Guide to Camp Cooking: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Food forms a major part of the memories of and around camping. It’s the cooking part that’s fun and a little challenging. Good cooking will enhance the whole camping experience. Sometimes, we imagine and ‘cook up’ a scenario in our minds, and the experience turns out to be way different. Camp cooking is quite different from cooking at home.

Source: Pixabay

You wouldn’t want to spoil the food and the mood with cooking that’s gone awry. Whether you are a seasoned camping enthusiast or a beginner, learning some camp cooking tips and tricks should help you. First and foremost, make sure to tackle these five common camp cooking mistakes:

  1. Planning mistakes: No planning, insufficient planning, and excessive planning are all mistakes when it comes to camping cooking. However, over-planning might just be a lesser evil compared to the others. No planning is an ingredient for disaster and disappointment. Insufficient planning might lead to some inconveniences. Overplanning can be adjusted a little when you are implementing the cooking process. Plan your meals to avoid hungry group members and unnecessary delays. With the right quantities of ingredients and tools on hand, you’ll dodge emergency store trips. Stay prepared and enjoy seamless mealtime!


  1. Not giving the campfire its dues: This is with the assumption that you are cooking in the conventional camping style over a campfire. A campfire needs care and attention, as well as the right technique. Additionally, it requires patience and good materials. If you are starting a campfire in an existing ring, do take a few minutes to scrape away the old (often soggy) ashes. It’s best if you pack a jet flame torch lighter or a propane trigger torch for your camping trip. With either of these, you’ll find it easier to get a sturdy fire going. Gather sufficient tinder to light the kindling. Don’t smother your fire with the ashes of papers that burn out quickly. Split the wood, and it will burn more quickly and completely. Start early and nurture your campfire with patience until it turns into a steady and safe heat source. We recommend bringing a Pocket Bellow to help you start the fire with ease and be sure to check out our blog: Pro Tips on Building the Perfect Campfire.

    Source: Pixabay

  1. Cooking equipment mistakes: If you bring along other cooking equipment like stoves, you’ve avoided a camping cooking mistake, namely, relying solely on a campfire. But, consider this scenario: you brought along the required cooking equipment but did not check if it was working properly beforehand, and it failed you right on time. It is definitely a scenario you’d like to avoid. Clean and test your cooking equipment before heading out on your camping trip. If something is missing, broken, or damaged, do remember to purchase it, replace it, and get it repaired before the trip. Make sure you carry the required pots, pans, cooking spoons, and other tools required for preparing the meal items you have planned. For example, even though you prepare fresh lobster, you’re still going to need tongs to pick it up and a lobster cracker to enjoy it. Plan your meals, make a list of the equipment and tools you will require, and pack them with due diligence.


  1. Forgetting about food safety: It is equally important (if not more) to take care of food safety while camping in the great outdoors. When the conversation comes to food safety, most people assume it is about the handling of food. Although there are safety concerns around the handling of food, safely storing food is an equally large concern. You don’t want the camping trip to be ruined because someone fell ill due to food that was improperly stored or handled. Always remember to separate raw food from other food items. If you are carrying perishable poultry or meat products, carry them along with a cold source for safety. Even while you are out in the wild, washing your hands prior to handling and eating food is a must. Keep hand sanitizer and disposable wipes handy. Take all necessary precautions related to food safety, even while camping.


  1. Experimenting with complicated recipes: The issue with complicated recipes is that they require numerous ingredients and elaborate steps for preparation. They are also often quite time-consuming. When you go camping, we recommend making the most of limited ingredients and supplies. Leave the complicated recipes for experimentation at home and stick to basic, simple, and easy-to-prepare recipes for camping cooking. You can find some delicious s’mores recipes right here.


Final Words

One of the biggest mistakes is approaching camping cooking with the same kind of expectations that one has for home-cooked food. It’s going to be different; it is supposed to be different. And this difference is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated. When cooking while camping, enjoy the process to enjoy the results.


Author bio: Kevin Fagan

Kevin Fagan is a food & travel writer, based in New England. He likes to (try to) cook gourmet food at home, and travel to far-flung destinations.





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Our List of Top Alabama Waterfalls

Little River Falls, Little River Canyon

Trivia question: What Southeast state boasts a wilderness known as “The Land of 1,000 Waterfalls”? That’s right, it’s Alabama!

The Sipsey Wilderness in Bankhead National Forest earned that nickname thanks to its plentiful falling water features. However, Alabama is blessed with an abundance of absolutely beautiful waterfalls across the state. We built a list of some of the best Alabama waterfalls and grouped them based on the accessibility. Make the most of your Waterfall Wednesday by discovering one of these gems:

No hiking required

No need to grab your trekking poles for these views. Jump in your car and go explore. Pro tip: picnics are always a good idea on these trips!

Little River Falls

Our first stop on the Little River Canyon tour is Little River Falls, after all, it is the park’s namesake. This waterfall is very accessible. Much like all waterfalls, this waterfall is highly dependent on the rain. When the waterfall is strong, stay up on the overlook for your safety and take in the amazing scenery. 

Insider tip: In the summertime when the water is low, take a nice hike down to where the river usually runs, and this spot duals as a great swimming hole! If the water flow is light, you may be able to even swim out and sit under the falls! Just remember to bring suitable footwear as the rocks can be slick.

Noccalula Falls

Located in Gadsden, Alabama, Noccalula Falls Park is home to one of the state’s most famous waterfalls, Noccalula Falls. These beautiful falls cascade over 90 feet into the Black Creek ravine. Upon visiting Noccalula Falls, you will notice a statue of a Cherokee princess by the same name after which the falls are named, and you can learn more about her story at the park. Noccalula Park also features primitive tent camping and hiking trails. The Black Creek Trails consist of 15 routes and connectors for those who enjoy walking, running, hiking, and bicycling. This trail allows you to walk under the falls for a spectacular view from below.

Pictured: Kinlock Falls Image Credit: Jody from

Kinlock Falls

Kinlock Falls sits about 100 feet from the park road in Bankhead National Forest. It is accessible for kids and dogs and makes a great stop as you make your way through the forest or for a nice afternoon. The hike is easy and the falls are picturesque, and the pool at the bottom of the falls has become a top swimming hole destination. 

DeSoto Falls

Located in Desoto State Park in Mentone, in northeast Alabama is DeSoto Falls. This 107-foot beauty is one of the tallest and most spectacular waterfalls in Alabama. It’s easily accessible for all levels and ages of outdoor enthusiasts, but keep an eye out on children and furry friends near the railings. 

Coldwater Falls

Coldwater Falls is located in Spring Park in Tuscumbia. While this waterfall is actually man-made, it is definitely worth the trip and the park offers great amenities and activities for a fun-filled family weekend!

Grace’s High Falls

Also located in Little River Canyon is Grace’s High Falls. This is officially the tallest waterfall in Alabama, coming in at 133 ft. While this waterfall is very seasonal due to rain, it is a great add on to your next Little River Canyon waterfall tour. 

Short hike

Keep in mind that even though these waterfalls only require a short hike, not all of them are suitable for young children or dogs.

Pictured: Peavine Falls at Oak Mountain

Peavine Falls

You can access Peavine Falls in Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham through a variety of trails, including a short 1.2-mile loop. Dogs are allowed but some trails are steep so choose your route carefully. If you can, make your way down to the bottom of the 65-foot waterfall for better views and Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. 

High Falls

A 0.8-mile dog- and kid-friendly loop in Grove Oak takes you to the 35-foot waterfall, which spans 300 feet and makes for a phenomenal panoramic sight. The pedestrian bridge provides another cool vantage, so check that out while you are there! 

Salt Creek Falls

If you’re looking for a relaxing spot made for meditation, head to Salt Creek Falls in Munford. From the parking lot, it is only about half a mile to the top of the falls, and the skill level is easy. However, The trek to the bottom of the falls is more difficult and steep. Be sure to bring proper footwear. Once you make it to the bottom of the falls, either set up your hammock or relax into your lotus position, and just chill. 

Long hike

Pictured: Eagle Creek Falls Image credit: Jody from

Cheaha Falls

You can log a decent 2.1-mile hike out and back visiting Cheaha Falls in Lineville. It’s considered a great trail for bird watching, and it’s suitable for children.

Eagle Creek Falls

Eagle Creek Falls in the Sipsey wilderness requires a 2-mile difficult hike but offers views of several small falls. Make sure you have the right footwear and leave the dog and kids at home for this one; it requires creek crossings and features steep banks.



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Day Trip: Sunshine and Sunflowers in Autaugaville

Looking for a new July adventure? How about a trek to see a field full of sunflowers? 

The sunflower field in Autaugaville that draws visitors from across the state and beyond will open July 1st just in time for the long, holiday weekend. 

Todd and Kim Sheridan own field along Alabama Highway 14 and plant about million sunflower seeds each May, according to an article. The field opens again July 1, 2023 at 6am, and blooms typically last for about 10 days, but there will be blooms for about 3 weeks. This year they also have a new wagon ride to make this experience even more fun for just $5!

Tips for visiting the Sunflower Field

sunflower-field-summerThe owners ask that visitors don’t bring pets. There is no charge to enter the field or take photos of your own children with your phone or camera. However, professional photographers must pay $20 per client/session in the field. 

You can even bring home a bucket of the cheery flowers. We recommend you bring your own cutters for safety reasons, although the farm has some available. Buckets are also available in the field, and you can put up to 14 flowers in a bucket for $10. 

You can also buy a single flower for $1 each. 

Field owners also sell T-shirts, tea towels, and sunflower seed packets.

To find the fields, Use 3301 Hwy 14 W, Autaugaville AL 36003. The field is open from sunrise to sunset. 

Days of bloom + others tips and reminders from the field

“We sprout ‘em, grow ‘em and watch ‘em bloom.” Keep updated on closures and other bloom dates throughout the season via their Facebook page here.

Important before-you-go tips:
1) Field opens July 1 at 6am
3) Credit/debit is now accepted but cash is still suggested as internet access is new for the field
4) Hours: Mon-Thur 8am – 8pm, Fri- Sun 6am – 8pm
5) There is one porta-potty on site for emergencies – they HIGHLY recommend making a stop to use the restroom before you get there.
6) There are lots of bees in the field. If you are allergic, please be aware. They generally keep to themselves and do their jobs!
7) Bring your own clippers if you can. There are some onsite, but people tend to walk off with them like ink pens.

Special event: Dog Days of Summer
From their Facebook page, “On the last two days of the season, we are going to allow dogs. Dogs only, no other pets. We expect this to be July 21 and 22. These dates may change subject to the flowers. All dogs must be leashed and you MUST pick up after your dog. This is only for the last two days. No pets allowed any other time.”

Like most activities nowadays, it’s best to check before you go to ensure the field is still open to visitors and any safety measures in place. You can follow the Sunflower Field on Facebook for current updates and other information. For more information, please visit

Find all your summer fun essentials at Alabama Outdoors. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or in-store pickup! #BeOutdoors

10 Ideas for a Fun Mother’s Day Weekend

We have listed 10 ways to celebrate the mom in your life, make her feel special, and maybe spend some time outdoors this Mother’s Day weekend!


Plan a weekend staycation or getaway

Plan a weekend staycation or getaway. We have put together ideas for a great Mother’s Day Weekend in Birmingham, Florence, and Mobile. Each city offers a wide array of activities for any interest, a needed change of pace from the day-to-day, and most definitely well-deserved relaxation and fun. Click each city for our full blogs on where to go and what to do! From urban outings to outdoor adventures to a relaxing beach getaway, and in between, we are sure to have something fun she will enjoy.


Have a picnic somewhere unique

Maybe the Mom in your life loves being outdoors without having to go far to enjoy nature. If so, find a local park or go somewhere close she hasn’t been and set up a picnic! Surprise her by doing the work and planning the menu with some of her favorite bites. Put down a blanket, put up a hammock, and put out the spread. Relax + enjoy. 

Visit the Gardens 

Don’t just give the Mom in your life flowers for Mother’s Day, take her to where all of the flowers bloom. She will enjoy the peaceful setting and beauty the gardens provide.

Here are a few of our favorites in Alabama:


Start a backyard garden together

May is the perfect time to start a garden. So while you are roaming the sidewalks at the local garden, discover plants and flowers Mom likes and help plan out her garden at home. Having a backyard garden will bring more of the outdoors to her when she doesn’t have time to be in the great outdoors but wants the serenity. Plus- she can grow vegetables which is even more fun!


Explore the trails 

If your mom likes hiking or even a nearby nature walk, explore a new trail or new park together. Whether you head out of town to check out a scenic view or wander through a local urban greenspace or trail, she will enjoy just being in nature. 


Go camping

You have been camping all year in your backyard preparing for this year. It’s time to take what you’ve learned in your trial runs and head outdoors! If you’re just starting, here are some tips for car camping and where to go that offer a more relaxing camping experience. Grab a new weekender bag or other travel gifts for mom here.


Start the day with yoga

If your mom enjoys staying active, invite her to join you for a local yoga class or a virtual outdoor yoga session with you. You can adjust to her preferences with a relaxed flow or muscle-burning poses with tricky inversions. Pair a fun yoga session with a new activewear set she will love! Shop activewear for mom here.

Do something on her list

Whether it is something on her to-do list or her bucket list, pick a couple of things out to help cross them off her list! We know she will love the help with chores. Once that is done, plan an adventure she has wanted to do and go with her! Maybe there is a hobby she has wanted to try, find a class and sign her up! Is there a trail to a waterfall she has been wanting to go to? Pack your water bottles, tell her to gear up, and hit the trails! Like the idea of chasing waterfalls? Check out our list of top waterfalls in Alabama, some that require zero hiking!


Treat her to a special brunch 

Does the Mom in your life cook for you and others a lot? If so, this Mother’s Day treat her to a special brunch out on the town where she can relax. If you will be spending the weekend under the stars, plan out a special fireside brunch to start the day off.


Catch a sunset

Pick out a sunset hike or find a local panoramic view to set up a picnic and enjoy the sunset. Who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of a sunset? Looking for the best spots? Here are 5 Stunning Sunset Hikes in Alabama.



Get Mom something she will love to go with your fun-filled weekend or to show her you care from far away! Click here for the Top Gifts this Mother’s Day. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

5 Perfect Hiking Picnic Spots in Alabama

Springtime in Alabama means the beauty of blooming flora and the breathtaking chirp of songbirds around you. It also means it’s time to get outdoors and explore all Alabama the beautiful has to offer, while the humidity is low, of course.

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, these beautiful hikes have the perfect picnic spots for you to rest, relax and fuel up for a day on the trails.  Here are 5 relaxing and scenic spots to have a picnic and experience nature at its finest!


1. Red Mountain Park

Red Mountain Park is a 1,500-acre day-use park located in Birmingham, AL just 5 miles southwest from downtown. This park is not only a local favorite for its proximity to the city, it also is packed with unique features and historical ore-mining sites that make it great for families and visitors alike. Red Mountain Park features 16 miles of trails ranging from easy to moderately challenging, two breathtaking city overlooks, three fun treehouses, a relaxing hammock area, and a dog park! The park also has multiple picnic areas along the trails, making this one of our favorite spots for a picnic in nature.

For a quick and serene picnic spot, park at the Frankfurt Drive entrance of the park and follow trail #1 Eureka Mines Trail about a 1/2 mile to the Regions Quarry Picnic Area. Just up from the picnic area, you will also find the hammock area if you need a little extra hang time. You can find the full trail (and picnic) map here.



2. Tannehill State Park

Tannehill State Park is one of Alabama’s most unique state parks due to its historical features, camping sites, and events throughout the year, including the popular Tannehill Trade Days. Tannehill has more than 1,500 acres of hiking trails, camping sites, and outdoor recreation. While the winding roads through the park will take you back in time, the scenery and landscape will make you feel like you’re in a fairyland.

While there are many unique spots to roll out your Nomadix Festival Blanket and relax, one of our favorites is just off the creek by the bridge. Or take a seat at the picnic table, your choice. This spot does not require any hiking to access but there are over 17 miles of trails to explore in the park either by foot or bike. If you have the time, we recommend renting out one of the cabins for a weekend away and take in all the park has to offer! Check out Tannehill State Park and their map here.


3. DeSoto Falls

With a spectacular waterfall as your backdrop, a picnic at DeSoto Falls is hard to beat. DeSoto Falls is great as there are multiple options for taking in the stunning view of the 104-ft waterfall. DeSoto Falls is located on Lookout Mountain, just under 10 minutes from the quaint town of Mentone, and the waterfall is only a few hundred yards from the parking lot.

So, if you’re short on time or just looking for an easy picnic without the hike- you’ve come to the right spot. There is an established picnic area near the river and the waterfall, just steps from the parking lot. The upper falls are accessible to all abilities while the lower fall does require a 50-step walk down to the overlook. With many viewing options at the picnic area, the pick is yours.

If you’re looking to get a little closer and get some more steps and time in nature in, head back down the road to the trailhead and take the 1.4 mile out and back River Trail down to the base of the falls. The hike is considered generally easy with a couple steep spots at the beginning and some rocky areas heading towards the falls. Depending on the water level, you will notice many flat rock areas perfect for a picnic with a view. While on the trail, be sure to stop at the Ice Box Cave! You can access the trail map here. Note that the DeSoto Falls Picnic Area does have a $4 fee per day, per vehicle (cash not required).

DeSoto Falls Picnic Area coordinates: 34.55°N 85.59°W


4. Wildwood Park

Located in Florence, Alabama, Wildwood Park is more than a local park- it is a sweet escape just 3 minutes from the UNA campus. Wildwood Park has a little bit of everything for the outdoor enthusiasts including hiking trails, fishing, and even 3 to 5 miles of beginner to advanced mountain bike trails! From the parking lot it won’t take you long to get into the park and feel secluded from the town.

For a great picnic spot, we recommend taking a left at the fork at the beginning of the trail and head alongside the turquoise water of Cypress Creek. Along this trail there are multiple alcoves to access the creek as well as gravel and sandy spots to set up a peaceful picnic. If you’re in the Florence area do not miss out on this beautiful park! Be sure to help support the park and grab a Wildwood Park Short-Sleeve T-Shirt. You can buy one online or head to our store located in downtown Florence! A portion of the proceeds of each t-shirt benefits Wildwood Park and the maintenance of the beautiful trails. 


5. Sipsey River Picnic Area

In our opinion, the Sipsey is great for anything but especially picnics and secluded camping in some of the most beautiful places in Alabama. The Sipsey River Picnic Area is located on Bunyan Hill Rd in Moulton, AL, also near the popular Mize Mills Falls Trailhead. The parking area has a $5 fee for the day, but this area is well worth it, and you will find plenty of places to explore along the trail. While there are picnic areas and a boat launch at the parking area, we recommend taking the trails along the Sipsey River as you will quickly come across several picnic areas just above the river that will make you feel like you’re far away from civilization.

Latitude: 34.2854754
Longitude: -87.3983867


Ready to be outdoors this Spring? We have the Spring outdoor gear you need to get you back on the trails! We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

The 12 Best Spring Hikes in Birmingham


Springtime in Alabama is about as good as it gets. And it’s a prime season for hiking. Birmingham has a wealth of destinations to stretch your legs and fill your lungs with fresh air in the woods.

Difficulty ranges from easy trails that are suitable for the whole family, to more secluded trails that are geared towards more experienced hikers. Whatever category you fall into, it’s time to put away the winter coat, kick a little dirt on your boots, and witness Birmingham in bloom. Here are some of our favorite hikes within a 60 mile radius of Birmingham’s city center that are perfect for tackling in the spring.

1. Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve | 8.4 Miles from Downtown

Ruffner Mountain is a breather from city life, without driving a long distance for the destination. These trails are built for walking, hiking, or running. Take advantage of the learning center, grab a map, and enjoy the incredible mountainous views. At Hawk’s View Overlook, you can gaze over Birmingham’s skyline spearing into the horizon. The trails are well-maintained, so bring the kids and/or dogs on the Geology Trail and Nature Trail (.62 miles round trip). The Quarry Trail (3.1 miles round trip) is suitable for families with older children or for time in much-needed solitude. If you’re looking for a something a little longer, take the Loop Hike which incorporates several trails and includes hidden treasures such as old mine ruins along the way.

Please note, effective March 15th, 2021, there’s a small parking fee of $5 for all non-members. Members will receive a member parking permit when they register. You can learn more about their membership options here.

2. Oak Mountain State Park | 22 Miles from Downtown

If you live in the Birmingham area, Oak Mountain seems like an obvious choice for hiking. Only minutes outside the city’s limits, it is the largest state park in Alabama. It is a favorite because of its unique beauty and variety of hiking options. More than 50 miles of trails give you plenty to choose from, all of which are full of character and natural allure. The Red Trail is the longest, popular with bikers, and crosses a total of 24 bridges along the way. Be sure to check out the many scenic overlooks. Waterfalls (namely, Peavine Falls) and rock formations make Oak Mountain State Park trails a unique experience that will invite you to return again and again.

3. Falling Rock Falls | 39 Miles from Downtown

For a more organic, rougher trail, take a hike to Falling Rock Falls. This is a gated path that prevents vehicles in the area, so parking isn’t the best. But the gem at the end of the trail is worth any inconveniences. Falling Rock Falls is a sparkling 90-foot waterfall with a small cavern behind the cascade. Exploration of the falls may be treacherous, so take caution of slippery rocks and the height. Time the trip for when the dogwoods are in bloom, and inhale the perfume of wisteria peppered throughout the hike. Shaded and hidden away by mature trees, this is truly a diamond in the rough.


4. Tannehill Loop | 29 Miles from Downtown

Residents of Birmingham are very familiar with local Tannehill State Park. Restored pioneer cabins, furnaces, a cotton gin, and a working gristmill are popular attractions to this park, but the trails are equally awe-inspiring. They are wide and easy to navigate, parts of which follow the route of ore miners and furnace workers. Choose between Slave Quarters Trail, Furnace Trail, Iron Haul Road (which will take you past the Slave Cemetery), Grist Mill Trail, and the Tram Track which is newly restored. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, enjoy them all for a 5.1-mile round trip.

5. Veterans Park | 12 Miles from Downtown

Veterans Park, formerly known as Spain Park, is a 260-acre park that welcomes many activities for the whole family. But hiking stands out as a favorite past time through these shaded woods. The main loop circles the park and offers varying terrain over rocks, roots, wetlands and lake area. Take a detour down a branch trail and enjoy the peaceful quiet off the beaten path. Bring the kids and pack a lunch. This park entices visitors to stay long enough for a minimum of 1.3-mile round trip hike and a picnic.

6. Buck Creek Trail | 22 Miles from Downtown

For an easy and scenic hike, Buck Trail is a choice you won’t regret. It is about a 3 mile path—wide and smooth—that connects Buck Creek Park and Warrior Park. There are three different trailheads that a hiker can choose from for entry, one of which is an old mill site called Buck Creek Mill. The main trail is smooth enough for strollers, and pets are welcome. You’ll cross five bridges along the way across picturesque Buck Creek, and don’t forget to look for the waterfall behind the mill site.

7. Moss Rock Preserve | 14 Miles from Downtown

This 349-acre nature reserve is a gorgeous choice for hiking year-round. With nearly 12 miles of pristine hiking trails maintained mostly by volunteers, Moss Rock Preserve is a hidden paradise for the city weary. It is a fairly easy hike with about 1.2 miles best described as moderate. Rock outcroppings, wildlife, waterfalls, boulders, and streams are lovely features along with four rare species of plants.

8. Red Mountain Park | 10 Miles from Downtown

Red Mountain is a well-known area for Birmingham residents. This park is 1,500 acres with 12 miles of fun trails, and if you’re looking for a diverse experience, check out the historic mines, Red Ore Zip Line, a tree house called the Kaul Adventure Tower, and an off-leash dog park.

9. Turkey Creek Nature Preserve | 15 Miles from Downtown

The breathtaking Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a place that hikers are not likely to forget. There are currently four trails with the potential of more in years to come. Follow the ridgeline above the creek, tour the varied terrain, and enjoy hours of natural beauty with easy to moderate trails, totaling about 3 miles. And during the warmer spring days, be sure to take a dip in one of Alabama’s best swimming holes.

10. Black Creek Trail | 6 Miles from Downtown

Black Creek Park has a unique and enjoyable trail that used to be an old rail bed. The ties and rails were pulled up to create a 3.5 mile trail appropriate for running, walking, and hiking. The trail runs along Black Creek and is complete with mile markers to help you track your distance. Pets are welcome and will find this track easy to navigate.

11. Hillsboro Trail in Helena | 27 Miles from Downtown

The Hillsboro Trail is another rail trail that offers roughly 2 miles of easy hiking for a quick afternoon outing. Part of the trail is wide and paved for those looking for smooth terrain. Most of the trail runs through a forest that used to be home to operating coal mines.

12. Jemison Park Nature Trail | 5.1 Miles from Downtown

The Jemison Trail is a 3 mile out-and-back that is great for satisfying the hiking itch year-round. Part of the trail is paved, and part is crushed gravel. What it lacks in seclusion, it does not lack in beauty. Walk or run beneath a canopy of trees that keep the path shaded and cool in the spring—the perfect place for a quick breather when city claustrophobia creeps in.


Ready to be outdoors this Spring? We have the Spring outdoor gear you need to get you back on the trails! We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors


Written by Natalie Cone for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Ralph Daily

10 Great Hikes Near the Alabama Gulf Coast

20180524-Alabama-Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

There is a wonderland of nature at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.


If your plans for the summer or fall include a trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast, you’re no doubt looking forward to long days on the beach sunning and swimming in the surf. But, during your stay you might want to experience something a little different—a change of pace. How about taking a hike?

There are some amazing hikes out there only a short drive from Alabama’s sandy shores, all within an hour’s drive or less. Here are some of the best you should check out.

1. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Only 10 miles west of the Gulf Shores Public Beach on Alabama Highway 180 there’s a wonderland of nature, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. More than 6 miles of trails lead you through maritime forests teeming with birds and wetlands filled with brilliant wildflowers. When you hike through the refuge, be sure to walk the banks of Little Lagoon Lake and Gator Lake, where the water reflects the brilliant blue sky. Then, stroll along the sugary white sand of the Gulf beaches, where you’ll encounter dozens of species of sea birds, and it’s possible to observe endangered animal species like the loggerhead sea turtle.

2. Perdido River Trail

How about a day, or two, or more, on the Alabama Gulf Coast’s first backpacking trail? The Perdido River Trail parallels its namesake blackwater river for 20 miles as it meanders through beautiful, dark Atlantic white-cedar swamps. Occasionally, the trail visits white sandbars where you can enjoy lunch and swim in the cool water. Several trailheads along the route make it possible to do shorter day hikes of a few hours, or you can break the trip up into several different overnight backpacking treks. Trail shelters dot the trail and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, or you can camp on the sandbars at the shelter locations.

3. Betty and Crawford Rainwater Perdido River Preserve

Just south of the Perdido River Trail, on the Florida side of the river, you’ll find an impressive preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy. The Betty and Crawford Rainwater Perdido River Preserve includes footpaths and boardwalks that guide you through an incredible landscape with towering longleaf pines, rare panhandle lilies, sawgrass flats, and the amazing Black Lake, which is so still that it reflects a mirror image of the sky and the foliage that lines its banks.

4. Trout Point Nature Trail

Located on Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Trout Point Nature Trail is a 1.5-mile boardwalk with panoramic views of Big Lagoon and the fragile Gulf dune ecosystem. The path loops around white sand dunes that are so brilliant on cloudless summer days that you’ll need to wear sunglasses as you walk among them. As you meander through the dunes you’ll see wild rosemary, scrub oak, and a needlerush marsh with its deep root system that helps protect the shoreline from erosion. When you visit Naval Air Station Pensacola, go to the main gate, show your ID, and let them know you’re there to hike Trout Point.

5. Fort Pickens/Florida Trail

On this section of the Florida Trail at historic Fort Pickens, you’ll explore an interesting piece of the past and enjoy plenty of beautiful Gulf Coast scenery. The fort is the largest of four strongholds built to defend Pensacola from foreign (and later Yankee) invaders. Its history begins just after the War of 1812 and culminates with its service during World War II.

You can walk a long way on the Florida Trail, but here, along the western end of Gulf Islands National Seashore, you can do a nice 2.2-mile, out-and-back stretch from WWII’s Battery Worth to the fort itself. During the walk you’ll take a sandy footpath through wetlands, pass peaceful bayous, and make a little side trip to the banks of Pensacola Bay.

6. Naval Live Oaks

Another great historical hike along the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida can be found at Naval Live Oaks. This 1,300-acre preserve was the site of the first national tree farm back in 1828 when the U.S. Navy needed the wood for its fleet.

You can combine several paths in the preserve for a 6-mile hike that includes the Old Borrow Pit Trail, the Beaver Pond Trail, and the Andrew Jackson Trail, where the famous general marched his troops during the War of 1812.

7. Big Lagoon State Park

As you hike Big Lagoon State Park’s 5 miles of trails you’ll traverse a wetland lined with wildflowers, visit the banks of Long Pond and Grand Lagoon, and pass through a forest of short sand pine, needlerush, and the gnarled trunks of sand live oaks. The journey brings you to the four-story Big Lagoon Observation Tower where you get a panoramic view of the park, the lagoon, and the Gulf. There is also a nice beach here where you can swim and cool off on those hot Gulf Coast summer days.

8. Garcon Point

Garcon Point sits on the tip of a peninsula that demarcates the waters of Blackwater Bay and East Bay just east of Pensacola. The highlight of the 1.7-mile loop hike is the diverse foliage, which includes longleaf pines, oak hammocks and prairie grasses that wave in the breeze. Keep your eyes peeled for rare carnivorous pitcher plants and sundews that bloom in and around small bogs.

9. Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park

Just across the border of Alabama and Florida is Tarkiln Bayou State Park, a 4,000-acre wet prairie habitat with more than 100 species of rare or endangered plants and animals. Along the park’s 7 miles of trails, you not only walk through wet prairies, but also cypress forest, pine seepage and pitcher plant bogs.

10. University of West Florida Dunes Preserve

If you just can’t get enough of the Gulf’s beaches, head to the UWA Dunes Preserve for a 3.4-mile (one-way) hike along the protective dunes. Once again, the trail is part of the Florida Trail and is located only 13 miles east of Fort Pickens, offering a nice walk along the beach and the perfect opportunity to end your day with a gorgeous sunset.


Need to upgrade your summer adventure gear? We can help! Alabama Outdoors wants everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors


Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Alan Cressler

Mother’s Day + Enjoying Nature in Birmingham

Mother’s Day weekend is upon us and you want to plan a fun adventure. Are you interested in getting outdoors without getting too far off the beaten trail? Below we have highlighted some of Birmingham’s scenic strolls, nature events, and where to enjoy a local bite to eat after!

Birmingham outings that offer the best of the city + nature:

Stroll amongst the flowers + nature at one of Birmingham’s local gardens

  • Birmingham Botanical Gardens (BBG) is somewhat a hidden treasure of B’ham. There are multiple gardens to explore, all designed with a different theme, which makes it the wonderland it is. Over Mother’s Day weekend, BBG will be hosting the annual Birmingham Rose Show. Enjoy the sights and smells of various types of roses grown by exhibitors across the southeast.
    • Join us for a Mother’s Day self care morning at Birmingham Botanical Gardens Saturday May 7th with Earthkeeper  Yoga for a mindful walking experience and yoga! Details below!
      • We’ve gone ALL out to offer an amazing experience to all the mothers and caregivers for Mother’s Day!
        Join us on the Formal Lawn at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Saturday, May 7th, from 10-11:30 am for a nature experience, gentle yoga and lots of raffle prizes!This event is F R E E but you must register on our website and you must be present to win any of the amazing raffle prizes! One prize per person. Prizes chosen by random drawing.

        Sponsors include:
        🌱 Alabama Outdoors
        🌱 Ashley Macs
        🌱 Athleta
        🌱Cala Coffee
        🌱 Flower Betty
        🌱 Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens
        🌱Honeycreeper Chocolate
        🌱 The Retreat Day Spa
        🌱 Earthkeeper Yoga

        Parking for this event will be at the Gardens’ service entrance on Cahaba Road just north of the Zoo.

        Find out all the details at and register early to save your spot!


  • Another garden near Birmingham is Aldridge Gardens in Hoover. With 30-acres of nature and art, this garden boasts a 6-acre lake and walking trail. 

Both gardens will transport you out of the city and into a nature oasis, and are free to the public!


*Mother’s Day gift pairing: The Hoka One One Women’s Clifton 7 is not your typical running shoe. These shoes feel like marshmallows, will give her support all day long and are as stylish +vibrant as her. She will adore you and them.



Picnic at the park 

  • Take in the city views and enjoy a picnic at the park. Railroad Park is a 19-acre green space downtown that celebrates the industrial and artistic heritage of the Magic City. Pack a lunch or get takeout from a local restaurant and enjoy the day. There are walking trails, two ponds, and green space for your picnic and other activities.

  • Avondale Park is located about 10 minutes outside of the main downtown. It is a 40-acre park with a walking trail around a large pond, an amphitheater, and a playground for the kiddos. There are multiple food options to pickup curbside in Avondale for a leveled-up picnic experience.

*Mother’s Day gift pairing: 
The Yeti Roadie 24 is a perfect gift for Mom. Give her the cooler as a gift, once she opens it- tell her you have the day planned, pack the cooler with her favorite bites and have a picnic at the park! 



Get some light exercise in at one of Bham’s urban trail systems

  • Jemison Park Nature Trail located in Mountain Brook is a 3.4 mile loop trail. A tunnel of trees run along Shades Creek making you forget you are just minutes outside of the city. Also along this loop is an Old Mill on the creek which is very scenic and a great photo opportunity.


  • Red Rock Trail System is made up of 125 miles of greenways, natural trails, bike lanes and more throughout Jefferson County. The Jones Valley Greenway is a .63 mile walking and bike path that will take you past Pepper Place Entertainment District, to the Rotary Trail which leads you .36 miles through an urban greenway to Railroad Park.


  • Trussville Sports Complex is located just 25 minutes outside of Birmingham in Trussville, AL. This sports complex is unlike any other. With 4 miles of hiking + biking trails that run along the Cahaba River, an outdoor urban gym, a disc golf course, plus more, there are plenty of activities to choose from. When you are done there, check out the booming city of Trussville. Nearby Ferus Brewery is a solid choice for good food + brews to round out the day.


*Mother’s Day gift pairing:
She will love Free Fly Women’s Breeze Shorts anywhere she goes this summer. With ultra-soft bamboo lining, these lightweight and moisture-wicking shorts are perfect for all-day adventures. They are also super flattering and cute!


Interested in a weekend of urban outings in the Magic City this Mother’s Day? We have what to do + where to eat in Birmingham. Check out our ideas here.

Would you rather explore the outdoors, go paddle boarding for the day, or sleep under the stars? Check out our ideas here.



Get Mom something she will love to go with your fun-filled weekend or to show her you care from far away! Click here for the Top Gifts this Mother’s Day. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors


Mother’s Day Outdoor Adventures near Florence

Being in nature reduces stress, increases pleasant feelings and well- it’s just good for the soul. So if you’d like to spend some time in the great outdoors around Florence for Mother’s Day weekend, here are some ideas!

Exploring the outdoors near Florence:

Nearby day adventures

  • Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall in Florence is a must visit and an even better activity for a nearby Mother’s Day adventure. Why? Well, a local man named Tom Hendrix spent over 30 years building a stone wall in memory of his great grandmother and her journey on the Singing River. We recommend reading further before you visit as the story is powerful and will make the visit that much better. Visitors have expressed the wall is healing and peaceful.
  • The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) Rockpile Trail is a 2.67 mile out and back trail in Muscle Shoals that runs along the Tennessee River. This is very accessible but rated as moderate so be prepared with the right shoes! If Mom loves hiking she will love this, plus the waterfalls make this hike even better!

*Mother’s Day gift pairing: Aftco Women’s Ladyfish Shorts 
will take her from the trails to the water, and out for a local bite afterwards. Made from durable Nylon with UPF 50 sun protection and quick-drying DWR, these shorts are made for it all. 

Overnight + weekend excursions 

  • Dismals Canyon is a hidden Alabama gem and popular bucket list item for Alabamians and other travelers. Located in Phil Campbell, AL this National Natural Landmark is a sandstone gorge filled with diverse plant life and wonder. There is a 1.5 mile hiking trail, Rainbow Falls, and the best of all- Dismalites. Dismalites are larvae that glow fluorescent blue at night to attract food, and the canyon offers night hikes to see them glow. Dismals Canyon also has stunning campsites and cozy cabins if your Mom prefers glamping. On site there is also a soda fountain, and a spa to treat Mom to during your stay.
  • McFarland Park is an easy staycation + getaway as it is located right in Florence on the shores of the Tennessee River. McFarland park has 60 campsites, fishing piers, jogging trails, and more! This river-front home for the weekend will be fun for the whole family without going too far. So set up your camping site and enjoy a sunset on the river while lounging by the fire.

*Mother’s Day gift pairing: Birkenstock Women’s EVA Arizona Sandals 
are made for adventures and will be her go-to all season long. Made from a high-quality, odor-neutral EVA foam, these sandals are easy to clean, lightweight enough to float, and the perfect slip-on for the river or the campsite. 

Interested in a weekend of urban outings in The Shoals this Mother’s Day? We have what to do + where to eat in Florence. Check out our ideas here.

How about the best of both worlds? These ideas will get you enjoying nature while in the city of Florence + give you time for more activities. Check out our ideas here.

Get Mom something she will love to go with your fun-filled weekend or to show her you care from far away! Click here for the Top Gifts this Mother’s Day. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time. Visit one of our stores or take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors

Mother’s Day Outdoor Adventures near Mobile

Being in nature reduces stress, increases pleasant feelings and well- it’s just good for the soul. So if you’d like to spend some time in the great outdoors around Mobile or dig your toes in the white sandy beach for Mother’s Day weekend, here are some ideas!

Exploring the outdoors in Lower Alabama:

Nearby day adventures

  • If you’re looking for a state park adventure near Mobile, head to Blakely State Park in Spanish Fort. This state park encompasses over 2,100 acres of diverse land and wildlife. With 10 miles of designated bike trails, horseback riding, more than 20 miles of hiking trails, kayaking, and more, there is plenty to choose from for you day adventure. If you find yourself over planning, Blakeley State Park also offers camping sites and cabin rentals if you want to make a weekend out of it! There are many scenic lookouts to catch a stunning sunset, too!
  • Take Mom to a hidden Alabama gem. Down in Gulf Shores, AL you will find a real treasure and something different to explore if you do not want to spend the whole day on the beach. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,157-acre National Wildlife Refuge with a beautiful environment and “safe harbor” for birds, endangered wildlife, and plant life. There are 4 main hiking trails in the refuge so you can choose how long you want to spend at the refuge. There is also a kayak launch if Mom wants to kayak or paddleboard. Note that your pets must stay at home for this adventure!
  • Another nearby day adventure is Chicksasabogue Park located in Eight Mile, AL. With 1,100-acres and about 17 miles of hiking and biking trails, this park will keep you trekking all day long. There is a wide variety of outdoor activities including disc golf, fishing, swimming, and camping! So if you want to go on a family hike + swim nearby Mobile- this is just the place to go!

*Mother’s Day gift pairing: Aftco Women’s Ladyfish Shorts 
will take her from the trails to the water, and out for a local bite afterwards. Made from durable Nylon with UPF 50 sun protection and quick-drying DWR, these shorts are made for it all. 

Overnight + weekend excursions 

  • Gulf State Park is a great weekend getaway for all to enjoy. Located in Gulf Shores, AL this state park boasts 6,500 acres comprised of white sandy beaches, butterfly gardens, lakes, and miles of hiking and biking trails. How many state parks can tell you it has hiking trails in the outdoors AND the beach? With primitive camping, campgrounds, and cabins, you can pick the perfect weekend getaway. Do not miss out on Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail which has 7 different trails systems and 6 different ecosystems! Better yet- when the day is done you can watch the sunset on the beach or dock. 
  • Is Mom more of a relax and read while sinking her toes in the white sandy beach type of mom? If so, then treat her to a beach getaway to Gulf Shores Beach or Orange Beach. With plenty of nearby attractions including Gulf State Park and Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, the family will not be bored. Either camp at the state park or rent a VRBO to relax and soak in the sun.

*Mother’s Day gift pairing: Birkenstock Women’s EVA Arizona Sandals 
are made for adventures and will be her go-to all season long. Made from a high-quality, odor-neutral EVA foam, these sandals are easy to clean, lightweight enough to float, and the perfect slip-on for the beach or the campsite. 

Interested in a weekend of urban outings in Mobile this Mother’s Day? We have what to do + where to eat in Mobile. Check out our ideas here.

How about the best of both worlds? These ideas will get you enjoying nature while in the city limits of Mobile + give you time for more activities. Check out our ideas here.

Get Mom something she will love to go with your fun-filled weekend or to show her you care from far away! Click here for the Top Gifts this Mother’s Day. We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we work to build loyalty one connection at a time.


While you are in town be sure to visit our Mobile store or any of our locations to get your weekend essentials!  #BeOutdoors