5 Great Shady Trail Running Spots to Explore Around Birmingham This Fall

The trails on Ruffner Mountain offer spectacular views of Birmingham.
The trails on Ruffner Mountain offer spectacular views of Birmingham. Kelly Verdeck
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With the hot summer temperatures finally fading, fall is a great time to take advantage of the trail running opportunities around Birmingham. The area is full of beautiful places to run in the great outdoors, and many of them are shaded by a canopy of trees or have access to cool water for when the temperature doesn’t cooperate, especially on those long marathon training runs. Here are five of our favorite shady trail runs that will quickly become your favorites.

1. Oak Mountain State Park

Oak Mountain State Park is worth the price of admission for trail runners, with 51 miles of singletrack.
Oak Mountain State Park is worth the price of admission for trail runners, with 51 miles of singletrack. Kelly Verdeck

It’s well-worth the $4 park admission for a run at Oak Mountain . Lush greenery, rocky overlooks and creeks to cool your feet await at this state park with 51 miles of singletrack. Many Birmingham residents refer to Oak Mountain as the most beautiful woods within an hour from the city. Inhale the scents of the earth and enjoy nature at its finest as you take off on a well-shaded run. You’ll have no problem understanding why Runner’s World magazine included Oak Mountain on their list of 25 Best Trail Runs in the U.S.

2. Ruffner Mountain

Ruffner Mountain offers excellent singletrack for trail runners.
Ruffner Mountain offers excellent singletrack for trail runners. Terry McCombs

Ruffner Mountain is, by far, one of Birmingham runners’ favorite places to hit the trail. Maybe it’s because of the breathtaking view of Birmingham’s city skyline from the Overlook Trail where you can pause to catch your breath and enjoy the breeze sweeping over the mountain. Or maybe it’s because of the incredible 12-miles of shaded trails. Or is it because of the variety of trails that allow you to choose between thigh-burning inclines or smooth, flat surfaces? We think trail running at Ruffner Mountain is loved for all of the above reasons, and more.

3. Red Mountain Park

The wide, tree-lined trails at Red Mountain Park make it a great place for a group run.
The wide, tree-lined trails at Red Mountain Park make it a great place for a group run. Stephen Vinson

Red Mountain Park is one of the best trail running spots in the Birmingham area. The 8.5 total miles of trails are built for multi-use, so you may find yourself sharing the path with cyclists. The wide trails allow plenty of room to sidestep should you encounter a two-wheeled enthusiast. Red Mountain Park doesn’t just offer a beautiful, shaded place to run, however. They also offer community. On Tuesday nights at 5:30, as many as 60 trail runners gather and enjoy an evening run together. New faces are always welcome, so jump in and get in on the fun.

4. Trussville Sports Complex

With two gymnasiums and fields mostly built for soccer, baseball, football and softball, the Trussville Sports Complex has a hidden secret—trails that cut through the woods behind the fields and a spring-fed stream. The trails are for mixed company, so watch out for bikers swinging around switchbacks and hills. The trail is somewhat narrow and a little unrefined, but for those that love solitude, raw nature and quiet (besides the occasional crack of a ball connecting with a bat), Trussville Sports Complex is ideal. The paths are well-shaded and the cold stream will beckon to you as it bubbles alongside the trail. With a pea-gravel bottom, the shallow stream will eventually break your resistance and you’ll find yourself creekside, toes in the water, sighing with relief.

5. Moss Rock Nature Preserve

A place to cool off at Moss Rock Nature Preserve.
A place to cool off at Moss Rock Nature Preserve. Elizabeth Perkins

Moss Rock Preserve is a 15 mile drive from the city’s center, but is well-worth the commute. With a variety of trails nearly 12 miles in total length and a variety of terrains, Moss Rock Nature Preserve has it all. With the exception of the Powerline Trail, the routes are blissfully shaded and are close enough to the creek for a quick cool-down if needed. Moss Rock is also pet-friendly, so bring along your leashed canine pal and enjoy the run (and the dip) together.

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