Hiking is an incredible outdoor pastime that you can enjoy year-round. In the cooler months, the waterfalls that dried up to trickles have now become robust cascades. After a good rain, they are bursting at the seams with beauty and power. The summer heat has been traded for the crisp breezes of fall and winter, and the woods are a silent haven for solitude.
Many nature-lovers break out the backpacks and choose this season for rugged outdoor overnight stays. Some choose to make day-trips to the scenic trails that snake throughout Birmingham’s natural landscape. Off the beaten path of this gorgeous city are many lesser-known trails that have been forgotten. Here are six of our favorite infrequently trodden hiking trails to explore this season.
1. Old Yellow Trail at Oak Mountain State Park
The trails of Oak Mountain State Park are no secret—for the most part. But if you pay attention, you will find a few trails that snake off the main paths, trails that are not marked by the trail maps . Only a few, and the most observant, know about these trails and set out to explore them. Over the years, trails may change or shift, and the old ones are often forgotten.
The old yellow trail, however, can still be found if you know what to look for. If you follow the Green Trail up the mountain, then turn west on the Orange Trail, you’ll see a sharp 90-degree turn northwest, which will lead you back down the mountain. Pass the point where the Yellow Trail turns back to the right, and keep your eye out for a hidden trail marked by the old Yellow Trail blazes. Add this trail into your run/hike/walk for a change in your usual trek.
2. Hidden Trail Off The South Rim Trail of Oak Mountain State Park
Another hidden path is off the Blue Trail, also known as the South Rim Trail at Oak Mountain State Park. The South Rim Trail is definitely a more challenging trail, but don’t give up. Push yourself beyond the limits, because the reward is lovely. At some point along the trail, you’ll find the red/blue connector trail, and soon you’ll see a clearing below the trail. Search the along the other side of the trail and you’ll spot a hidden side path. It is barely noticeable at first, and is steeply uphill, but as you travel along, it becomes more obvious and you’ll know you found the right place. When you come across a large boulder, shimmy up on top to see what some consider the most beautiful lookout in the entire park.
3. Mountain Ridgeline Trail at Oak Mountain State Park
Parallel to the Red Trail used for mountain bikers is an unmarked, unofficial trail that follows the mountain ridge top. It is more difficult to find, but once you’ve discovered it, the trail is well-defined. Take the Peavine Gravel Road to the Red Bike Trail and travel about a hundred yards. You’ll see the mountain ridge through the trees above you. Go off-trail to that ridge, and you’ll see the clear trail right away. This trail has some nice views along the way, missed by most hikers and trail runners that stay on the main pathways.
4. Trussville Sports Complex
Many locals are well-aware of the trails behind the baseball and soccer fields of the Trussville Sports Complex. The 4 miles of packed-dirt trails are easy to get to from any parking lot, and trail maps are available to help you find your way. Get your own copy of the map from Cahaba Cycles or download it from the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers (BUMP) website—and keep an eye out for the mountain bikers on the trail. Be sure to move aside for them, as they are always courteous and sharply aware of family hikers. Thanks to BUMP for maintaining this pretty sweet diamond in the rough.
5. Irondale Furnace Trail
Rich in history and beauty, the Irondale Furnace Trail is a hidden jewel in the Mountain Brook area of Birmingham. This hard-packed trail, for pedestrians only, leads to the site where the Irondale Furnace once operated when Birmingham was experiencing the boom of iron ore in the 1800s. Bring a picnic lunch and stop to enjoy the open grassy areas to catch your breath and relax. The trail is short—less than 1.5 miles—but it is dog-friendly and perfect for a weekend family outing.
6. Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest Trails
This Vestavia Library is truly a forest treasure. Themed around nature and the outdoors, you’ll find yourself drawn to the woods beyond. From the floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing nature’s beauty, you can easily spot the path that disappears into the shadows of the trees. Leave your books behind as you explore the ravine where Patton Creek trickles through. Follow the creek to find the pretty waterfall at one end, but cross the creek over a small bridge and take the winding dirt trails that are mostly forgotten. The hills up and down can get pretty steep, so step carefully and enjoy the scenery.