Located 20 miles south of Birmingham, and standing tall and stout at 9,940 acres, Oak Mountain is the largest state park in Alabama. It sits atop the twin ridges of Double Oak Mountain and features an incredible assemblage of outdoor activities. Road cyclists take to its smooth and curving asphalt. Trail runners, hikers, and mountain bikers can explore no less than 50 miles of immaculately-maintained trails. Campers can find some serene spots to lay their heads at night. And that's not to mention all of the other activities that can be enjoyed at this park of all parks. There's flat water paddling, horseback riding, BMX riding, and golfing. There's an archery park, an educational Interpretive Center, a wildlife rehabilitation center, and boat rentals. All in all, there's a ton to do at Oak Mountain State Park, and it can actually be a little overwhelming. Here's your guide to getting started:
- RV Camping: 85 sites with Water, Electricity, and Sewage
- Tent Camping: 60 Primitive Sites with water in area
- Backcountry Camping: Several designated backcountry sites located throughout the park
While this park is no doubt a hub for daytime activities, there is also a swath of great camping opportunities to be had. There are numerous car camping sites nestled in the pines with ample trails and exploration opportunities branching off from them.
There are 60 primitive campsites and another 85 with RV hook-ups, all with picnic tables and fire pits. Located on the shore of Oak Mountain Lake, many of these sites have direct access to the water for nice evening views and swimming at the campground beach. As far as car camping and primitive tent camping are concerned, this place is pretty 5-star. There are multiple restroom and shower facilities, along with a nearby camp store with any last minute supply needs.
On the more wild side, there are several designated backcountry sites tucked away throughout the park, and these are definitely worth seeking out. These sites may not be in the most remote locations you'll ever see, but they are perfect for beginners who are testing out equipment and trying to gain a little experience before hitting the hard and more wild trails. Be sure to follow all park rules when using these sites, and always practice Leave No Trace principles when camping.
- White Trail: 6.4 miles (one-way)
- Blue Trail: 6.7 miles (one-way)
- Yellow Trail: 8 miles (one-way)
- Green Trail: 1.8 miles (one-way)
- Lake Trail: 2.3 miles
Oak Mountain has over 21+ miles of hiking trails that people can enjoy on a daily basis. The hikes range in difficulty and provide visitors a secluded experience, even though the park is so close to Alabama's largest city. Along the quiet ridge-tops, hikers can follow relatively level trails and take short detours to gaze out over broad green valleys in grassy meadows.
For an excellent hike, climb the Blue Trail to the remote Eagle’s Nest overlook, and then continue to King’s Chair, the park’s most impressive rock outcropping with a sprawling view of the valley below. For a short, heart-pumping hike, begin at the Park Office/Beach area on Terrace Drive and ascend two miles on the Green and White trails to reach Peavine Falls, a 65-foot cascade, and one of the most iconic things to see in the park.
- Blue Trail (Connects to King's Chair)
- White Trail (Beautiful ridgelines)
- Green Trail (Leads up the ridge to Peavine Falls)
- Family Trail (Circles the lake and good for beginners)
For Birmingham trail runners, it really doesn't get any better than Oak Mountain. Sure, Ruffner and Red mountains are great for quick and speedy workouts before or after work, but when it comes down to it, Oak Mountain is the real sweet spot for runners in the area. And it wouldn't be totally unfair to label it as a major catalyst for the explosion of trail running in Birmingham over the last few years. With smooth paths that are beautiful, plentiful, and diverse, there's no shortage of options no matter what type of runner you are. For less experienced runners just starting out, you can't go wrong with the Family Trail.
For long-distance runners looking for a unique and picturesque route, the Double Oak Trail is an obvious winner. Mentioned in Runner’s World magazine’s list of 25 Best Trail Runs in the U.S., this route is a 17-mile single-track loop that takes runners right into the heart of Oak Mountain's densest forests, greeting them with interesting twists and turns along the way.
- Lake Trail/Rattlesnake Ridge (Best for beginners)
- Johnson's Mountain/Blood Rock
- Jekyll and Hyde (Similar to a flow track)
- Thunder (New/fast downhill that leads to Lightning, which is the original downhill track.)
Oak Mountain has over 20+ miles of mountain biking trails, and the well-marked trail system offers a great variety of singletrack riding within minutes of downtown Birmingham. The 17-mile Double Oak Trail (aka “Red Trail”) has something for riders of all skill levels. On the level Lake Trail, beginners can cruise around Double Oak Lake, while intermediate and advanced riders can challenge themselves on steep climbs, swift downhill runs, bumpy rock gardens, and sand pits. The trails are a mix of rolling hills, flats, and steeper climbs.
Overall, most of the trails are comprised of root-filled singletrack through heavily wooded landscapes and centered around a gorgeous lake (which means post-ride dip). This singletrack is the highlight of the Xterra Southeast Championship course.
Depending on what MTB ride you want to do, you can park at:
- 1) South Trailhead (easy access to the lake, Johnson's, Blood Rock, Jekyll and Hyde)
- 2) North Trailhead to start at the opposite end
- 3) The BMX area if you want to start in the middle
Road Riding is one of the most popular activities at Oak Mountain due to its winding roads and rolling hills. Not to mention, it's one of the safest environments to ride in central Alabama. Use the paved shoulders and bike lanes to explore the picnic areas, beach, and marina along the shore of Double Oak Lake. To avoid the crowds, don't ride during heavy traffic times like weekends and peak seasons.
Flat Water Paddling:
- Double Oak Lake
- Lunker Lake
- Oak Mountain Lake
Paddling at Oak Mountain State Park is an incredibly accessible adventure. Onsite are two 85-acre lakes and one 60-acre lake where you can kayak, paddleboard, and fish for bass, bream, catfish, and crappie. Double Oak Lake is the most convenient place to start.
The marina has a fleet of canoes, kayaks, and plastic SUPs that you can rent by the hour. The floating boat dock makes launching a breeze, and there’s also a ramp if you have your own boat, board, or yak. The two other lakes in the park (Lunker Lake and Oak Mountain Lake) are a lot quieter, but you need to have your own boat/board since there are no rental options at these lakes.
- Address: 200 Terrace Drive, Pelham, AL 35124
- Park Number: 205-620-2520
- Park Hours: 7a.m. until 7p.m.
- Cabin/Pavilion Reservations: 205-620-2524
- Campground Reservations: 205-620-2527
Visiting Oak Mountain State Park? Tag us during your adventures at #RootsRated.
And always, when exploring the outdoors: please Leave No Trace.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.