With its revitalized downtown and thriving music scene, Birmingham is certainly one of Alabama’s top spots for great food and entertainment. But, it’s also the perfect place for your whole family to spend time together outdoors. Whether you and your crew love to hike, ride horses, or zoom through the trees on ziplines, you’ll find plenty of outdoor fun in and around the Magic City.
From canopy tours to canoeing, here are seven of the best family adventures in Birmingham.
1. Red Mountain Park
Get the fun started with a visit to amazing Red Mountain Park. More than 24 miles of trails wind through the park, but thrill seekers should look to the sky for the towering tree-top canopy walks and ziplines. The park has four canopy and zipline courses, including the Vulcan Materials Zip Trip, which speeds you through the lush tree canopy 40 feet above the ground. You’ll sail through the air to visit several tree houses, including some connected by sky bridges and rope swings. On the Mega Zip, you can ride solo or with a friend on a 1,000-foot where you’re 80 feet off the ground and racing at speeds up to 30 mph!
Pick your challenge on the Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Walk where you can maneuver through a series of obstacles high above the ground. You’ll walk tightropes, climb up rope nets, and cling to clear walls like a rock climber. And speaking of climbing, test your skills on the 80-foot Kaul Adventure Tower that combines rock climbing with vine climbing.
Admission to these adventures ranges from $29 to $54 per person.
Take a hike along the Waterfall Loop Trail at the beautiful Moss Rock Preserve to catch not one but several beautiful cascades along the preserve’s Hurricane Creek. This moderate 1.5-mile loop winds along the creek bank to the falls and leads you past Tunnel Falls, which actually flows out of the ground. When wildflowers are blooming, extend the hike for a trip to the Little River Sandstone Glade where you’ll see an amazing array of colors. Remember that waterfalls in Alabama are seasonal and will have little to no flow during the hot summer months.
3. Bike Riding
If your family loves to bike, Oak Mountain State Park is the place to go. Whether it’s road cycling or mountain biking, Oak Mountain’s 30+ miles of trails have something for everyone. For young ones, there’s the 0.7-mile Family Trail. Or, they can join you for a quiet ride along the banks of Double Oak Lake on the 2.3-mile Lake Trail. Older kids and more experienced mountain bikers can challenge themselves on the difficult West Ridge and Boulder Ridge Trails. All bike trails in the park are marked with red blazes
4. Horseback Riding
There are more than 25 miles of horseback riding trails in the hardwood and pine forests of Oak Mountain State Park. Whether you’re a family of greenhorns or experienced equestrians, you’ll have a great time, because the trails suit riders of all skill levels.
You can trailer in your own horse or pay a visit to the Rusted Roof Barn, which leads trail rides and provides horseback riding lessons. The experienced guides at Rusted Roof Barn will take you on a ride lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. Rides are good for ages 10 and up, and advance reservations are required. Call (205) 620-4246.
The Cahaba River is the state’s last remaining free-flowing river. Running from just north of Birmingham to Selma, the 194-mile river is home to the rare and beautiful Cahaba Lily. For a different kind of adventure, take a guided canoe trip with the Cahaba River Society and go on a quest to see this gorgeous flower. The Society offers several different trips, including a midnight paddle where the flower’s blossoms glow in the moonlight and release fragrant nectar that attracts the sphinx moth.
Keep in mind that this adventure is suited to older kids. Organizers caution that it’s a strenuous paddle where you will be paddling upstream and downstream and dragging your boat over some rocky bottoms. Reservations are also required.
Canoe rentals are available through Canoe the Cahaba.
6. Get Wild
If you’re visiting Oak Mountain State Park to hike or bike, add one more adventure by visiting the Alabama Wildlife Center (AWC). AWC is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates more than 2,000 wild birds each year and returns them to the wild when it’s possible.
In the AWC facility, you can watch and learn as volunteers and professionals nurse their feathered patients back to health. Your family can also hike the Treetop Nature Trail, an elevated boardwalk, to get a close look at barred owls, black vultures, barn owls, red tail hawks, and other birds housed in cages. These birds are considered unreleasable for health reasons, but they enjoy comfortable lives at the center.
7. Ruffner Mountain Nature Center
Covering more than 1,000 acres, Ruffner Mountain Nature Center is one of the largest urban nature preserves in the country. It sits on a ridge overlooking Birmingham, and its 14 miles of trails include overlooks with great views of the city. In the spring, you can hike easy paths like the Trillium Trail to see fantastic wildflowers like fairywand, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and of course, trillium. There’s also something for the history buffs in your family. Along the Crusher Trail and Lizard Loop, you can see relics from Birmingham mining past, including old railroad beds and abandoned mines.
After your hike, step inside Ruffner’s visitor center to take a look at some of the wildlife found in this area, including the resident opossum, George. On any given day, the center has fascinating programs designed to inspire and educate both young and old on wildlife, native plants, geology, and conservation. Visit Ruffner Mountain’s calendar of events for program listings.
Written by Joe Cuhaj for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL.