With a population currently estimated at 212,237, Birmingham, Alabama is the largest city in the state. It was even called the “Magic City’ in the past, because it grew so quickly. Today, medical research, banking and services have become driving forces of their economy.
If you are a nature lover like me though, don’t let the thought of traffic and high rises scare you as Birmingham is full of things to do for nature lovers. Here’s a look at the best outdoor sites and attractions.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
If you are a plant enthusiast, a visit to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a must! It’s home to over 25 thematic gardens, more than 12,000 different plants and is the largest living museum in Alabama with 67.5 acres of land. It also features the largest public horticulture library in the United States, conservatories, gardens such as a wildflower garden, Southern Living garden, rose gardens and even a traditional Japanese garden. It is free of charge and open all year round so you don’t have an excuse not to visit it.
Oak Mountain State Park
Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham is the largest state park in Alabama. It boasts of 9,940 acres of lush green, miles and miles of walking and biking trails, camping and fishing grounds and a lot more. If you are a waterfall fan just like me, the hike to Peavine Falls - a 65 foot tall waterfall - is definitely worth a trip.
Talladega National Forest
Located at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, the Talladega National Forest is great for a weekend getaway or day trip for outdoor enthusiasts. With 392,567 acres of natural beauty, you can enjoy the endless trails and wilderness the area has to offer. And of course, the breathtaking Cheaha Falls - with its multiple falls, and Saltcreek Waterfalls - with its beautiful cascading waterfalls, are sights to behold, so make sure you visit those too. Visit our trip guides on Cheaha and Saltcreek Falls for more info on how to get there and what to expect.
Bankhead National Forest
Another national forest in close proximity to Birmingham is Bankhead National Forest. It is known as the “land of a thousand waterfalls” because yes, as the name suggests, waterfallafter waterfall can be found in the area. Here are some of them:
Mize Mill Falls
Most of the waterfalls in the Bankhead National Forest can be seen in the Sipsey Wilderness. First stop is the Mize Mill Falls, a 20 feet high falls that goes down into a rocky basin.
Deer Skull Falls
Also located in the Sipsey Wilderness, Deer Skull Falls is considered one of a kind because it is a product of the junction of two creeks.
Ugly Creek Falls
Located just above Deer Skull Falls, the hike towards Ugly Creek Falls is so scenic as rock walls and mossy rock formations can be found along the way. And don’t let the name stop you, there is absolutely nothing ugly about this one!
Eagle Creek Falls
Eagle Creek Falls is on an unfrequented trail in the Sipsey Wilderness but don’t let it stop you from actually hiking towards this picturesque falls. Eagle Creek Falls is a gradual cascade of about 20 feet and falls into a small pool.
Caney Creek Falls
Many consider Caney Creek Falls the most picturesque waterfall in Alabama so visit it and see for yourself. It’s longer than most hikes but the destination is worth it.
Holmes Chapel Falls
The trek to Holmes Chapel Falls is one of the easy ones so feel free to bring your children and dogs to this falls. Enjoy looking at the scenic drop of water into a sandstone bowl. Better yet, take lots of pictures with it as your background.
Turkey Foot Falls
Just like the hike to Holmes Chapel Falls, this too is for the entire family to enjoy as the hike is only 15 minutes! Turkey Foot Falls is also close to the Sipsey River Recreation area so it’s a perfect spot to start your trip.
Located on the west side of Bankhead National Forest, the trek to Parker Falls is an enjoyable one as you get to see 6 waterfalls in one hike! There is no marked trail but because a lot do visit this falls, there is a well-worn trail. Parker Falls is just a small cascade but the canyon here and below at Parker Cascades makes this spot unique.
Coal Mine Branch Falls
Located in the Bushy Creek Area of Bankhead, it requires a bit of a hike. Don’t let it scare you though as Coal Mine Branch Falls is worth the trip. The protected bowl at the base of the falls with the green moss around it makes it as scenic as possible. A word of caution though as this dries up quickly in the summer so make sure you visit this during wetter weather.
This may be a 4.5 mile hike but trust us, hiking to this waterfall is worth it. You will see a lot of small falls on the way to Sougahoagdee so it’s like hitting a lot of birds in one stone. 🙂 The falls itself is about 70 feet high and is quite marvelous during the rainy season.
Moss Rock Preserve
Located in Hoover, Alabama, Moss Rock Preserve is just 18 minutes away from Birmingham. It consists of 349 acres of lush forest and water systems, wildlife and other natural features. It has about 12 miles of hiking trails apt for kids, beginners or experienced hikers, boulder fields for rock climbers and is even home to 6 rare plant species for plant enthusiasts. A rare variant of Little River Canyon sandstone glade can also be found here. If it is a waterfall you’re looking for, Moss Rock Preserve has it too!
Red Mountain Park
Red Mountain is part of the Ridge and Valley region of the Appalachian mountains. The name originated from the rust-stained rocks and red hematite iron ores than can be found in the area. It also has a variety of wildlife with 98 bird species, bobcats, deer and other wildlifes native to Alabama. Unfortunately, invasive plants such as Mimosa trees and chinese privet abound in the area.
The Vulcan statue in Vulcan Park is the world’s biggest cast iron statue with a height of 56 feet, upon a 124 foot pedestal. It depicts Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, reflecting the city’s roots in the iron and steel industry. It sits atop the Red Mountain and provides a spectacular panoramic view of Birmingham and its surrounding cities. The park offers indoor and outdoor activities as well as a 10 acre urban green space.
Birmingham Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in the area. It’s 122 acres of land serve as home to about 700 animals of 230 species from all over the world. It has red pandas, lions, zebras, jaguar, giraffes, hippos, rhinos and even a herd of male African elephants in an area they call “Trails of Africa”. The zoo not only offers visitors a chance to see different animals but also educate and enlighten them about global wildlife conservation efforts.
Railroad Park is also called “Birmingham’s Living Room” as it offers 19 acres of green space for family activities, cultural events, concerts and other activities. It has more than 600 trees, different kinds of flowers and also ponds, streams, and even a lake. You can have a picnic there, rest under a shade, or even run / bike in a number of trails around the area.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve
Ruffner Mountain used to be a mining site but was later on converted into a park. With 1,036 acres, it is considered to be one of the biggest nature preserves in the country. It was actually left barren from the various mining done in the area in the past, but joint efforts of the community have brought the site back to life, and it’s is now teeming with native plants and animals. Enjoy 14 miles of hiking trails, abundant wild flowers, and different kinds of birds. Or you can visit some of the abandoned mines or quarry sites, some of which are connected to trails like The Overlook Trail which provides a bird’s eye view of the city.
No matter which of these you pick, you’re bound to find a great adventure! We’d love to hear about your trip and your favorite spots too. Just leave a comment below and follow us on Faceook or Instagram if you want to find more adventures outside in Alabama!