Planning a summer getaway to the Alabama Gulf Coast? You’ll probably have plenty of sun and sand on the docket, but if you’re craving something a little more adventurous—and with fewer crowds than the typical beach-centric activities—there are lots of appealing (and active) options, especially hikes. Within an hour’s drive of the Port City, many excellent trails and hiking routes offer an under-the-radar way to explore the area.
You won’t find long-distance slogs up steep mountains, of course, but what these adventures lack in difficulty, make up for big time in scenery and wildlife. Here, 10 great hikes within an hour of Mobile to check out on your next visit.
1. Pine Beach Trail (Gulf Shores; 61 miles from Mobile)
Situated dead center on the Fort Morgan Peninsula in Gulf Shores is an amazing little hike that highlights the entire range of environments on the Gulf Coast: the Pine Beach Trail. This four-mile out-and-back is a highlight of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The trek begins on Alabama Highway 180 and winds through a maritime forest and wetland before crossing sand dunes to arrive at the white beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge is teeming with wildlife—take in the views from high atop a large viewing platform about halfway into the hike.
2. Muddy Creek Interpretive Trail (Theodore; 18 miles from Mobile)
Muddy Creek was created by the Alabama Port Authority as part of a wetland mitigation effort. The 2.5-mile Muddy Creek trail is half boardwalk, half dirt path over and through wetland and the trail’s namesake creek and a longleaf forest. This is a very family-friendly hike over level ground, with just enough to see to keep little ones entertained while they learn a little something from the interpretive signs along the way.
3. Audubon Bird Sanctuary Trails (Dauphin Island; 38 miles from Mobile)
The easy walking Nature Trail at Dauphin Island’s Audubon Bird Sanctuary is more than just a spot for birders. The park features 4.3 miles of trail that wind around shimmering Gaillard Lake, travel over boardwalks through turtle- and waterfowl-filled wetlands and swamps, and lead to a section of the island’s beaches right on the Gulf of Mexico. Here, take in good views of Alabama’s only seacoast lighthouse, the almost 200-year Sand Island Lighthouse.
4. Perdido River Trail (49 miles from Mobile)
Take a day hike or make it an overnighter on the Perdido River Trail. The trail is currently 19 miles long (one way) along the beautiful water of the trail’s namesake river that forms the border between Alabama and Florida. Don’t be put off by the light tea-brown color of the water: It’s from the tannins produced by the trees lining its banks, but it’s nevertheless clear and cold—making it perfect for swimming from one of the many sandbars along the route. The trail also leads through Atlantic white cedar bogs, pine savannah, and pitcher plant bogs.
5. Escatawpa Trail (Moss Point, MS; 29 miles from Mobile)
In Mississippi, they take the phrase "stretching your legs" to a new level at the Welcome Center just across the state line on westbound I-10. At the back of the rest stop is an iron gate, which marks the trailhead for the Escatawpa Trail.
The trail is part of the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge and is made up of three separate trails totaling 1.4 miles in length. The paths interconnect, creating a nice walk in the woods that loops through a wetland on boardwalk and dirt paths and ends with two overlooks of the blackwater Escatawpa River.
6. Fontainebleau Trail (Gautier, MS; 51.8 miles from Mobile)
Short in length fascinating nonetheless, the 1.1-mile Fontainebleau Trail at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge introduces hikers to a transitional Gulf habitat. Using both traditional dirt footpaths and boardwalks, the trail loops through bayhead swamps, pine savannah, and longleaf pine forest. You’ll also be treated to blooming wild orchids, pitcher plants, a salt marsh, and the serene banks of Davis Bayou.
7. Shepard State Park (Gautier, MS; 49.7 miles from Mobile)
Located at the convergence of the Pascagoula River with the Gulf of Mexico, the 395-acre Shepard State Park offers two nice hikes. The Scout Loop uses a traditional dirt footpath while the Palmetto Loop is a wide grassy path. Both offer salt marshes teeming with waterfowl and wildlife like egrets, ibises, raccoons, and whitetail deer, as well as a wide variety of plants and wildflowers like white-topped pitcher plants in the bogs.
8. Big Lagoon State Park (Pensacola, FL; 60 miles from Mobile)
One of the most picturesque hikes in the area is in Pensacola’s Big Lagoon State Park. The park is home to two main trails, the Sand Pine and Estuary Trails, that when joined create a 5-mile loop. The trails have fine white sand footing with a few boardwalks and bridges that loop around two scenic water features: Grand Lagoon and Long Pond. Wildflowers bloom gloriously in spring and early summer on the west side, with great blue heron almost posing for photos. On the east side, take a bird’s-eye view of the lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico from a three-story observation platform, and cool off from the day’s activities at the excellent beach.
9. Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park (Pensacola, FL; 57 miles from Mobile)
Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park in Pensacola is a plant-lover’s paradise, with more than 100 species of rare plants within its boundaries—including four endangered species of pitcher plants. The Tarkiln Bayou Trail is an easy, 0.5-mile trail with elevated boardwalks through a cypress forest that ends at the banks of the bayou. Then there is the 6.5-mile Perdido Bay Trail that parallels the banks of Perdido Bay, crossing several seepage streams and bogs. Keep in mind that this trail can be underwater after a good hard rain.
10. Fort Pickens/Florida Trail (Gulf Islands National Seashore; 74 miles from Mobile)
Ok, so the Fort Pickens/Florida Trail is just over the 60-mile limit, but it’s well worth driving the extra 10 miles to visit historic Fort Pickens. It’s the largest of four forts built to defend Pensacola immediately following the War of 1812 and was in use throughout World War II.
Instead of driving to the fort, opt to walk the beautiful 2.2-mile out-and-back hike. Start your trek at the ominous black-cement Battery Worth, a former World War II coastal battery. From here, hike along a sandy section of the orange-blazed Florida Trail through a wetland interspersed with bayous before arriving at the fort itself. The return trip takes you along the white beaches of Pensacola Bay. A bonus for visitors: Admission to the national seashore is good for a full week and includes entry to Pickens’ cross-bay sister, Fort Barrancas.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.