Established more than 300 years ago, the city of Mobile and the surrounding area is teeming with history. Best of all, you don’t have to be a hardcore hiker to explore the region’s rich past. Here are four favorite hikes that highlight the historic side of Mobile.
1. Fort Morgan Historic State Park
On the far western tip of the Fort Morgan peninsula stands the peninsula’s namesake, the massive stone and masonry Fort Morgan .
The fort was built in 1834 after the U.S. government realized that the old earthen forts of the day would not be adequate enough to repel attacks by the British. One such fort, Fort Bowyer, still stands here. The fort was attacked not once but twice by the British in 1814 before Fort Morgan was built.
Fort Morgan is best known for the Civil War’s Battle of Mobile Bay in which Union Admiral David Farragut, after seeing one of his ironclads sunk by a torpedo or mine reportedly uttered those immortal words, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” and the Union navy took control of Mobile Bay.
Visitors can do a nice, easy two-mile loop around the site, which is maintained by the Alabama Historical Commission along abandoned roads and old Mobile brick sidewalks. The walk will take you to long-abandoned barracks, Fort Bowyer, Battery Dearborn, and Fort Morgan itself. You can also walk to the beach on the Mobile Bay side of the peninsula to pay your respects to the crew of the USS Tecumseh, the ironclad that was sunk during the battle. A yellow buoy marks its approximate position.
2. Fort Gaines Historic Site
While not as heralded as the events that took place at Fort Morgan during the “Battle of Mobile Bay,” the fort still played an important role in protecting the port city of Mobile from invaders as it stood guard over the entrance to the bay from the Gulf of Mexico.
Of course you can drive to the fort, but why do that when you can take a beautiful hike along the trails of one of the most significant areas for migrating birds in the world, the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary’s nature trail takes you to the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and from there it’s a nice sandy 1-mile walk to the fort. To return, you can either retrace your steps back the way you came or do a short road walk back to your car. The fort holds regular reenactments and demonstrations of life as it was during the fort’s early days.
3. Blakeley Historic State Park
Nestled away on the banks of the second largest river delta in the country you will find Blakeley Historic State Park . The history of the land that the park is locate on dates back hundreds of years when Native Americans found the fertile waters of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta to be the perfect location to live. Centuries later in 1814 the town of Blakeley was established by Josiah Blakeley. The town grew rapidly in size and actually rivaled its cross-bay rival Mobile as a bustling port city. It all came crashing down in 1830 when a yellow fever epidemic ravaged the city and it fell into ruin and was reclaimed by nature.
The area later gained recognition as it became a fort to defend Mobile from Union troops during the Civil War. As General Lee was surrendering to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, the Battle of Blakeley waged on and became known as the last major battle of the war.
About 15 miles of trails and backroads suitable for hiking, biking, and horseback riding wind through the park taking you through all of this amazing history as well as some beautiful landscapes.
4. USS Alabama Historic Walk
This walk through 300-plus years of history in downtown Mobile was created by local Boy Scouts and features many of the city’s most important historical sites. Along this 6.5-mile trek, which can be divided up easily into shorter excursions, you will visit the city’s two oldest cemeteries— Magnolia , which was established in 1836, and Church Street , the city’s first cemetery that dates back to 1819. Magnolia is the final resting place of many city icons including Michael Kraft, the man credited for bringing Mardi Gras to the U.S. Church Street is the resting place of Joe Cain , the man who brought Mardi Gras back to the south following the Civil War.
You also will be able to view a recreation of Fort Conde, which was erected in 1711, and the beautiful Catholic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (built in 1835) to name only a few of the stops along the route. Plus there are several museums including the City of Mobile Museum, the Exploreum hands-on museum, and the new Gulfquest Maritime Museum.
Despite its name name, the trail does not pass the USS Alabama battleship, which is anchored in Mobile Bay. Maps of the trail can be picked up at the Fort Conde Welcome Center free of charge.