Since our family hobby is hiking, I’m often asked for suggestions of hiking locations or specific trails. We are fortunate enough to have a lot of trails to choose from! Should you find yourself in want of a family adventure in the Birmingham area, here are my personal suggestions (in no particular order!).
Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails in Birmingham
Red Mountain Park
Red Mountain Park may be my oldest daughter’s absolute favorite destination. There are so many different options for a day spent at Red Mountain: several tree houses, old mines, giant adirondack chairs, a sensory trail, ropes courses and zip lining. This is also one of the few places in Birmingham that has a long stretch of stroller-friendly trail (although I would highly recommend an off-road stroller if you go this route).
If strolling is your jam, take the South BMMR trail for several miles of easy terrain. The sensory trail (which I think is still closed due to Covid) is just a short distance down this trail, and it is definitely worth checking out!
A lesser known area, that isn’t marked on the map, is a section of overgrown railroad tracks. If you want to find this spot, it’s near the intersection of the North BMMR, Redding and Spring Gap trails. It’s worth the hunt . . . my kids think it’s magic.
You can find three different treehouses at Red Mountain. Two of them, Rushing Rendezvous and Haskell Hideaway, have suspension bridges. They’re clearly marked on the map, and either one is a bit of a hike (1.5-2 miles one way) . . . but they’re fantastic destinations that provide plenty of joy once you get there.
Another option here: park at the Venice Road parking lot and take BMMR North to the Wenonah Connector to find the overlook flanked with giant adirondack chairs. It’s off-road stroller friendly, in my opinion, and the total roundtrip is around 3 miles.
Oak Mountain State Park
What a gift Oak Mountain State Park is! There are seemingly endless trails and opportunities here. I could easily write an entire post on Oak Mountain.
The Lake Trail goes around the main lake. We usually park at the marina parking lot and briefly walk down the road (past the lake) to pick up the trail on the left. It is also accessible from the other end, which starts near the South Trailhead. From the marina parking lot, it’s roughly 1.5 miles to the dam overlook.
We usually stop there, have a snack, and then head back the way we came. It proves to be a fantastic length and terrain for kids. This trail is frequented by mountain bikers, so keep your eyes and ears open for them and yield the trail when needed. Please do yourself a favor and make it to the dam overlook when fall colors are showing off. The view is breathtaking.
Another favorite of ours is Maggie’s Glen. It’s an open area where several trails converge. There is a foot bridge across the small creek, a few benches, and some downed trees that always invite someone to try their luck at walking across.
To get to Maggie’s Glen, we usually take the Yellow Trail from the North Trailhead. It’s about 1.25 miles until you arrive. This section of Yellow Trail gets narrow and blanketed with pinestraw at one point . . . to me it feels so hushed and calming.
From Maggie’s Glen you have the choice to go back the way you came (although the climb out on Yellow can be rough for a tiny bit) or take the White Trail back to the North Trailhead. Either way, Maggie’s Glen loop will be around 2.5-3 miles roundtrip.
If you’ve got a little one you don’t mind carrying, and you want a stunning view, try your hand at King’s Chair. It’s fastest to get there on the Blue Trail from the North Trailhead (roughly 2 miles there, so 4 miles roundtrip). The view is worth the climb, but do be aware that there is a steep drop off, so know your kid! I could easily let my oldest sit here for a snack, but one of my twins won’t be allowed near that edge until she has more self-control!
Other things at Oak Mountain I would recommend:
Lake Tranquility: Park at the BMX track and take the Yellow Trail around Lake Tranquility. It’s stunning, and the dam spillover is a fun sight. We have also seen a beaver in this area, and froglets coming out of the water in droves at a certain time of year.
Peavine Falls: From the Peavine Falls parking lot, take White Trail or Blue Trail to see the falls . . . then follow the runoff for a bit. It is especially fun if there has been a recent rainfall. I don’t usually recommend Peavine Falls to those with small children in tow, unless they’re being worn. The trail down to the falls can get a bit technical.
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve has a lot to offer! There are miles of gorgeous trails, a quarry to explore, a nature center, gorgeous wildflower garden, a small amphitheater (where we have gathered with friends for storytime or nature school).
If you take the trip with little ones on foot, start with the Trilium Trail. It is short (1/2 mile) and relatively flat. You can end with a visit to the Nature Center, or spend some time watching the wildlife from the pavilion.
If you’re game to try a longer trail, my first suggestion is the Quarry Trail to the Overlook Trail. This ends with a stunning view from the quarry overlook. It’s around 3.2 miles, roundtrip. This is for babies or toddlers who are being carried or confident little hikers. There are a few places where the trail is close to an edge with a steep drop-off, so be close by to any children you have with you. The Ridge & Valley Trail is also a personal favorite!
Dunnavant Valley Greenway
My first time hiking at Dunnavant Valley, I was blown away by the quietness of it. I think we passed one other person. It seemed to be such a hidden place. It’s easy to miss the little gravel parking lot the first time! This is an out and back trail, in my opinion, but it does connect to the sports complex on the other end. Total length from point to point is just shy of 2 miles.
The trail follows Yellow Leaf Creek, is flanked with ferns, and is mostly flat and easy to traverse. There are a few rocky sections that could be tricky for kids to navigate without a hand to hold, but nothing that should intimidate even the most novice hiker.
A fun time to try this trail would be when the Mountain Laurel is in bloom (mid-late April). This trail has tons of this gorgeous flower throughout.
I hesitated to add this one, as I personally don’t think of it as a hiking trail. But, Jemison Park is a scenic, easy stroll (and stroller friendly!) with a magical quality to it. There are parts of it that seem to be fit for woodland fairies and ripe for imaginative play mid-walk. So, it makes my list for a must-visit with kids. A word of caution: this trail gets close to a busy road, so keep that in mind.
Moss Rock Nature Preserve
Moss Rock Nature Preserve has plenty to explore! From the boulder field parking lot, it’s what feels like a few steps before you’re surrounded by towering boulders. Kids (and adults!) can spend hours exploring just this area. Heads up: there is often broken glass around the boulder field, although there is thankfully less than there used to be.
We like to meander down the trail to the creek at the bottom. If you follow it in either direction, there are plenty of spots to stop and play for awhile.
If we feel like a hike, there are quite a few options. We usually park at the Simmons Middle School parking lot and take the Orange Trail to High Falls. The path follows a creek, and some kids may need a hand or lift over rocks and roots, but man, oh man, is it ever easy on the eyes.
Aldridge Gardens has a 1/2 mile, easy loop around their lake. There are always gorgeous plants, flowers blooming (when in season), honeybee hives to find buzzing with activity. There are metal sculptures of animals that my girls view as old friends.
There are ducks and geese to visit, turtles to spot, fish to feed (fish food available at the front gate). It’s a good place to visit often and note how the landscape, colors, and animals change with the seasons. They have a huge pavilion to escape the rain if needed.
Not too far down the lake trail, there is a tree sculpture by Tim Tingle (also responsible for the incredible tree carvings at Orr Park). If you follow the path to the right from there, you’ll stumble upon the Fairy Garden. It’s a place intentionally created for kids to build things from materials there and let their imaginations roam free.
I’ve seen numerous different structures built there, and it’s never looked exactly the same. We once had the pleasure of running into a volunteer who was stocking it with loose materials for the kids to explore. Please check it out!
Cahaba River Park
Cahaba River Park is relatively new, and definitely new to me. We have mostly explored it in the summer. It has a fantastic swimming area. I’ve only been on the hiking trails a few times, but they are well maintained. It is comprised of rolling hills as opposed to steep inclines. The terrain is great for little feet, and there are lots of small trails to choose from. This is on our list to explore more this fall!
There you have it! These are my suggestions for outdoor adventures with your family, though it is by no means an exhaustive list. There are so many other routes or trails I would suggest . . . especially if you are venturing out without little ones in tow. I definitely encourage you to do your own research and exploration. Take your parenting outside, and let me know what new things you find!