle is lined with many interesting rock formations and ridged cliffs, but the main draw is the many drops, swift and rapid shoals classified as Class II + and when it really sinks after a rain, Class III which makes it a really fun and exciting two to three hour ride on the river.
The float ends at the exit to a rapid known as the “Hawaii Five-O”, a turbulent wave known to end many days of paddling in a soggy manner.
There are changing rooms located on the takeaway level but please make sure you only park in the authorized BCC parking lot and respect the neighbors who live next door. For more information on the Mulberry and other whitewater adventures in Birmingham, visit the BCC website.
Paddling in still water
For something a little less exciting and more relaxing, there’s nothing like a paddle on the Cahaba River. The wide, shallow river is the longest free flowing river in the state and where you’ll find the rare Cahaba Lily blooming along its rocky shoals between May and June. The river is also one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country, home to 131 species of fish, 18 of which can only be found on the river.
There are several sections of the river that you can paddle. The best way to experience it, however, is to join the Cahaba River Society for one of its scheduled canoe trips where the friendly hosts guide you through the rich environment and point out what you might otherwise miss. .
We’ve already mentioned the many waterfalls in Moss Rock Preserve, but there’s another one you can’t miss in Oak Mountain State Park: Peavine Falls.
Peavine is a plunging 65-foot waterfall and arguably the centerpiece of the park with hundreds of people flocking to see its thundering waterfall each week. Well, it thunders most of the time. Waterfalls in Alabama tend to be seasonal and even Peavine can only be a trickle in dry seasons, but catch the falls from fall to spring or after a good rain in summer, and you are guaranteed to ‘a spectacular spectacle.
The easiest way to the falls is from the Peavine Falls Trailhead, where you will start with the White Trail and then take the Peavine Falls Trail for a 1 mile round trip hike. The 0.2 miles on the white trail from the trailhead is easy to hike on a gravel road, but the second trail becomes quite a steep climb up the gorge to see the falls. The average hiker should have no problem going down. Just be careful.
Oak Mountain is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. There is a usage fee of $ 5 per day for adults, $ 2 for those over 61, and children ages 4 to 12.
Walk the Miracle Mile
One of the most incredible sights you’ll see in Alabama is located just 30 minutes north of Birmingham and 45 meters underground. This is Rickwood Cavern, a stunning example of the power of nature that formed this cave over 260 million years ago when an ancient ocean receded, carving rock into what we see today. hui.
Book early and join the guided tour that departs four times a day from the park headquarters. It is an incredible journey through what is known as the ‘Miracle Mile’, where beautifully illuminated stalagmites and stalactites will amaze you, thousands of ancient fossils are frozen in time on the walls and raindrops. Mineral-laden water will be seen, proving that the “architecture” of the cave is still under construction.
Rickwood Cavern State Park is open daily from 9 a.m. at 17 o’clock. Entrance to the park with visit to the caves costs $ 19 for adults and children aged 5 to 11, $ 9.
For the thrill seeker
Apart from the normal outdoor activities, Birmingham also has something for the thrill seeker in you.
Visit Oak Mountain State Park for a wild ride on the Flipside Cable Ski Course. Strap on a wakeboard, grab the tow cable, and a quick pulley on a cable propels you through one of the park’s placid lakes.
If you are new to wave surfing, friendly instructors will give you advice. For the more experienced, there are ramps that you can climb up and get some air.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 the course is closed at the time of writing, but hopefully by the time you read this it will be up and running again. Visit the Flipside website for updates.
Alabama has many outdoor wonders just waiting to be discovered: