19 hidden trails in Birmingham + how exploring them can boost your mental health (PHOTOS)

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Birmingham is loaded with gorgeous trails, like this one here. Photo courtesy of Brian DeMarco with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

It’s been a particularly stressful year, to say the least, and taking care of your mental health has never been more of a top priority. We rounded up some hidden trails in Birmingham for when you need a zen moment. Plus, read advice from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s senior medical director about why getting moving is so important to stay healthy inside and out.

Why time outside means feeling happy on the inside

hidden trails
Seeing ducklings in the park is always a major stress reliever. Photo courtesy of Brian DeMarco with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

When the days get long and work starts to drag, the last thing I feel like doing when I close my laptop for the day is heading out for a walk. It’s so much easier to turn on Netflix, and stare at my phone for an hour…or two. What you don’t realize is how much that habit is impacting your health.

“There are several studies, and I think a lot of anecdotal evidence as well that show exercise, in general, is great for your mental health and your mood. It’s a treatment for mild depression symptoms and anxiety symptoms.”

Dr. Anne Schmidt, Senior Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

We know it’s not a permanent fix for symptoms you may be feeling, but there is the fact that you’re getting double benefits when you take a simple walk. In addition to the fresh air boosting your general mood, you’re also filling that daily quota for physical activity.

It doesn’t have to be strenuous either—the overall benefits are actually the same. The level of exercise is completely personal, especially when you’re using it to give your mind some rest.

“We have all of our wonderful parks in Alabama that have easy trails and harder trails to match your energy level. Just being outside helps your mental health.”

Dr. Anne Schmidt

What if I don’t have enough time?

hidden trails
Biking, roller skating or just going for a walk are all great ways to let yourself relax while still staying physically active. Photo courtesy of Brian DeMarco with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Sometimes the thought of exercising actually adds more stress to my plate. When am I supposed to fit it in? Luckily, you don’t have to carve out three hours of your day. While 120-150 minutes is the standard for how much activity you should strive for a week, it doesn’t have to be completed in long increments. Even if you only have ten minutes it’s well worth your time.

“What’s been interesting is three ten minute blocks of exercise are as beneficial as a 30-minute block of exercise. So that helps people at least get started.”

Dr. Anne Schmidt

In terms of COVID-19

Aldridge Gardens
Aldridge Gardens provides a beautiful backdrop for an afternoon walk. Photo courtesy of Brian DeMarco with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

You can’t go anywhere without being reminded we are in the midst of a pandemic and for good reason too. Adhering to social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask is still very much important for the safety of others and ourselves. But, we all know the constant threat and pressure is overwhelming to our minds.

However, moving outside is the one place you can relieve some stress of worrying about getting sick. While still a threat, the risk of transmission is much lower.

“As we know with COVID-19, indoor spaces have a lot higher transmission than outdoor spaces. When the virus is transmitted on aerosol droplets, it really dissipates more outside when you have the whole outdoor atmosphere.

Just being outdoors lowers people’s heart rate, lowers their blood pressure and lowers the stress they feel. Right now we all have extra anxiety. When we go where we know it’s safer from the virus, we get that benefit of not having to worry as much.”

Dr. Anne Schmidt

Of course, Dr. Schmidt still advises you to stick to social distancing guidelines when outdoors and keep plenty of space between yourself and others.

Hidden trails for your next outdoor adventure

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I feel instantly relaxed just looking at this Cahaba River Corridor trail in Vestavia. Photo courtesy of Brian DeMarco with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Lucky for us, our city has no limit to breath-taking outdoor scenes. From bike lanes and greenways to natural trails off the beaten path, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief once you’re surrounded by the beauty of Birmingham.

Cahaba River Corridor

1. Civitation Park Trail

  • Distance: 1.8 mi
  • Find it: 75 Parkway Drive, Trussville, AL 35173

2. Boulder Canyon Loop Trail

  • Distance: 1.02 mi
  • Find it: Vestavia Hills Library, 1221 Montgomery Hwy, Vestavia Hills, AL 35216

3. Aldridge Gardens

  • Distance: 0.9 mi
  • Find it: 3530 Lorna Road Hoover, AL 35216

4. McCallum Park Trails

  • Distance: 1.05 mi
  • Find it: McCallum Park/Rosemary Lane, Vestavia Hills, AL 35216

Five Mile Creek Corridor

5. Five Mile Creek Greenway

  • Distance: 5.5 mi
  • Find it: Black Creek Park, Yarbrough Rd, Birmingham, AL 35217

6. North Aqueduct Trail

  • Distance: 2.21 mi
  • Find it: Chief William C. Hewitt Park, 2475 Pinson Valley Pkwy, Birmingham, AL 35217

7. Reed Harvey Community Greenway Wetland Park Trail

  • Distance: 0.3 mi
  • Find it: 1635 Barrington Cir, Center Point, AL 35215

8. Gardendale Urban Trail

  • Distance: 3.17 mi
  • Find it: 2191 Fieldstown Road, Mt. Olive, AL 35117

Jones Valley Corridor

9. High Ore Line Trail

  • Distance: 2.28 mi
  • Find it: Western Health Center, 631 Bessemer Super Highway, Birmingham, AL 35228

10. Clairmont Walking Trail

  • Distance: 0.51 mi
  • Find it: Intersection of Clairmont Avenue and Rockford Road, Birmingham, AL 35222

11. 1st Avenue South / Jones Valley Greenway

  • Distance: 0.63 mi
  • Find it: 2501 1st Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35233

12. Bessemer Rail Trail

  • Distance: 0.43 mil
  • Find it: 15th Street South, Bessemer, AL 35020

Shades Creek Corridor

13. Homewood Forest Preserve

  • Distance:1.32 mi
  • Find it: 1919 South Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35216

14. Irondale Furnace Greenway

  • Distance: 0.58 mi
  • Find it: 4175 Stone River Rd, Mountain Brook, AL 35213

15. Flora Johnston Nature Trail/ North Shades Creek Greenway

  • Distance: 1.49 mi
  • Find it: 311 Elder Street, Irondale, AL, 35210

16. Wildwood Preserve

  • Distance: 0.52 mi
  • Find it: 1298 Forest Brook Circle, Birmingham, AL 35226

Village Creek Corridor

17. Enon Ridge Trail / Dorothy Spears Greenway

  • Distance: 1.07 mi
  • Find it: East Thomas Park (1404 3rd Street West)

18. Ensley-Pratt Greenway

  • Distance: 1.16 mi
  • Find it: 1221 Avenue V, Birmingham, AL 35218

19. Birmingham Eastside EcoGardens

  • Distance: 0.26 mi
  • Find it: Eastern Health Center, 1400 6th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35233

Take a look as this expansive map from Freshwater Land Trust which includes even more trails to travel:

For more resources, reach out to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama through  AlabamaBlue.com/Coronavirus. Or, find them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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