Photo credit: The Birmingham Ultra Trail Society
Shelby Morris contributed to this article
For many people, running isn’t just another way to exercise, it’s a way of life. For those who’d rather skip the treadmill and hit the ground running outdoors, Birmingham’s warm weather and versatile landscape make it an ideal place to enjoy a range of outdoor running experiences.
Whether you’re into a leisurely one mile jog or are training for a marathon, Birmingham offers a great selection of trails and pathways to coincide with any level of running.
Grab your running shoes and get ready to enjoy a new outdoor experience at one of these top places to run in Birmingham.
It’s no secret Railroad Park is well-known as one of Birmingham’s favorite places to relax outdoors. Yet, beyond the sprawling green fields and serene atmosphere are several paths great for a great workout with running. The Magic City Loop plus three additional shorter trails make Railroad Park one of the best places to enjoy a run in downtown Birmingham. With few inclines and even surfaces on pathways, this running location is great for beginners or even those running with jogging strollers.
Bonus: Railroad Park is always a fun place to do a little people watching while you run.
Vulcan Trail is a flat, paved mile-long trail that runs along the ridge of Red Mountain and below Vulcan Park. Fully tree-lined, this trail offers cool shade from the sun and warm weather making it an ideal running location during the hotter months of the year. In the winter, when most foliage is gone, the trail offers fantastic views of several of Birmingham’s historic landmarks. Bonus: Pets are allowed.
Moss Rock contains about 12 miles of trails that interconnect to form loops through a beautiful wooded nature preserve. The trails are individually color coded and all are listed as moderate to challenging level of difficulty. The white trail offers great views of Tunnel Falls waterfall. The blue trail leads to valleys and hills, and the red trail expands through wetlands and cliffs. The orange trail is the newest addition and loops through some of the most scenic parts of the park. See the trail map here.
Red Mountain has 14 miles of trails, all of which offer all levels of runners a great variety of length and difficulty. Choose from 11 different trails ranging from the shortest, the #14 Mine Spur Trail at just .13 miles to the longest, the Ike Maston Trail, at 2.5 miles (which also leads to two different tree houses, one on each end of the trail). In addition to beautiful overlooks of the city, Red Mountain Park also features access to three historic iron ore mining ruins and offers visitors other adventure activities including zip lining and rope bridges.
Lakeshore trail (also known as Homewood Shades Creek Greenway) is a 2.5-mile paved pathway that meanders through areas close to the Shades Creek. With easy access to parking, it has two official trail heads, however, there are many different access points throughout the entire trail. This is one of the more popular running courses in the Birmingham area and is a good location for any level of runner.
As a former iron ore mining site, Ruffner Mountain is now a 1,038-acre urban nature preserve. With 12 miles of trails spread out across the mountain, runners are likely to enjoy many glimpses of Birmingham’s industrial past. The park also features some of the best spots to catch an amazing sunset over the city.
Jemison Park trail is a one-mile path located in Mountain Brook’s 54 acre Jemison Park. The trail, which is mostly tree-lined, runs along parts of Shades Creek and is partially paved. It connects with the Nature Trail and the Watkins Trace Trail and ties in with the City’s sidewalk system, allowing residents easy access to the park.
Those who are new to running may enjoy the shorter and easier trail at Aldridge Gardens. The half-mile path loops around a small lake and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and a variety of wildlife. There are also activities for children such as visiting some of the many fairy houses on the grounds.
Named as one of America’s best trail destinations by Runner’s World Magazine, Oak Mountain State Park boasts more than 24 miles of winding trails that help create some of the best outdoor running experiences. Trails range from an easy 2.5-mile loop that winds around Double Oak Lake to the Foothills Trail, which is approximately 16 miles long (round trip).