Exploring outdoors became our hobby when everything shut down in 2020. I had an 18-month boy and decided to view the shut down as the perfect time to focus on my diet and exercise. We live in Chelsea Park, and I never would have guessed how many trails are available in our neighborhood! Typically, we would go out twice a day, in both the morning and afternoon, equipped with our best friend, “Jogging Stroller”, snacks, and toys. We could get about three miles in each walk. We loved walking six miles a day and exploring all the nature around our neighborhood. There were so many critters we discovered and so many memories we made exploring this area. It became a family routine in that season when my husband came home from work.
For a gal looking to burn more calories than I consumed, my goal was to get my steps in. Today, I consider 15,000 steps about a “good day” average. Anything over 20,000 steps is a GREAT day, and believe me, I have worked for every step and gotten very creative to get them in while making sure my little one has fun.
If there are any other moms out there looking to get their steps in and try some new fun parks and playgrounds, here are our favorite places to walk. I don’t have the exact distances, but most places you can get a good, quick one-to-three mile walk in, depending on your little one’s mood.
This park has it all. It’s a great place to start if you’re just need to stretch your legs. It has a playground in the center, a wide paved path, tennis courts, soccer fields, playful creeks, pickle ball courts, and a nice hike behind the courts on the outer edges under the trees. The shaded outer walking path is nice in the warmer months. It also has the Oak Mountain Eagles’ track and football stadium if you want to run stadiums and/or laps.
This park has the largest walking area and most kid-friendly play areas of this list. There is a smaller children’s playground, a larger children’s playground, a sandy set up of beach volleyball courts, several gravel paths around the pond, and shaded pathway to walk starting under the bridge and across the street. Just follow the nice gravel path! This has a long shaded loop that keeps you cooler for warm weather walks.
Chelsea Recreation Park
Here, you’ll find a large, oval, paved pathway around the whole park. There are soccer fields at the top and a playground in the middle. It’s connected to the Chelsea Softball Complex below. We rented out a pavilion for LB’s 2nd birthday last year and regularly swing by for a quick walk and play stop outside after school!
Dunnavant Valley Greenway
This is a hidden gem by the old SportsBlast soccer fields across from the Narrows off 280. The park starts at Dunnavant Valley as you drive toward Mt. Laurel and ends at the soccer fields. It’s a nice walk for several miles with some rocky patches and a trickling creek. This park is especially good for the winter months! It should already be under construction to be extended in the future.
Oak Mountain State Park
Although it costs for admission, Oak Mountain has a lot to offer from water sports on the lake and beachy area, to a BMX track area, to the Alabama Wildlife Center bird sanctuary, to all the great camping things that a state park of this magnitude has to offer.
We personally like to walk several of the trails with our son. If you go to the main trailhead parking lot and cross the road to get started, you’ll see the different trails that start there. We prefer to have our son walk Maggie’s Glenn. It’s about 1 mile to a lovely creek, and LB can make it there and back now that he’s 3. Next, we walk the main wide trail up to the Billy Goats Gruff Bridge, and that’s about as far as we make it on two feet with a toddler. We still don’t go far without our jogging stroller, just in case, but Oak Mountain’s hiking trails are not super stroller-friendly.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
There are so many hidden little trails if you go to the far right upon entering. Cross a bridge, go up the paved hill, and you’ll find that about 10 hidden trails back up into what we call the “Rock Wall” and “Fairy Forest.” If planned right, this place can keep kids entertained for hours (with a snack)! You’ll get a trip that ends at the koi pond in the Japanese Gardens.
Shoal Creek Park
In Montevallo, just past American Village, is a charming park with lots of cut trails on the right and left. It’s got a brilliant sunflower field in season, some picnic areas, historic areas, creeks, bridges, and bird-watching signs. This would be a great place for family pics, and it’s a nice day trip to just let the little legs easily follow the paths!
Homewood Shades Creek Greenway stretches along the main road, Lakeshore, in Homewood. It would be great idea to train on this paved path for a run or a bike ride. It’s also a good place for a sunny Sunday afternoon stroll. You can start at one end of this path and end up at Brookwood Village at the end of Lakeshore.
This spot in Mountain Brook is always a popular walk. It runs alongside a lovely creek with a paved sidewalk for several miles. We don’t make it here very often, but in celebration, Bradley and I spent our anniversary weekend exploring this walkway and enjoying Davenport’s Pizza for the first time during the lock-down year.
This park in Vestavia boasts of a recently remodeled park with all the bells and whistles. It holds a gorgeous new splash pad and two new playgrounds—one up top and an inclusive playground below, beside the baseball fields.
Walking is still our favorite active family hobby. We try to get a walk in a few days a week, but we find other ways to exercise since our son has outgrown the jogging stroller. He walked his first half mile around 20 months on the boardwalk overlooking Mount Cheaha on July 4, 2020. He’s built up his stamina, and when he’s in a good mood, he can do about 2 miles at age 3. He loves to discuss and examine things he finds in the woods exclaiming, “God made this!” There are many other fun places to visit, but I’ll have to explore those another time. We can also show you all the great trails if you ever want to swing by Chelsea Park for a visit!