Birmingham, Alabama, has a cool nickname – the Magic City. It started growing quickly in the 1870s because of mining. Today, it’s a big city with lots of history, art, and yummy food. But, there’s more to Birmingham than city stuff. It’s surrounded by hills, and that’s where we find the best places to go hiking. In this guide, we’ll explore the best hiking trails near Birmingham. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or a pro hiker, there’s a trail for you!
Ruffner Mountain Preserve – Marian Harnach Nature Trail
Begin your hiking journey just 9 miles northeast of Birmingham at Ruffner Mountain Preserve. The Marian Harnach Nature Trail, a short 0.8-mile lollipop loop, is perfect for families and beginners. This trail takes you through an area that was once a mining site, where you can identify native plants and animals using informative trailside signs. The nature center and the Animal Care Department offer insights into the park’s conservation efforts.
Jemison Park Trail – Old Mill
For a leisurely, shaded stroll leading to a historic mill, visit the Jemison Park Trail located 7 miles southeast of Birmingham. This 2.4-mile round-trip trail winds through tree tunnels, creek crossings, and wildflowers. The path is particularly enchanting during the March to June wildflower bloom. The Old Mill, complete with a charming bridge, is a highlight of this trail.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens Walking/Jogging Trail
Located just 4.9 miles southeast of Birmingham, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens offer a curated nature experience. The 2.0-mile loop trail takes you through 30 thematic gardens, such as the Japanese, rhododendron, bog, and rose gardens. Sculptures and artwork can be found along the way, and a visit to the Conservatory showcases exotic tropical and arid plants.
Turkey Creek Nature Preserve – Narrows Ridge Full Loop
The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, 16 miles northeast of Birmingham, offers year-round hiking in a biologically diverse area. This 3.5-mile loop takes you through woodlands featuring three endangered fish species and a variety of birds. The area’s rich history, including a grist mill and iron forge, adds to the exploration. The loop also includes a visit to Turkey Creek Falls, a popular summer swimming hole and natural waterslide.
Moss Rock Preserve – Boulder Gorge Loop
Moss Rock Preserve, located 12 miles south of Birmingham, is a hidden gem with its 2.1-mile lollipop loop. This trail, surrounded by longleaf pine forests and mountain laurel, leads to High Falls cascade. Besides the falls, hikers can explore a small natural bridge, the Rock House Boulders, and a rare sandstone glade. Please be mindful of the fragile ecosystem by staying on the marked trail.
Red Mountain Park – Red Mountain Loop
Just 7.3 miles southwest of Birmingham, Red Mountain Park offers an 8.1-mile forested loop that takes you through historic mines and offers city views from Ishkooda Overlook. The park is a hub of adventure, featuring zip lines, treehouses, a ropes course, and a spacious dog park.
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park – Tannehill Ironworks Loop
Venture 29 miles southwest of Birmingham to the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, which offers a 6.7-mile lollipop loop through scenic hardwood forests. The park boasts cabins, cotton gins, gristmills, and a small waterfall along Mud Creek. The park is a blend of history and scenic beauty, making it a captivating hiking destination.
Oak Mountain State Park – Oak Mountain 20-Miler
Despite its name, Oak Mountain State Park, located 20.5 miles south of Birmingham, offers a 19.7-mile point-to-point trail. Hikers can explore woodlands, creeks, waterfalls, wildflowers, and scenic overlooks in Alabama’s largest state park. It’s ideal for both a long-distance day hike and a backpacking adventure. Don’t forget to secure a permit for camping at designated backcountry sites.
Additional Hiking Trails Near Birmingham
Beyond the trails mentioned above, Birmingham and its surroundings offer more hiking destinations worth exploring:
- Falling Rock Falls (39 miles from Downtown): A gated trail leading to a sparkling 90-foot waterfall and a small cavern behind it.
- Veterans Park (12 miles from Downtown): Features a 1.3-mile round trip hike through a 260-acre park with shaded woods and detours for a peaceful experience.
- Buck Creek Trail (22 miles from Downtown): A 3-mile path connecting Buck Creek Park and Warrior Park, featuring five bridges and a hidden waterfall behind the mill site.
- Hillsboro Trail in Helena (27 miles from Downtown): A 2-mile rail trail running through a forest that once housed coal mines.
- Jemison Park Nature Trail (5.1 miles from Downtown): A 3-mile out-and-back trail suitable for year-round hiking, offering a shaded canopy and a blend of paved and crushed gravel paths.
Hiking in Birmingham is like discovering a chest full of nature’s beauty, history, and adventure. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to hiking or an experienced explorer, there’s a perfect trail waiting for you in the Magic City. Always be kind to nature, follow the trail rules, and stay informed about the trail’s condition and rules to ensure a safe and fun hike. Get excited to uncover the fantastic natural wonders Birmingham has to offer and enjoy the great outdoors!