Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three kid-friendly hikes in Alabama to explore with babies and young children.
Alabama is part of the Southeast and enjoys hot, humid summers and generally mild winters. As such, the state offers good hiking year-round. It also offers varying elevation and physical geography from the Gulf Coast in the south to the Appalachian Mountains in the north. Here, Hike it Baby members from three different parts of the state recommend three great trails for families with young children.
Pond Way Trail (Auburn, AL)
Pond Way is one of several trails at the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center and has 120 acres of old-growth hardwood forest nestled in a corner of a southern college town. To hit all the best features of the Preserve, take a 1.5-mile loop through the interior of the park. Starting at the pavilion at the south parking lot, take Pond Way through the woods and across a field of wildflowers until you reach the pond. Turn left to take Barn Trace up to the old homestead and vegetable garden. Now turn right on Homestead Trail to wander through the butterfly garden. At the north parking lot, turn right and follow Pond Way around the east side of the pond. Turn left at Hidden Falls Trail to follow the stream to beautiful views of these gentle falls. Stepping stones will take you across the stream. Next, take a right onto either Songbird Loop or the next wide, handicap-accessible trail to head back toward the pavilion, passing the turtle and alligator enclosures along the way.
The best feature of all is the incredible nature playground, a shaded area filled with natural materials to climb on and endless opportunities for kids to get dirty. The playground includes a treehouse, “eagle’s nest,” slides, logs, tunnels, boulders, balance beams, jungle gyms, a sand pit and more. There are picnic tables for enjoying an al fresco lunch, and a handicap-accessible bathroom nearby. There are also benches located around the park for relaxing, enjoying a snack or nursing.
- The wide, groomed trails are easy for all ages to navigate, and the terrain is mostly level, with one stream crossing with stepping stones.
- There are signs and kiosks scattered around the park with information for children and adults alike about the native flora and fauna. Depending on the time of year, you may see frogs, turtles, alligators, snakes, birds, butterflies and deer.
- Informative and interactive workshops take place year-round, such as guided hikes and lectures with scientists.
- Don’t forget the insect repellant and sunscreen, and watch out for ticks and snakes.
I take my one-year-old son to the Preserve several times a week. The nature playground is a great place to let him explore and play in the dirt, with several park swings and benches where parents can watch and relax. –Kristin Hinnant
Quarry Trail (Birmingham, AL)
Ruffner Mountain is a 1,040-acre nature preserve just within the city limits of Birmingham. Its history is one of iron ore mining through the mid-20th century. Later it was saved by a private group, the Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition, as the preserve we have today for all to enjoy. There are a number of trails of varying difficulty throughout the site. Quarry Trail runs along the ridge of the mountain and connects to all the other trails either directly or indirectly. It starts at the Nature Center, and so should you. In the Nature Center’s Exhibit Hall, the kids will delight in seeing several native species, including many snakes, safely behind glass. After that, it’s time to hit the trail!
Quarry Trail itself is a moderate trail of 1.2 miles running to the southwest and is the perfect combination of elevation gain and flat hiking. It is very clearly marked and very easy to follow. About halfway down, a quick right turn takes you to a fabulous bird’s-eye view of the airport. It’s super fun for the kids to watch the airplanes take off and land. At the end of Quarry Trail, take Overlook Trail for a short (0.4-mile) walk to more views of the city, inside an old rock quarry, and of beautiful forrest as well. However, do note that the incline of this short trail might be a bit more of a challenge for small children. For a longer hike, take the 1.8-mile Possum Loop Trail, which connects to the two other trails. This combination of three trails from the Nature Center and back offers plenty of freedom to decide how far and how long to go and when to start back. Whatever you decide, Ruffner Mountain is a real gem for the city of Birmingham.
- Ruffner Mountain Nature Coalition asks that non-members contribute a $3 trail use fee at the Nature Center or at the trailhead to maintain the trails and support their conservation work.
- Stay on the trail and away from cliff edges.
- Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on leashes.
Alum Hollow Trail (Huntsville, AL)
Continuing the theme, Alum Hollow Trail is the main trail in the Green Mountain Nature Preserve network. The trailhead starts at the parking lot and continues a little over a mile with a nice, easy hike over most of that distance. Along the way you will cross streams, one with a bridge, and enjoy some nice mountain views. At the end of the trail there is a steep climb that will take you down to Alum Cave and Alum Falls. The “cave” is actually a Native-American rock shelter just under the face of the rock bluff. Walk the length of the trail to see it all.
Once the kids are ready to start back, you’ll have a few options. Alum Hollow Trail is the most direct route back at a little over 2 miles round-trip. There are other trails, although not all are as easy. West Plateau Trail and East Plateau Trail are both easy with only gentle hills and will add very little extra distance if any. They are both loops that branch off of Alum Hollow Trail. Take one or both for a change of scenery on the way back.
- Stay on the marked trails and watch for drop-offs.
- If you hike with your dog, keep it on a leash.
- Take nothing out other than what you brought with you, including trash. Bring a bag since there are no trash cans available.
- Don’t forget the insect repellant and sunscreen.
This trail is an easy trail, with the exception of the very end where it has a fairly steep section leading down to the “cave” and waterfall. That section also has some steep drop-offs. There is one bridge water crossing. Other than those two spots there are no other obstacles or difficult parts for children. It’s one of our favorites, and my 2-year-old does it on her own. –Beth Fairley
MORE RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
Alabama offers an abundance of trails for families with young children. For more family hike ideas, see:
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with the local branch)
- Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide
- Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
If you’re traveling through Alabama and need more information or recommendations on trails or would like to join a group hike, the nearest Hike it Baby branches are in Auburn, Birmingham, Huntsville and Montgomery.
- 3 Unforgettable Hikes in Georgia for Young Children
- 3 Amazing Tennessee Trails for Families With Young Children
- 3 Stunning South Carolina Trails for Families With Young Children
What are your favorite hikes in Alabama for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!
Pond Way Trail review and photo provided by Kristin Hinnant. Quarry Trail review and photo provided by Kathryn Jones. Alum Hollow Trail review and photo provided by Beth Fairley.