Sitting at the tailend of the Appalachian foothills, Birmingham, takes pride in its natural beauty and cultivated miles of trail systems. Hiking with kids, especially young ones, isn’t always easy; but fortunately, there are many family-friendly (and dog-friendly) trails around town.
Irondale Furnace Trail
One of the best kept secrets in Birmingham, the Irondale Furnace Trail is located in the middle of Mountain Brook. This flat, gravel trail leads to the ruins of the Irondale Blast Furnace dating back to the Civil War. Stroller- and dog-friendly, this out and back trail is only 6/10 of a mile to the end (1.2 mi total). For those looking for a longer hike, the end of the trail connects to sidewalks on Old Leeds Road. A creek that runs along the trail is perfect for four-legged family members to swim. A clearing with a bench is located near the ruins and makes a great picnic spot. Irondale Furnace Trail’s trailhead is located on Stone River Road, where parking is provided.
Oak Mountain State Park
With over 52 miles of hiking and biking trails, Oak Mountain State Park has plenty of beautiful trails to choose. My personal favorites for kids are the Treetop Nature Trail and Lake Trail, both of which are located off of Terrace Road. The Treetop Nature Trail’s trailhead is across the street from the beach, which is also a great spot for a picnic and heaven for kids who love to dig in sand. A full loop can be made out of this trail by going on connector trails, making it a 1.7-mi loop, or you can simply enjoy the elevated boardwalk and view the rescued birds of prey that have been rehabilitated by the Wildlife Center after injury.
Just a short drive down the road is the South Trailhead where you can enter the Lake Trail. It is a 2.3-mi loop with gentle rolling terrain and some inclines. I’ve taken a jogging stroller on this loop, but it can get tricky with the inclines and tree roots. This is a popular route for bikers so be aware that you will need to yield the trail on occasion. Our dog loves this trail because of the access to the lake. Tip: If you have time and the kids aren’t exhausted, be sure to stop at the playground on Terrace Road and the petting zoo by the park entrance.
Moss Rock is another personal favorite. There are multiple entrances and 12 miles of trails. Moss Rock offers some of the most beautiful scenery in Birmingham including waterfalls, boulders, valleys, and cliffs. Every trail interconnects to form loops for all hiking levels. I like to park at the Center Trailhead on Preserve Parkway. The Waterfall Loop begins at the Boulder Field parking area. It is a 1.5-mi loop and best suited for kids that can walk on their own or that can be carried in packs or carriers. Moss Rock is very dog friendly so don’t forget your pup. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a pizza on the patio at Vecchia Pizzaeria and Mercato.
Red Mountain Park
Red Mountain Park offers a variety of activities including zip lining along with its 15 miles of diverse trails. The trails lead to old mining sites, treehouses, and city overlooks. Many of the sites are accessed by short trail segments. If I have a jogging stroller with me, I usually take the Eureka Mines Trail or the L&N Trail onto BMRR South Trail. The beauty of Red Mountain is that it is very well marked and easy to explore; just download the map (or app) and see where the trail takes you. I’ve yet to make it to any of the overlooks with my kids, but I’m looking forward to seeing them when they can handle longer hikes. Red Mountain also features a dog park, so don’t forget your furbaby!
Boulder Canyon Nature Trail
Another little-known trail, Boulder Canyon Nature Trail sits hidden in one of the busiest areas in Birmingham, right off U.S. 31 in Vestavia. This trail has two entrances, one located behind Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest and the other behind Vestavia Hills Elementary Central. It is a 0.9-mi loop that leads to a creek and waterfall. While it is a short hike, it is steep at times and not stroller-friendly. Be sure to plan your trip around one of Vestavia library’s wonderful story times.
Jemison Trail and Shades Creek Greenway
The most stroller friendly trails in Birmingham are obviously urban trails. Jemison Trail is located in Mountain Brook and is one of the most popular walking and running trails in Birmingham. Parking is available along Mountain Brook Parkway. Jemison’s concrete trail connects to the flat, gravel 0.4-mi Nature Trail which leads to Mountain Brook Village — a perfect place to stop for lunch or a coffee before heading back.
Just beyond Jemison is Shades Creek Greenway in Homewood (also known as Lakeshore Trail). The trails are now technically connected by a new sidewalk, but be very careful if you try to walk both as you will need to cross Lakeshore Parkway by Brookwood Mall in order to do so. There are two official trail entrances — one is right by Target (win!) and the other off Columbiana Road. The full length one way is 3 mi. This is a great trail for kiddos who love to ride bikes.
Birmingham’s newest trail, the Rotary Trail, is only a half-mile long but connects two of the city’s most popular attractions: Railroad Park and Sloss Furnaces. The paved trail is perfect for young walkers and strollers alike. Be sure to make time at Railroad Park to watch the trains, picnic on the green space, and play on the playground.
The amazing thing about the list above is that it’s only a fraction of the trails in and around Birmingham. We are very fortunate to have so many family-friendly hiking options in our beautiful city. Not confident in your navigation skills or don’t want to hike alone? Hike It Baby is a wonderful nonprofit that organizes weekly family hikes.
Did I miss your favorite trail? Let us know where you like to hike with your family!