9 Birmingham running trails to put a little spring in your step

cahaba river park trail
This grey weather has me dreaming of running trails and days that look like a Billy Collins poem. Photo by Claire Hancock for Bham Now

While we stay inside and watch the snow tumble down today, I doubt I’m the only one dreaming of running through the woods on a sunny spring day. So to warm up (if only in my head), here are nine of Birmingham’s best running trails for spring.

For about 10 years now, when asked what my hobbies are, the first thing that comes to my mind is running. So it makes sense that when once again confronted with snow in the South, I start daydreaming about lacing up in the sunlight on a trail with all things green.

Oak Mountain State Park

kings chair view oak mountain state park birmingham
A hard run with a very rewarding view. Photo via Zachary Andrews

Oak Mountain State Park, one of the most popular parks in the area, needs no introduction, so let me point you to a couple of the trails that I find the most enjoyable (and challenging) to run.

Kings Chair Loop

  • The terrain: King’s Chair is a little challenging, but with a good eye for roots and rocks and a love of hills, most runners can conquer this loop. And not to mention the stunning views you will be rewarded with once you make it to the Chair.
  • Distance: 4.2 miles (but there are multiple ways to run there)
  • Elevation Gain: 740ft.
  • Before you go: Make sure you take a good look at the map before you go–if you’re a little directionally challenged like me, you could wind up missing the Chair altogether.

Maggies Glen Loop

  • The terrain: Flat, fast, and lovely, Maggies Glen is a great run for beginners (or those looking to knock out some speedy mileage). I found myself lost there once (while trying to get to King’s Chair) and did not regret the time I spent exploring the glen.
  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 280ft.
  • Before you go: The trail is moderately trafficked, especially on pleasant Sunday afternoons, so plan your run accordingly.

Park Info

Red Mountain Park

red mountain park birmingham trail
One of the many trails offered at Red Mountain Park. Photo via Red Mountain Park’s Facebook

If you’re looking for a conveniently-located park with tons of trails to choose from, Red Mountain Park in Birmingham is perfect for your afternoon trot. With 17 routes available, it’s a choose-you-own-adventure kind of workout.

BMRR South Trail to Wenonah Connector to BMRR North Trail to Shook Trail

  • The terrain: These four trails connect to make a full loop around Red Mountain Park, with an out-and-back to Grace’s Overlook on one end, making it hard to get lost on your run but easy to enjoy Alabama Spring weather.
  • Distance: 6.91 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 450ft.
  • Before you go: For a shorter run, trade the Shook Trail for the Ishkooda Connector.

Park Info

Vulcan Park

vulcan trail birmingham
The Birmingham skyline from Vulcan Trail. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Underneath the watchful eye (and #fitspo glutes) of Birmingham’s beloved Vulcan is the Vulcan Trail at Vulcan Park. This out-and-back route features stunning scenery and is an excellent spot for you morning workout.

Vulcan Trail

  • The terrain: The trail is part of the Kiwanas Centennial Park expansion of Vulcan Park.
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 70ft.
  • Before you go: The path extends to Green Springs highway, so if you’re looking to extend your run check that out, or make a couple of loops for a cool 4 miles.

Park Info

Railroad Park

railroad park birmingham trail
The BBVA USA building, as seen from Railroad Park. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Celebrate Spring (when it gets here) in downtown Birmingham with a run at Railroad Park. This park adds 19 acres of greenspace to the heart of the city, and a .75-mile loop around the outside of the park. While certainly not the longest trail on this list, the park does include a myriad of flowers to enjoy on your run.

Railroad Park Loop

  • The terrain: Maybe not the place for your Sunday long run, but Railroad park is a great place for a speed workout or lunch break workout.
  • Distance: .75 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 0ft.
  • Before you go: If you’re looking for something longer, take a detour down the sidewalks that lead to the park in downtown.

Park Info

Moss Rock Preserve

moss rock preserve hoover
Falls at Moss Rock Preserve. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Located in Hoover, Moss Rock Preserve has over 12 miles of trails, with a variety of distances and difficulties, perfect for everyone from beginners to experienced runners.

Scenic Loop

  • The terrain: See the incredibly cool Boulder Field at Moss Rock Preserve as you take the aptly-named Scenic Loop trail through the nature preserve.
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Unknown

White Trail

  • The terrain: Labeled “moderate to challenging,” the White Trail runs the length of the park and passes attractions like Boulder Field and Tunnel Falls.
  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Unknown

Park Info

  • Hours: Dawn to dusk
  • Location: 617 Preserve Pkwy. Hoover, AL. 35226
  • Website

Cahaba River Park

While the Cahaba River Park is a little out of the way for most Birmingham residents, I moved to Helena during quarantine and spent almost every single day learning the name of each pebble on the 17 miles of trails there. I’ve recommended my favorite run below.

Northern Pines to Reflection to Wild Turkey

  • The terrain: Northern Pines will make you feel like a Bagginses, and Reflection, which runs along Shades Creek and the Cahaba River, features a rotating cast of the loveliest flowers I’ve ever seen while running.
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 400ft.
  • Before you go: Watch out for snakes! Since these routes are a little less trafficked than others, our slithery friends like to use them too.

Flying Squirrel to Turtleback Ridge to Without a Paddle

  • The terrain: Another wonderfully-named set of routes on the Eastern side of the park are a little steeper than the first set, but they’re also shorter. Sounds like a pretty good trade-off to me. Plus, when you come to the intersection of Flying Squirrel and Turtleback Ridge, see if you can find the second path’s namesake.
  • Distance: 2.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Unknown
  • Before you go: Also watch out for bikes. These trails are very popular for mountain bikers, so make sure to share the path.

Park Info

  • Hours: Dawn to dusk
  • Location: 2105 River Road, Helena, AL
  • Price: Free
  • Website

The Birmingham area is full of great running trails to try out this spring. If we missed your favorite spot to trot, let us know! If you want to challenge yourself even more, try using one of these trails for a virtual 5k, like the upcoming ones listed in Bham Now’s 2021 guide.

Not up for a run right now? Check out Bham Now’s recent guide to the best places in the region to roller skate instead.

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Claire Hancock
Claire Hancock
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