We love spending time with our canine companions, but we have to look out for them in the summer heat, especially if they are active outdoors. Check out our summer safety tips for your active dog:
Keep your pet hydrated
Pets get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water, especially in the summer. Make sure your dog has a shady place to get out of the sun, don’t over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot. Pro tip: Keep plenty of water and a packable water bowl for your dog with you when you go on trips, hiking, or on walks. Then, your pup can have a drink of water no matter where you are.
Know the symptoms of overheating
Overheated pets maypant excessively, have difficulty breathing, drool, seem weak, or confused, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Other symptoms include seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. If your dog suffers from any of these symptoms, move your dog to a cooler location, place a cool, wet cloth, or achilly neckband on your dog’s neck. Offer your dog cool water, and call your veterinarian. If your dog collapses, take him immediately to your vet.
Never leave your dog in a hot car
Even if you think you will only be “gone for a minute,” don’t do it. For example, on an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes.
Adjust activity intensity on hot days
Adjust the intensity and duration of exercise on particularly hot or humid days. Try to schedule hikes and walks during the early morning or evening hours. Also, remember that asphalt can burn the bottoms of your dog’s paws. Stick to dirt and grass trails during the summer.
Keep cool treats in the freezer
Treat-dispensing rubber throw toys have long been one of the best ways to keep dogs entertained and happy. For a cool treat, tryfilling your pup’s toy with peanut butter and freezing it. Not only are these treats that’ll entertain for hours, but you can also prepare them ahead of time. The American Kennel Club has some suggestions for DIY frozen dog treats.
The most important thing to do as a pet owner is to be aware of your dog. Make sure your pet is comfortable, isn’t showing signs of distress or discomfort, and adjust your outdoor activities accordingly. Take care of your best friend, so he or she will be able to share your love of the outdoors for a long time!
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Nestled in the heart of Alabama, the charming city of Florence beckons outdoor enthusiasts with a plethora of exhilarating adventures. From rugged trails to serene waterways, North Alabama offers an array of outdoor escapes that cater to every adventurer’s soul. Let’s embark on a journey to uncover five of our favorite outdoor adventures near Florence.
Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall in Florence is a must-visit and a unique spot for some quiet time or a nice picnic. 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, and the surrounding nature only adds to the tranquility. If you want to keep your adventure going, check out our blog on other notable spots along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Please note that the Wichahpi Stone wall area is private property which the public is allowed to visit, but your furry friends must be left at home.
Dismals Canyon is a hidden Alabama gem and a popular bucket list item for Alabamians and other travelers. Located an hour south of Florence 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 you enjoy glamping. On site, there is also a soda fountain and a spa for a little extra r&r.
McFarland Parkis an easy staycation or day adventure as it is located right in Florence on the shores of the Tennessee River. McFarland Park has 60 campsites, fishing piers, playgrounds, a driving range, 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.
Wildwood Park is located just minutes from downtown Florence. While known for its mountain bike trails, the park also has good walking/hiking trails for all to enjoy its beauty. Want to hit the water and beat the heat? Rent or bring a kayak and float along Cypress Creek. Want to help support the park? Buy a Wildwood t-shirt from Alabama Outdoors and part of the proceeds will benefit the park!
Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is a 713-acre property near Tuscumbia that offers hiking trails, a waterfall, stunning rock formations, a canyon overlook, and more! As this is a nature preserve, please make sure to follow all Leave No Trace principles when visiting to conserve its beauty and “naturalness”. Check out their website for directions, hours, and a full trail map and enjoy the outdoors!
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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.
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 www.alabamawaterfalls.com
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
Pictured: Eagle Creek Falls Image credit: Jody from www.alabamawaterfalls.com
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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With four national forests and 21 state parks, Alabama offers infinite opportunities to spend a weekend in the great outdoors—whether you prefer to find a campsite in the woods or pitch a tent practically on the beach. Alabama’s state parks typically play host to tons of amenities, often including restaurants, lodges, equipment rentals, and nature centers or museums; many state parks also provide access to incredible backcountry experiences.
Other public land—encompassing nearly 667,000 acres of Alabama—boasts much of the same fascinating history, much of it with the Civilian Conservation Corps, but in the company of fewer other visitors.
Regardless of where you plan to pitch your tent (and whether you plan to drive, hike, bike, or boat there) the time to hit the trail is now: Temperatures are cooling off, bugs have dissipated, and the fall camping season is in full swing. The wilderness is awaiting adventurers—and if you’re a camping newbie, here’s a rundown of some of the best spots for camping in Alabama.
Oak Mountain State Park
With over 11,000 acres, Oak Mountain is Alabama’s largest state park—and whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or a more rugged, off-the-beaten-path experience, this park has you covered. Oak Mountain boasts tent and RV sites, along with excellent hike-in backpacking sites for parties of up to eight.
It’s not just great camping: In addition to its hiking trails, this park’s mountain bike trail system was named to the international Epic Trail list by the International Mountain Bicycling Association in 2010. Oak Mountain rents canoes and SUPs for use on one of two 85-acre lakes—and, for those not ready to quite give up the summer, a beach specifically for campground guests.
Open Pond Recreation Area
Looking to skip the crowds? Open Pond Recreation Area has fewer amenities than many of Alabama’s state parks, but it also sees far fewer visitors each season—and, at just $8/night for a tent site, it’s a bargain. Sites boast panoramic views of the area’s namesake pond, as well as access to fishing, boating, biking, and hiking on the Conecuh Trail, which covers 20 miles of Conecuh National Forest. The trail—built by the Youth Conservation Corps—is open to backpackers, though it’s crucial to coordinate backcountry trips with the District Office to avoid scheduled deer hunts in the adjacent wildlife management area.
Cheaha State Park
Alabama’s oldest state park is also one of the best spots for great views—it encompasses the 2,413-foot Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in the state. The Civilian Conservation Corps built a stone observation deck on the summit of Cheaha in the park’s early days; visitors can still take in the sights from Bunker Tower today. Cheaha is also the starting point for the 335-mile Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, which winds through Talladega National Forest on its course to the Appalachian Trail.
The park’s semi-primitive tent sites allow campers to park adjacent to their spot along the Picnic Trail, while primitive sites feel isolated from the hustle and bustle of the park. Reserve either type in advance for the best spots.
Cathedral Caverns State Park
Cathedral Caverns is no longer called “Bat Cave,” but the moniker is still appropriate: The park’s main feature is its limestone cave system, which contains a forest of stalagmites—including Goliath, one of the world’s largest at 45 feet tall and 243 feet in circumference.
The park offers both improved and primitive campsites—no reservations required, and, unlike many state parks, no minimum stay, even on weekends—along with a backcountry site on Pisgah Mountain. Save a few bucks thanks to Cathedral Caverns’ cheaper camping fees (a benefit of its off-the-beaten-path nature), and splurge on a 90-minute cave tour, offered several times daily year-round.
Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve
With 12 miles of waterfront, Magnolia Branch is one of the best spots in the state to enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, fishing, or tubing just steps from your tent. The reserve does have RV hookups and 15 tent sites with water. For folks looking to plan a last-minute trip, Magnolia Branch doesn’t put a limit on the number of primitive campsites—meaning you’re virtually guaranteed a spot, even on a busy weekend.
DeSoto State Park
This state park gets plenty of points for biggest variety both in terms of overnight options and daytime activities. In addition to its improved, primitive, and backcountry sites, DeSoto State Park is home to a wall tent site, four rustic CCC cabins, and the primitive Pioneer Cabin.
Start the morning off on the right foot by attending an hourlong session of outdoor yoga (schedule here; $5/person), then spend your days canoeing or kayaking a section of flatwater above 107-foot Desoto Falls—the park rents single sit-on-top kayaks for $15/hour or $25/hour for tandem—or hiking on the park’s 35 miles of trails.
Gulf State Park
Located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the aptly named Gulf State Park is home to 2 miles of white sand beaches, along with over 28 miles of hiking and biking trails in the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail Complex, which covers six distinct ecosystems.
The developed campground at Gulf State Park is enormous—it offers nearly 500 sites with hookups—but the park has also added 11 primitive campsites for a more intimate experience, and 3 glamping sites. Along with myriad other forms of wildlife, this park is home to alligators, and though attacks on humans are rare, park management asks that visitors stay aware of their surroundings while in the park.
Written by Blane Bachelor 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ruffner Mountain hosts some of the best sunsets in and around Birmingham. Photo by Rain0975.
Alabama is blessed with more than a few spots in the great outdoors with vistas that are perfect for watching a sunset. From an easy walk on the Gulf Coast toa challenging trek in North Alabama, we have five favorite sunset hikes around the state.
A quick heads-up before you head out: Take caution when hiking during the sunset hours. Prepare for low-light conditions with flashlights, headlamps, and other essentials like a compass. The hikes listed here are all well-maintained and popular, yet hikers should always arrive prepared and navigate cautiously when visiting after dark.
1. Ruffner sunset hikes
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is popular with Birmingham residents for many reasons. It’s accessible enough for a quick after-work hike; its 14 miles of interconnected trails give hikers and trail runners plenty of recreational opportunities, and the mountain’s abandoned mines recall an era of forgotten history.
The sunsets, though, are among the best around Birmingham. Ruffner Mountain offers numerous west-facing viewpoints for watching the sunset beyond the downtown skyline; a recommended favorite is the quick (yet moderately challenging) Overlook Trail. At less than a half-mile, the trail ends at a viewpoint above a quarry, where hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the sunset. The trail’s popularity and distance make it a safe bet for quickly returning to the car—even after dark.
2. Dauphin Island sunset stroll
Dauphin Island offers several beaches and viewpoints for watching the sunset.
It’s almost impossible to talk about Alabama’s best sunset hikes without mentioning Dauphin Island, which bills itself as the “Sunset Capital of Alabama.”
Three miles south of Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island is the southernmost point in Alabama. The 14-mile-long island (population: 1,300) has become a popular, albeit low-key, tourist destination in recent years, thanks in part to its white, sandy beaches and numerous walking trails.
Hikers won’t have to go far—or work hard—for a breathtaking sunset. The island offers miles of mostly flat walking and cycling trails, with unobstructed viewpoints aplenty in East End Park, Magnolia Park, West End Beach, and Dauphin Island Public Beach.
3. Vulcan Trail at sunset
The mostly forested Vulcan Trail offers numerous clearings and viewpoints for enjoying the sunset. Photo by Lee Adlaf
The paved Vulcan Trail contains all the ingredients for an idyllic sunset hike. It gains less than 200 feet, so hikers won’t be too out of breath to enjoy the views; the path follows the ridge of Red Mountain, giving visitors a glimpse of the region’s natural beauty; and the short length (a mile each way) means that it’s a relatively easy jaunt to return to the trailhead after dark.
Trees line the vast majority of the Vulcan Trail, but the occasional viewpoint promises wide-open views of downtown Birmingham, nearby mountain ridges, and more. If you have time beforehand, head to nearby Vulcan Park to learn about the region’s rich mining history and enjoy other panoramic vistas.
4. McDill Point sunset trek
Ambitious hikers, this one’s for you: McDill Point offers an overnight trek near Cheaha State Park, so you can extend that sunset hike into a longer adventure. Hikers making the effort will be rewarded with gorgeous sunsets behind the tree line, not to mention starry night skies above.
Hikers start the 3.2-mile hike on the Pinhoti Trail, pass through the Cheaha Wilderness in the Talladega National Forest, take the McDill Point spur trail, and eventually arrive at their destination: a series of boulder cliffs at McDill Point. (Note: This area is protected from the wind and is an ideal spot to set up camp.)
A quick scramble up the boulders takes hikers to a west-facing outcrop with views of the surrounding forest and the wide-open night sky as the sun dips—quite a memorable way to end the day.
5. Gulf State Park sunset walk
Gulf State Park hosts two miles of sandy beaches for relaxing and watching the sunset.
The Gulf Coast hosts dozens of viewpoints, parks, and trails for enjoying the sunset, but one that’s especially awesome is Gulf State Park. The picturesque park hosts two miles of white, sandy beaches and a fishing pier that extends more than 1,500 feet into the Gulf—both of which offer plenty of room and unfettered views as the sun descends behind the horizon.
Hikers and cyclists looking for added adventure can hit up the park’s 15-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system. Gulf State Park’s seven, well-graded paths take hikers through a lush maritime forest, windswept sand dunes, and inland lakes. Along the way, hikers might spot a bobcat, white-tailed deer, or sunbathing alligator.
Written by Matt Wastradowski for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.
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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.
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When you’re heading out on your first big trip, whether it’s backpacking, car camping, or going for a day hike, it’s important to pack smart. Packing smart doesn’t just mean packing light, it means ensuring the best layout of your gear to keep you safe, comfortable, and feeling good on the trail. So, we’ve broken down some top tips to help you pack smarter.
1. Organize, organize, organize!
The first step to packing smarter is to organize. It sounds simple, but it’s often easy to underestimate how organized you need to be. A quick weekend trip can go from fun to dangerous if your pack isn’t organized correctly. You can forget essential gear, stow gear incorrectly so it gets wet or warped in the sun, and even hurt yourself by packing your gear wrong in your backpack.
Some people like using packing cubes or dry bags, while others prefer keeping things in simple gallon freezer bags. Anything that keeps your gear sorted, organized, and accessible in your pack is helpful. Not only does it make your stuff easier to find and put back, but it prevents messes, keeps essentials like sunscreen and snacks close on hand, and makes it way easier to unpack when you get home.
2. Plan your trip in your bag
First, you need to layout all your gear by day, activity, or whatever makes the most sense to you. Think through the timeline of your trip, and ask yourself questions like where will you be when you need fresh socks or a flashlight? It’s going to save you a lot of effort to put essentials like socks and underwear up at the top of the pack, rather than shoving them in a spare pair of boots that are buried with heavy tents and sleeping pads at the bottom of your pack.
Once you’ve answered those questions, you can map out your pack access to ensure things are laid out in the most efficient way possible. This means doing things counterintuitively sometimes. Maybe it’s better to pick out each day’s outfit in advance and have each outfit in its own bag, rather than bundling all your socks, shirts, and pants. That way, each bag can hold your dirty clothes in the same spot it was in before, rather than needing to add a second bag of dirty clothes while you’re on the trail.
It’s also helpful to write down a ‘pack itinerary’ that lists what you’llneed and where your necessary gear is in the pack, that way you can find it fast and put things back where they belong.Now that’s a lot of planning, but the key is that the best packing system is the one you use. Try a couple of different ideas and see what works best for you.
3. Shakedown and pack out
The last and most important step, do a shakedown and figure out what and how you’ll need to pack out. A shakedown is where you pack and then unpack your backpack anticipating exactly what you’ll need. If it’s your first time going out on any type of hike, you can come by your local Alabama Outdoors for a free pack shakedown and get some expert advice on what you need!
When you shakedown your pack, you want to ensure everything you have is necessary for the trip, in good working condition, and sized down to fit in your backpack. You should pack your backpack just like you would for the trail, so with the heaviest stuff at the bottom. Then, weigh the pack and check that it isn’t too heavy. Usually, your pack shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of your body weight for an overnight tripand only 10% for a daytrip.
Now that you’ve done your shakedown, put on your pack and walk with it on for a bit to ensure it isadjusted correctly andcomfortable for you. Finally, go through and plan out where you will put trash, dirty clothes, and other refuse that you want to keep separate from your clean items. Leave space for it in your pack and make sure it’llall fit on the trip out.
Well, those are the basics to packing smarter! To learn more about backpacking, check out our other blogs and shop for top backpacking gear here.
Ready to be outdoors this Spring? We have the Springoutdoor 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 storesor take advantage of our shipping or curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors
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 email@example.com.
A sunset stroll on Dauphin Island is romantic any time of year.
According to the experts, people are more positive during dates that involve some physical activity. And research suggests that when people do something together that really gets the adrenaline going—rock-climbing, say, or even a hike with exhilarating views—their chemistry becomes much stronger.
So, for a Valentine’s Day outing almost guaranteed to be much more memorable than an overpriced prix-fixe meal, why not make some memories enjoying Alabama’s abundant outdoor activities? Whether it’s embarking on stunning sunset hike or relaxing at a mountain cabin, there’s plenty to choose from.
To help you plan your Valentine’s adventure, here’s a list of inspiring ideas. And keep in mind they’re great options all year-round.
1. Explore the treetops.
For an an aerial experience sure to make memories, check out Blue Heron Adventures, a canopy ropes course and zipline. While it’s technically located in Columbus, Georgia, the tour guide’s dual zip line connects two states and reaches speeds up to 40 mph. Once you’re done zipping, the Blue Heron Aerial Course, a treetop ropes experience, and its 10 obstacles are next to conquer in Phenix City, Alabama.
For something a bit more adrenaline-pumping, take a treetop challenge course in the park’s Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest. Over about an hour, you’ll face 20 aerial rope and cable obstacles, including swaying bridges, tight ropes, and a zip line.
2. Get cozy in a mountain cabin.
Chewacla State Park cabin
When it’s raw, gray, and cold outside, cozy up with your date in front of a warm fire in a rustic mountain cabin. Built in the 1930s, thestone cabins at Monte Sano State Park, DeSoto State Park, and Chewacla State Park have handcrafted fireplaces, plus plenty of conveniences, like TVs, kitchen appliances and showers. If you want to mix in some outdoor fun, the cabins allow quick access to state park trails for hiking, biking, and trail running.
3. Escape to the beach.
Few things are more romantic than a walk on the beach. If you venture to the Gulf Coast this winter, you can still enjoy pleasant weather with highs in the 60s and even 70s. Plus, in the offseason you’ll spend far less on a hotel or condo, and you’ll savor a much more peaceful setting on the mostly secluded beaches. At the end of February there’s a bit more action, as Gulf Shores and Orange Beach host Mardi Gras parades.
4. Rappel down an 85-foot cliff.
As you’re bounding down an 85-foot cliff, you’ll certainly get a rush of adrenaline. Whether you’ve been rappelling before, or you’ve never tried it, you’ll have a great time doinga half-day outing with True Adventure Sports. In a rugged, but easily accessible section of Little River Canyon, True Adventure’s skilled guides will provide excellent instruction and emphasize safety. Plus, the cliff has a rock outcrop where you can get excellent photos of your date rappelling, so you’ll have a cool keepsake.
5. Savor a beautiful sunset.
Valentine’s Day is a great time to catch a magnificent sunset, as the dry, clear air in winter allows us to see a full spectrum of brilliant colors. So, pack a warm drink, bundle up, and hike to a west-facing perch, like McDill Point near Cheaha State Park. Or, settle down on the shore of a lake where you have a good view of the sunset. If you head for the hills or another remote spot, remember to pack your headlamp for the trek back to the car.
6. Go bouldering.
The beauty of bouldering is that it requires little equipment, and you just need climbing shoes and maybe a crash pad. Plus, when you’re bouldering, you don’t climb to great heights, so couples can stick close together to socialize and collaborate as they work on “problems” (climbing slang for a sequence of holds). From Horse Pens 40 to Moss Rock Preserve, Alabama offers several excellent places for bouldering.
7. Picnic with a mountaintop view.
On the high ridges of Oak Mountain State Park, you can have a picnic with stellar scenery. Beginning at the North Trailhead, take the Blue Trail and start your ascent, traveling about two miles to the top of a ridge. From the King’s Chair rock outcropping, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the forested valley below. If this popular vantage point gets crowded, backtrack and you’ll find other quiet spots with good views along the ridge. After your picnic, retrace your steps or complete a loop via the Orange and White trails.
8. Ride the Chief Ladiga Trail.
Enjoy an easy ride on theChief Ladiga Trail, a 32.5-mile paved path that stretches from Anniston to the eastern border of Alabama. Because the path is flat, you and your date can ride near each other and relax and enjoy yourselves. Plus, most people have to travel a good ways to reach this place, so it’s not typically crowded. If you begin at Woodland Park, you can pedal 7.2 miles to Jacksonville State University and have a nice picnic under one of great oak trees on campus.
9. Try stand-up paddleboarding.
Stand-up paddle boarding is great for a date, because it doesn’t require a great deal of skill (almost anybody can do it), and you and your date can easily chat as you explore and get some exercise. From Lake Guntersville to Gulf Shores, you’ll find plenty of lakes and streams to paddleboard, and several outfitters can supply rental boards. Just keep an eye on the weather beforehand, since paddle boarding is difficult when it’s windy—especially for newbies.
Needing help with a gift for Valentine’s Day? Gift that someone in your life an Alabama Outdoors gift card knowing they are guaranteed to love it! 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 Marcus Woolf 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: due to local and state guidelines surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, some information below may not be accurate. Before you travel and plan your next adventure, make sure to check each business/park/campsite for any closures or guidelines and for the most up to date information. Enjoy your next winter hike in Alabama this season!
When winter arrives hiking and backpacking just get better. On high mountain trails, the bare trees allow you to see for miles, and the cold, clear air creates perfect conditions for brilliant sunsets. Plus, you don’t have to suffer the heat and mosquitoes that descend on trails in summer.
Still, some people avoid trails in winter because they think cold temperatures will make them uncomfortable. But, if you take certain steps and follow the advice of seasoned hikers, you can beat the cold and remain warm, content and safe during cold weather.
As you contemplate a winter outing, consider the following five tips offered by veteran hikers.
1. Layer Your Clothing
The key to staying comfortable on the trail in winter is to regulate your body temperature so that you’re never too cold nor too hot for long periods of time. To do this, you should dress in layers and add or remove clothing as you begin to cool down or warm up.
During winter, your layering system should include a thin top and bottom (long underwear) to wear as your base layer; a shirt and pants made of lightweight or midweight material to wear over your your base layer; an insulated jacket; and a waterproof shell jacket. (You can also use an insulated jacket that’s also waterproof.) If there’s a chance you’ll encounter rain, pack waterproof pants as well.
Because we lose much of our heat from our extremities, it’s also important to pack a warm hat, gloves and warm socks. (On an especially cold night, you can put these on to warm up quickly.)
When you pack for a hike or backpacking trip, be sure that your shell jacket is easily accessible. If you stop for a long break, you can throw on your shell to block wind and retain some body heat. If you do get sweaty as you’re hiking, change into dry clothes when you get to your campsite, because this will help prevent your core body temperature from dropping.
2. Wear Synthetic or Wool Clothing
You should always avoid wearing cotton and opt for clothing that includes synthetic fabrics or wool. When cotton clothing gets wet, it retains moisture, sucks heat away from your body, and takes forever to dry.
Synthetic fabrics will dry quickest, and in cold weather they won’t steal your warmth as much as cotton would. In recent years, wool clothing has become more popular for cool and cold conditions because modern merino wool is much softer and more comfortable than wool of the past. Also, wool is a great insulator and will continue to help keep you warm if it gets wet.
To keep your feet warm and to prevent blisters, use merino wool socks or synthetic socks because they’ll pull moisture away from your feet, whereas cotton socks just get soaked.
3. Stay Hydrated
It might not seem obvious, but you need to take in adequate fluids to stay warm in cold weather. If you get dehydrated, it’s possible that your core temperature could drop, and you could be more susceptible to hypothermia. Also, dehydration can cause you to get disoriented, dizzy and lethargic. When this happens, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or get lost while navigating in the backcountry.
Many people associate dehydration with hot weather, but you can easily become dehydrated in cold temperatures. This is partly because people tend to drink less frequently when they hike in winter. According to experts, cold weather can cause a person’s thirst response to drop as much as 40 percent.
Also, if the humidity is low enough, the fluids you lose will evaporate rather than sit on your skin, and you won’t realize you’re sweating. When people don’t recognize that they’re sweating, they don’t drink as much.
To help you stay hydrated, it’s a good idea to use a hydration bladder with a drinking tube, such as a CamelBak system. Because this type of product allows you to drink while on the move, it will cause you to drink more often than you would if you used a water bottle.
4. Be Prepared to Make Hot Drinks
Even if you’re not camping overnight, it’s a good idea to take a stove or other fuel source on long day hikes so you can prepare hot chocolate or other warm drinks. If you or someone you’re hiking with gets too cold, you can quickly raise the person’s core temperature with a hot drink, especially one that delivers lots of calories. To help a hiking partner warm up even more quickly, you can tuck the person into a sleeping bag.
5. Sleep Smart
If you’re camping overnight, carefully consider you’re sleeping gear to ensure that you stay warm at night. While it’s tempting to sleep out under the stars, it’s wise to sleep in a tent in winter because it will protect you from the wind and unexpected rain or snow showers. Plus, the tent will trap some of your body heat.
When you choose a sleeping bag, ensure that its temperature rating suits the conditions you’ll face. If you tend to sleep cold, choose a bag with a rating that’s a bit higher than the temperatures you’ll encounter. Or, buy a sleeping bag liner to slip inside your bag and increase its temperature rating.
If you’re feeling especially cold, you can sleep wearing a hat. For additional warmth, you can put on extra clothing, such as long underwear, socks and gloves.
Before you hit the sack, you can also drink a hot beverage to warm your core. Just be aware that it might cause extra trips to answer the call of nature. Another trick to stay warm is to fill a water bottle with hot water and stash it near your feet in your sleeping bag.
Find the best winter hike gear 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 curbside pickup! #BeOutdoors
Written by Marcus Woolf 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 email@example.com.