Hi! I’m Whitney, and I am pretty much obsessed with movement. Moving our bodies around doesn’t simply check an item off our never-ending to-do list or make us feel less guilty about that extra bite of dessert. Through movement, we are honoring what these bones and muscles we’ve been given are designed to do! We weren’t built to sit through our wild and beautiful lives…we were built to move through them.
Of all the ways to get your body going, simply walking is by far the most accessible. Sure, you could hop on a treadmill or walk the same sidewalks day after day…but did you know that nature is an effective regulator for your nervous system? So, if you have a dose of curiosity, a little exploratory spirit, and a few free hours, hiking a wooded trail is pretty much the bees’ knees. There are plenty of trails in and around Birmingham that allow you to experience them and reap the rewards in a day or less. Here are some of my absolute favorites, in order of easiest to most difficult.
#1: Jemison Trail
Jemison trail runs right through the heart of Mountain Brook and is so easy to do! There are lots of different ways to build your perfect walk. Maybe you enjoy a casual stroll along the paved sidewalk that runs parallel to the creek, which is ideal if you’re pushing a stroller or have littles with you. Or maybe you add on the nature trails and get your feet into some softer earth; there’s one that runs beside Cahaba Rd, and another that you access by taking the footbridge and crossing MB Pkwy. However long you choose to stroll, you’ll get a perfect dose of the natural outdoors as you move your legs.
#2: Ruffner Mountain
Quarry - Buckeye - Wetlands Loop
Most people flock to Ruffner Mountain for the ever-popular Quarry Trail- which is a mild to moderately challenging 2.2 mile out and back trek. Don’t get me wrong, the Quarry view is lovely, but I like to dig a little deeper into the belly of Ruffner, where there are less people and more elevation changes. This isn’t a grueling hike, but your glutes will thank you after the uphill segments. This hike typically takes me 45 minutes, and with Ruffner Mountain only about 15 minutes from downtown, you can easily pack this in before brunch!
#3: Red Mountain
So, here’s the thing about Red Mountain: you won’t get lost! Seriously, everything eventually connects back to the start, and you can loop around this whole park in two or three hours if you set a brisk pace. I highly encourage taking the #10 Mine Trail to the Wenonah Connector to get to the back side of the mountain. The BMMR North trail is way less crowded than the south and the views are gorgeous! And the best thing about this park is that if you have a fur baby you can hit Remy’s Dog Park on your way out. Pets must be leashed on the trails, but once you're in the fenced area they can run free and frolic. (Like you just did, in the woods.)
#4: Oak Mountain
Yellow Trail - Yellow White Connector - White Trail
Birminghamians have a true gem in Oak Mountain State Park. Only about 25 minutes from downtown lies this gorgeous, expansive state park where you can fully immerse yourself into nature and get away from day-to-day stressors. There are so many highlights at Oak Mountain- Peavine Falls and King’s Chair are the most popular for good reason. But if you’re in it more for the hike and less for the destination, my personal favorite is to begin at the North Trailhead on the Yellow Trail. This starts you off with a nice, steady elevation gain- and depending on the pace you set, you might be able to keep your heart rate at a nice quick tempo as you continue through the rest of this hike!
#5: Sipsey Wilderness
Randolph and Sipsey Loop Trail
Plenty of people head up to the Sipsey Wilderness for camping. Don’t get me wrong, I love nature and I’m not totally opposed to camping…but if you’re like me, if you can get your hike done in a day and sleep in your own bed afterward, why not do that?! With that being said, there is so much to explore in the Sipsey. I like the Randolph-Sipsey loop because it’s absolutely gorgeous, and it’s doable in a half day. This allows for the 90-minute drive time to and from Birmingham. I logged this loop at 10.5 miles with two water crossings. (Don’t be shy, roll your pants up and wade right through!) I will caution that it’s easy to get lost up there, so I recommend downloading a GPS map that will work offline, like AllTrails Pro.