Introduction: Carl Stanfield sets off to hike 11,000 mi in 2022


I’m Carl Stanfield, former Alabama Outdoors Store Manager and employee for the last 3 years. After a season of life most of us are ready to stop talking about, I’m starting my next chapter with the biggest adventure I could fathom during the quarantine days. In 2022, I will be attempting to spend my entire year backpacking. And I just might break a record along the way.

Hiking Background

I spent the latter half of my twenties gathering experiences in wilderness travel and alternative living. In 2018, I spent 4 life-changing months thru hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. Good fortune proceeded to spit me out of another successful thru hike the following year at the Canadian Border in Washington, having traveled 2,650 miles from Mexico by way of the Pacific Crest Trail

These experiences were challenging and deeply rewarding in their own ways. I loved the challenge, the trail community, the healthy mind, and the overall effect on my calves. 


So… What Do You Do After That?

But now, as I creep closer to the beginning of my 30th year of life and an anticipated drop in my body’s peak performance, I want to attempt a truly extreme athletic accomplishment. I know that my body can hold up for 4 or 5 months of wear and tear at a time, but could it take a year? I’d like to find out.

It turns out that the thru hiker lifestyle of living on America’s National Scenic trails and eating freeze dried food for months on end while meeting quirky fascinating people in small mountain towns is where I’ve found the zenith of happiness. I truly love that adventure, more than anything I’ve ever felt. And so far I’ve been quite pleased with how those experiences translate into “regular life” opportunities. I believe it is my trail record that helped my career at Alabama Outdoors, and I expect that expanding on it will continue to open doors for me.


The Goal

And so it is that next year, I will be attempting to travel 11,000 miles on 4 hiking routes through 24 states, pursuing both extrinsic and intrinsic milestones. These routes are the Eastern Continental Trail (Key West to Canada, 4,200 miles), the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada, 2,650 miles), the Continental Divide Trail (Canada to Mexico, 3,100 miles), and the Mountains to Sea Trail (North Carolina, 1,100 miles). I believe the current record for miles traveled on foot in a calendar year to be roughly 10,300, set by arguably the most traveled backpacker in history, Cam Honan. 

The Route

My planned route will begin in Key West, Florida on January 1, 2022. A 200 mile road walk will take me to the southern terminus of the Florida Trail, where I will hike roughly 1,100 miles to the Alabama border. Another multi-hundred mile road walk takes me to the 340 mile Pinhoti Trail, which, after a small connecting trail, will get me to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. 2,200 miles later I will complete the first leg, ideally by mid to late May. Leg 2, the Pacific Crest Trail, will span 2,650 miles traveling north from mid May to early August. I will then hop onto the Continental Divide Trail in Canada and hike back down south to the Mexican border. 


This would complete the famed Triple Crown of Hiking, but I’ll still have one more relatively small trail I’d like to tackle. The Mountains to Sea Trail spans 1,100 miles and the width of North Carolina. I hope to start on the coast and hike west, finishing my trip near my home town of Maryville, Tennessee.

In order to achieve this lofty goal of mine, I will need to average just over 30 miles every day for the entire year. It’s a wild stretch of a goal to say the least, and I really do understand how insane it must sound. But I believe it is just on the brink of what is physically possible for me, and I want to try while I can.


Throughout this endeavor, Alabama Outdoors will be partnering with me, so you can expect to stay in touch through them! If you’re interested in following my personal account, you can do so on Instagram @prof_carl. 

Happy Trails!

7 Tips for Trail Running in the Winter


Trail run

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 trail running adventure in Alabama this season!

A cold weather run can be invigorating. During the summer, the heat and humidity can wear you down before you get started, but the cool, dry air of winter feels refreshing. Plus, familiar trails have a new look, as the bare trees expand your view of the wide-open forest.

But there are also different challenges that come with running in cold weather. If you’re new to trail running, or your dislike of the cold keeps you out of the winter woods, check out these seven tips to help you stay safe and comfortable as you tackle the trails this winter.

1. Dress in Layers

The advice passed down to you as a kid is still relevant—you should dress in layers—just don’t overdo it. It’s okay to be a little cold when you get started since you will heat up substantially after your first mile or two. A good general rule is to dress like it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature.

Your base layer should be made of moisture-wicking materials. A pair of windproof tights for your legs and a long-sleeve top make a solid base to start. From there, add a middle layer that fits loosely over the base layer and has a zipper for ventilation if needed. You can go with running pants or shorts over the tights, depending on your comfort level and the temperature. Then, add a final outer layer that resists wind and moisture and can be removed easily if needed.

As much as you want to channel your inner Rocky Balboa, this is not the time to throw on an old pair of gray cotton sweats and hit the trail. Stay away from cotton clothing, because it absorbs and holds sweat, which will make your clothes heavy and pulls heat from your body. It’s best to stick with clothes made of synthetic fabrics, wool, or a mix of the two.

2. Gain Some Traction

Wear shoes made specifically for the terrain you’ll tackle while running in winter. Bruno Nascimento


The ground will be harder in winter, and you might run into patches of ice during early morning runs when temperatures are near or below freezing. You can get away with regular running shoes for some light trail runs in the summer, but winter calls for an investment in a pair of shoes made specifically for trail running.

For ice or snow conditions, there are devices you can pull over shoes, such as Yaktrax, that act like snow chains for tires and ensure you have a stable grip on slippery terrain.

3. Cover Your Extremities

Your head and hands will be the first things to lose heat on a run. On extremely cold days you’ll need a heavy beanie for your head, but a light hat or headband will do the trick most days. If your hands are fully exposed on a cold day, it will make your run uncomfortable and potentially dangerous if it’s below freezing. A pair of gloves and wind-resistant mittens will keep your hands safe and warm. For those windy days, a neck gaiter or mask will keep your face free from wind burn.

Also, don’t forget to take care of your feet. Proper socks are critical for keeping your toes and feet comfortable. Skip the cotton socks and wear a good pair of wool or synthetic socks to keep your feet warm and dry.

4. Light it Up

While many trails will close early in the winter before it gets dark, it’s still wise to wear a headlamp or at least have one handy—along with an extra set of batteries—on the trail. It will get darker earlier than expected, especially if you’re on the backside of a mountain. Also, bring a reflective vest or wear a jacket that has reflective properties.

5. Stay Hydrated

Often overlooked in winter, it is still important to drink water before and after your run. And bring a water bottle or energy gels if you plan on running for more than an hour. You will sweat and expend more energy in the cold than you think, and you don’t want to run into any issues on the trail.

Also, if temperatures are below freezing on an extended run, the water in your bottle could freeze. To avoid dealing with a block of ice instead of a refreshing sip of water, pick up an insulated bottle or vacuum bottle.

Use shorter strides and a slower pace to avoid slipping while running in the snow. Shannon McGee

6. Be Prepared

Cold weather running poses unique risks, especially long-distance runs in temperatures below freezing. Two of the most dangerous risks are frostbite and hypothermia, but you can avoid them easily by taking certain precautions.

If your skin and extremities are exposed to the cold too long, your skin can freeze, which is known as frostbite. Frostbite doesn’t hurt at first, but the area will turn red and then white before it goes numb. If you suspect an area is becoming frostbitten, get indoors quickly and wrap the affected area or use a blow dryer to warm it up. Do not use hot water to warm the area. Begin with lukewarm or cool water and slowly advance to warmer water.

When your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, you will enter hypothermia. A major symptom is uncontrollable shivering, followed by slowed reaction time and slurring of speech. If any of these symptoms appear, get inside immediately. And, if you can’t get indoors, put on as many layers of clothing as you have, get off the ground and move your body in any way possible to generate heat.

7. Let it Snow

Everything is more fun in the snow, including a trail run. While it doesn’t snow too much in Alabama, don’t pass up the few opportunities we get each year. When you do decide to lay tracks in the snow, it’s important to stay focused. Shorter strides and a slower pace must be maintained to avoid slipping, especially if you’re the first person on the snow and there’s the potential to hit some ice. This engages your core more than a regular pace, making even a short run worthwhile.


Find the best running 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 Hap Pruitt for Matcha 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 Rock/Creek

6 Must Have Gifts For The Trail Runner

For your friends running through the trails as you take your leisurely stroll.
We’ve curated a list of our favorite accessories and trail running shoes they are sure to love.


On-Running Cloudventure Trail Running Shoes

On Running has taken the world by storm with their well-known and loved On Cloud running show. Meet The On-Cloud Cloudventure. This shoe is the ultimate lightweight trail running shoe that features Grip-Rubber that performs in the most demanding conditions. The sole of the Cloudventure is specially designed to allow you to go from trail to street with no issues. Available in Men’s and Women’s as well as waterproof options for Men and Women to keep you dry no matter the weather and no matter where you step.


Swiftwick Aspire One Compression Socks

If we can give you any takeaway, invest in, and gift quality socks. Who knew they are a huge factor in comfort and function for your runs? These are our favorites for running, either trail or urban. The ASPIRE Line is thin and light for serious runners and cyclists, yet still perfect for athletes of any sport. Swiftwick’s Managed Compression prevents bunching and hot spots by supporting all 3 arches in the foot. The Linked-Toe technology prevents blisters by eliminating bunching in the toe-box.

Black Diamond Astro 175 Headlamp

Kind of like shoes, we can’t have enough headlamps. The Black Diamond Astro 175 Headlamp features a small, compact body that can withstand rain and snow from all angles. We love this one for early morning or nighttime runs due to its smaller body style as well as 3 different light modes for what you need. The runner on your list will thank you.


Goodr OG Running Sunglasses

Fly, fresh, fun, and style names as clever as nail polish, the Goodr OG Running Sunglasses are the sunglasses we have been waiting for. Affordably priced just in case you lose them in the lake, a wide range of colors to go with every outfit, and functional. While we do love them for the look, they were designed with runners in mind. With a special finish on the frame to eliminate slip, even when you’re sweaty, and a snug but lightweight frame to minimize bouncing, these glasses are great for any activity, especially running. They also have polarized lenses and UVA and UVB protection. These are fun and trendy and an easy gift for the last-minute shopper!


CamelBak Octane XCT Running Pack – 5L

Have you ever went on a run and having to hold a water bottle the whole time? It’s not ideal. This is a great gift for someone who still carries a water bottle or who is just getting into trail running. Weighing in at 350 grams, the Octane XCT is perfect for moving fast and light. The waist belt provides extra stability and includes zippered pockets for easy access to essentials. The new design features extra storage on the waistbelt and harness, so you can keep keys, gels and maps in easy reach. Most importantly? They will stay hydrated.


AfterShokz Aeropex Headhpones

These headphones are next level. Engineered with comfort, style and performance for an active lifestyle. With an 8-hour battery life and IP67 waterproofing, the Aeropex Headphones go anywhere and everywhere. Lightweight with an open-ear design, these are the most comfortable barely-there headphones on the market with unmatched sound quality. We love them on our runs as they allow us to be aware of our surroundings while still enjoying our trail tunes.


‘Tis The Season Of Giving! Check out our other gift guides to help you find the perfect gifts for the ones on your list. 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 Ultimate Alabama Bucket List for Fall: 13 Must-Do Autumn Adventures

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 Alabama Fall adventure!


In Alabama, fall seems to hit suddenly. One morning, around mid-October, you walk outside and realize that the humid weight of summer has lifted, and cool, crisp air fills your lungs. Like an alarm clock, it’s everyone’s signal to get outdoors and make the most of the South’s best season.

But once fall arrives, you have just a few weeks until the rain and cold winds blow in. So, you need a plan to score as many autumn adventures as possible. To help you map out the season, we’ve compiled an Alabama bucket list for the fall—15 outdoorsy pursuits, bike rides, hikes, festivals, and some Halloween-themed fun.

Let this bucket list be your guide for a spectacular fall full of outdoor fun. Otherwise, you could wind up in a dark field waiting in vain for the Great Pumpkin, while your better-informed pals grab all the candy. Hey, don’t be that kid. Use our list, and have an awesome fall.

1. Climb world-class boulders at Horse Pens 40.

Climb world-class boulders at Horse Pens 40.
Climb world-class boulders at Horse Pens 40. Gail Reich


No sweltering heat and no sweaty palms: In fall, the cool, dry air creates ideal conditions for scaling the sandstone boulders at Horse Pens 40 in Steele. Situated atop Chandler Mountain, northwest of Birmingham, Horse Pens 40 boasts one of the most concentrated boulder fields in the world, with hundreds of problems ranging from V0 to V12. To add some stoke to your trip, visit in October when top climbers gather for the Triple Crown Bouldering competition.

2. Hike through spectacular fall colors.

Hike through spectacular fall colors.

Hike through spectacular fall colors. Alby Headrick


From late October to early November, the trees in Alabama glow as the leaves shift from green to bright yellow and blood red. When the oaks, maples, and hickories show their colors, the trails in Alabama are spectacular, and few things are finer than a brisk fall hike. At Little River Canyon, and other parks across the state, you’ll find backcountry trails that hug high bluffs and provide great views of forests that form a patchwork of orange, bronze, and scarlet.

3. Camp at the Gulf Shores Outpost.

For a wild and unique Gulf Shores experience, avoid the concrete condos and camp in an Outpost tent at Gulf State Park. In the fall, evening temperatures hover in the high 60s, so you don’t need air conditioning to sleep comfortably. Surrounded by trees, each secluded tent includes cots and accommodates four. Plus, there’s a portable toilet nearby. And don’t forget a swimsuit, since the ocean is still warm enough for swimming.

4. Relax in a mountain cabin.

Relax in a mountain cabin.

Relax in a mountain cabin. Bart Everson


Looking for a serene escape during the fall season, but not up for a full-on camping excursion? A weekend in a state park cabin provides the perfect antidote. During the day, you can hike, ride or run park trails to get the endorphins pumping, and then retreat to your cabin for evening drinks beside a crackling fire. At Monte Sano State Park, 14 rustic cabins perched on the side of the mountain come equipped with amenities like kitchens, fireplaces, separate showers and baths, cable television, outdoor grills, picnic tables, and porches where you can enjoy the sunrise. You also find rustic cabins at DeSoto State Park and Cheaha State Park.

5. Battle zombies in a corn maze.

In the fall, dozens of farms in Alabama offer pumpkin patches and Halloween entertainment. But every October, Magnolia Farms in Summerdale takes it up a notch with hayrides through a haunted corn maze. In the dark of night, you’ll board a hay wagon and ramble through an eight-acre corn maze armed with a paintball gun to shoot encroaching zombies.

6. Camp in a hammock.

Camp in a hammock.

Camp in a hammock. rebamesir


Hammock camping is wildly popular because it puts you closer to nature. From a high perch on the Pinhoti Trail, you can relax in your hammock and watch the sunset, without a tent obstructing your view. From the Cheaha Trailhead, near Cheaha State Park, climb a little more than three miles to McDill Point, a west-facing outcrop with dramatic views and ample trees to support your hammock.

7. Kayak to see eagles at the Coastal Bird Fest.

Each fall, hundreds of species of birds migrate to the Alabama Gulf Coast. During the Alabama Coastal Birdfest in early October, you can join experts on birding trips to the woods and beaches on the coast. Some of the field trips take place at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge on Fort Morgan Peninsula, a world-class birding location. During the festival, you can also join a kayaking trip at Meaher State Park to visit an eagle’s nest accessible only by water.

8. Hunt ghosts on the streets of Birmingham.

You’ll feel a nip in the air and a chill in your spine while strolling the haunted streets of Birmingham. Beginning in October, the Birmingham Historic Touring Company leads two-hour walks that include tales of spiteful murders, haunted hotels, hidden cemeteries, and the legend of May Hawes, the “Mermaid of the Lake.” In 1888, the body of 7-year-old Hawes was discovered in Birmingham’s East Lake, and people still claim to see her apparition wandering the shoreline.

9. Explore an ancient culture at the Moundville Native American Festival.

Spanning 185 acres beside the Black Warrior River, the Moundville Archaeological Park has a majestic and mysterious vibe. From A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1450, Native Americans occupied this land and created some of North America’s tallest earth mounds. Today, 29 mounds still stand, including one 58 feet high. Each fall, descendants of the Moundville inhabitants gather at the site to share their customs and traditions. During the festival, Native Americans demonstrate traditional dances and share techniques to pit fire pottery, weave baskets, and carve a hunting longbow.

10. Bomb down the Bomb Dog Trail.

For the ultimate riding experience in Alabama, bomb your way down the Bomb Dog Trail, one of state’s top-rated mountain biking trails. Located in Anniston, this 2-mile route is one of the state’s longest downhill runs. For a real challenge, park at the Anniston Trailhead and climb through beautiful hardwood forest to the top of Bomb Dog. From here, you’ll begin a classic descent with plenty of rollers, table-top jumps, and a few optional black-diamond lines.

11. Run the Monte Sano Mountain Mist Trail.

Run the Monte Sano Mountain Mist Trail.

Run the Monte Sano Mountain Mist Trail. Shannon McGee


A top-rated trail run in Alabama, the Mountain Mist explores the hardwood coves and hilltops near Huntsville’s Monte Sano State Park. Beginning at Bankhead Parkway, the 7.5-mile route climbs to O’Shaughnessy Point at 1,500 feet and scrambles through the “stone cuts”—a narrow corridor of split boulders. In winter, this route is part of Alabama’s toughest trail race, the Mountain Mist 50K, which is a bucket list competition for U.S. trail runners.

12. Ride the zip line at Red Mountain Park.

Don’t just stare at the fall colors—immerse yourself in the foliage with a zip-line tour. During Red Mountain Park’s 90-minute tour, you’ll zoom through the forest on zip lines, traverse bridges, swing on ropes, and climb walls. On the 1,300-foot Mega Zip, you’ll reach 30 miles per hour as you fly through the sky head-first like Superman.

13. Immerse yourself in subterranean spookiness in a haunted cave tour.

Join a Cathedral Caverns Haunted Cave Tour.

Join a Cathedral Caverns Haunted Cave Tour. Tennessee Wanderer


As darkness falls, you step into Cathedral Caverns State Park and the massive entrance—126 feet wide and 25 feet high—swallows you whole. During the tour, guides share spooky tales as you wind through dimly lit stone corridors with stalagmites measuring 45 feet tall and more than 240 feet around. While Cathedral Cavers offers daytime tours all year, these special night tours, from 6:30 to 11:30 pm, are only offered for a few days in October, so plan ahead to take advantage.

Find your favorite Fall 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 Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Alby Headrick

Trail Running: Top Trails in Alabama

Trail running is a challenging sport that combines running with hiking on unpaved surfaces for a unique and fulfilling mental and physical workout. If you are looking for the best trails to run in Alabama, we have compiled a list of the top trail-running areas from Florence to Birmingham to the Gulf Coast.

Birmingham running trails

Red Mountain Park

Red Mountain Park offers more than 1,500 acres of trails to run at your own pace. One of our favorite trails at Red Mountain is the route to Rushing Rendezvous which is 2.05 miles from the welcome center. Red Mountain is also pet-friendly: They have Remy dog park for your furry friends when you are done on the trails. 

Oak Mountain State Park

Oak-Mountain-State-ParkLocated in Pelham, Oak Mountain has more than 100 miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers alike. The park is Alabama’s largest state park with over 11,000 acres and offers a wide variety of trails, from a 3-mile loop around Double Oak Lake to a 6.2-mile moderate path to a 14-mile difficult trail.

Moss Rock Preserve

Located in Hoover, Moss Rock Preserve is a 349-acre nature preserve with about 12 miles of hiking and running trails. Moss Rock is also very popular for climbers as it offers around 40 easily accessible bouldering problems. Be sure not to miss the beautiful waterfalls while you are there!

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve

Located in Birmingham, about 15 minutes from downtown is Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. Ruffner Mountain has around 12 miles of trails and offers some spectacular overlooks and views of The Magic City. 

Florence/ Shoals Area trails

Cane Creek Canyon

cane-creek-trail-runningLocated in Tuscumbia, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is about 15 miles south of Florence. This preserve has 700 acres of beautiful nature filled with over 15 miles of trails great for hiking and trail running. As you run or wander through the nature preserve you will find stunning overlooks and waterfalls.

Shoals Creek Preserve 

Shoals Creek Preserve is a beautiful nature preserve just north of Florence. The preserve is around 300 acres and has over 4 miles of trails for hiking, running, biking, and even horse riding. Be sure to check out the waterfall on the Lawson Branch trail!

Wildwood Park

Wildwood Park is just a couple miles from downtown Florence. The park has plenty of nature trails and even 3-5 miles of mountain biking trails ranging from beginner to advanced. Not to mention it is so easy to access if you are looking for a beautiful spot for a quick run.

Mobile area trail runs

Blakely State Park

Blakely State Park is a historic park in Spanish Fork with more than 2,000 acres of very diverse habitats.Blakeley-trail-running Located within the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, the park also offers boat tours through the rivers. So after your run or hike, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights of the park from the boat. 

Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail

Located in Orange Beach, Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is made up of seven trails, with six different ecosystems that stretch around 15 miles. The trail systems will take you through Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, and even Gulf State Park. Not only are the trails great for hiking and trail running, but each also offers something different, so make it a weekend trip and explore all the attractions it has to offer. 

Chickasabogue Park ( Chickasabogue Park Temporarily Closed for Amenity and Infrastructure Upgrades)

Chickasabogue Park is a 1,100-acre park just 20 minutes north of Mobile. With over 17 miles of hiking and biking trails, there are plenty of options for you, whether you are looking for an easy stroll through the wildlife refuge or a longer trail run. This is another great park for a full day of activities as they also have a disc golf course, a white sandy beach with a swimming area to relax, and campsites for when you are ready to call it a day. 

Read a review of trail-running shoes and socks here. Find all your trail-running 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, curbside pickup, or delivery. #BeOutdoors

Tips for Trail Running Shoes and Socks

By Cameron Sullivan

(Cameron Sullivan, a member of Alabama Outdoors’ eCommerce team, has been an avid trail runner since high school.)

I came to love Birmingham’s trails in college when I ran cross country at Birmingham-Southern College. I love it so much, in fact, that I want to share some tips and tricks for beginners.

trail-running-coupleNormally at this time of year, the weather warms up and our local walking trails get crowded. Most of the time it’s fine; a crowded trail really just means bikers get a little too close or you have to keep a closer eye on the kids. But, with social distancing requirements, many runners find themselves looking for off-the-beaten-path routes. Pavement pounders and casual runners alike know that a crowded run isn’t fun, so why not take this opportunity to try trail running?

This isn’t a comprehensive head-to-toe guide to trail running. It’s a complicated sport just like any type of running, but I hope this info will help beginners take to the trails and feel confident. So, let’s start with the toes, or, more specifically, the feet. 

My picks for trail running shoes

Trail running is a great way to mix up arduous runs and shake up your routine. Whether you’re training for a PR or just trying to run the whole 5K, getting on a local trail can make a huge difference in your running, both physically and mentally.  Just make sure to start with good shoes. 

The key difference between your average running sneakers and a good trail shoe is going to be the sole, specifically the outsole and midsole. Quality trail shoes have grippy outsoles that handle a variety of surfaces and keep your feet where they belong — under you. 

Really heavy-duty trail shoes can even have a rock plate in them to prevent rocks from puncturing the midsole and hurting your feet, but most have tougher EVA-foam in the midsole to provide similar protection in a lightweight package. The easiest way to tell if a shoe is built for the trail is to look at the tread, it’ll be a grippy, knobby tread with wide channels to prevent debris from getting caught in them. Some of my favorite shoes that we carry are:

Salomon Men’s XA Pro 3D V8 GTX

The Salomon is a personal favorite for its great trail design and phenomenal running features. Little things like full Gore-Tex waterproofing and the lock-tight quicklaces make these shoes functional and durable on the trail. The quicklaces anchor all the way down from the toebox to the top of the tongue for maximum control from the top of your foot, planting your foot exactly where it needs to go. 

The midsole’s 3-D chassis provides a bouncy energy return that springs you forward while controlling motions prevent excessive pronating. This is a great shoe for any trail runner, but it is best for those runners already comfortable with speed and distance who want to tackle new terrain.

Hoka Men’s Challenger ATR 5

The Hoka is another great option that’s perfect for beginners. Hoka’s chunky outsoles may look odd, but their lightweight and supportive design structure are unrivaled. Runners who prefer support and cushion will love the springy and responsive feel They still maintain impressive grip thanks to the podular outsole and 4mm lugs that grip for you. This shoe would be best for beginners looking for more comfort and support than aggressive racing features.

On RunningCloudventure Waterproof 

The Cloudventure is another unique trail option that puts speed and performance at the core of its design. The Cloudventure features the most aggressive tread of these three options, with heavy-duty, slip-resistant rubber maximizing grip in wet conditions and targeted lugs to provide evenly spread control. Try these if you’re looking to set a PR on a trail that’s more water than dirt.

Best socks for trail running

Next up is socks. Running socks have gotten pretty fancy in recent years. You can find lots of options with various compression, materials, padding, and heights. There’s never a perfect sock, only socks that fit you perfectly, so try several!

A lot of features can be complicated or confusing, but socks come down to a couple of key features on the trail; moisture-wicking, compression, and fit. Moisture-wicking is the most important because moisture buildup causes a lot of issues, from chafing to blisters to swelling and toenail damage. The best moisture-wicking can be subjective, as some runners prefer a certain feel. All-wool socks like Smartwool can be great, but don’t manage temperature as well as others.

Here are three of my favorite socks for trail running. All three are worth a try, as they provide different levels of compression, warmth, and moisture-wicking. 

SmartWool Men’s PhD Run Ultra light Print Crew Socks

The Smartwool is a great option for both the quarter crew height and the ultra-lightweight. The super-thin material gives you maximum control in the shoe and keeps moisture away while maintaining airflow. The ankle height helps compress the blood vessels around your hardest-working joint and makes recovery quicker while providing protection from stray sticks, grass, and barbs. I’m always partial to quarter crew height running socks as they provide the best balance of comfort, breathability, and compression with the additional protection and full range of motion. These are best for dedicated runners looking for quicker recovery and a more technical wool option. 

Fits Light Runner Low Socks

The Fits light runner lows are another great option. While they’re the least technical, their patented blend of wool and lycra provides superb cushioning in hot spots while wicking away moisture and maintaining temperatures. The ultra-soft hand feel is incredibly comfortable despite how durable it is, and while they feel heavy for their size, the breathability and moisture-wicking of this wool-blend is unrivaled. These are best for runners looking for a great everyday running sock that can handle the rigors of the trail or the street.

Swiftwick Aspire Four Quarter Crew Socks

The Swiftwick is the most technical option on this list, with an all-synthetic construction and a specialized compression. I personally run in these and love them, Swiftwick has been the choice of runners for years due to their incredible moisture-wicking and lightweight, almost threadbare design. The ultra-light material maximizes breathability and control throughout the shoe and makes runs more comfortable than ever.

These are just the first steps, there are plenty more to make sure you safely and comfortably enjoy your run. Don’t let the gear stop you, check out a local trail, find a running group (maybe wait on that though), and take the first step. It doesn’t matter if it’s a trail you know or one you’ve never seen before, a good run is a great way to break up your routine and get more out of your time outdoors!


Find all your trail-running 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 shop online and take advantage of curbside pickup and free shipping for orders over $69.99. #BeOutdoors


How to Get Started with Trail Running in Alabama

Two men trail run in Alabama.

Throughout Alabama you’ll find beginner and advanced trails. Rock/Creek

With 21 state parks that occupy a wide variety of terrain, Alabama is the perfect place to take up trail running. Whether you’re looking for a gentle jog through serene woods or a challenging trek up a rocky mountainside, you’ll find nearby trails to suit your desires.

Throughout the state you’ll find beginner and advanced trails, giving you the freedom to test your level of skill and endurance as you gain experience and progress. However, trail running is not without its own intricacies, so we’ve shared expert advice to ensure that your first foray into the sport is successful.

Join A Group

When you’re taking up a new sport or activity, it’s smart to learn from experienced veterans who know the ins and outs. If you run with a group, it will not only help ease your doubts, but you’ll avoid rookie mistakes and progress faster. Groups like the Birmingham Ultra Trail Society (BUTS), We Run Huntsville, or the Auburn-Opelika Running & Track Association will help make trail runs more enjoyable and keep you motivated to stay with the sport.

Gear Up

5sdbmq5kzYWu06k6gEWYmyMake sure you’re properly equipped to handle the rigors of the trail. Rock/Creek

Like all sports, trail running has gear specially designed to meet its demands. While you don’t have to go crazy with new gear, it is important to invest in good trail-running shoes that will provide adequate support, traction and protection on rugged terrain. You’ll thank yourself for investing in a nice, comfortable pair of trail runners as you confidently grip red clay, leap over protruding roots, and gallop surefooted downhill on the tail end of a run.

For the most part, running short distances on trails is a minimalist sport. However, like all runs of significant length, you need to ensure you are properly equipped to handle the rigors of the trail. To stay as dry and comfortable as possible, you should wear technical clothing that helps you manage moisture, wind and your body temperature. Also, you should carry water to stay hydrated and pack gels or other foods to maintain your energy. If there’s any possibility that you might get lost, you should also take navigation tools.

When you’re ready to shop, you can buy shoes, clothing, accessories and other gear at a specialty running store, like Fleet Feet Sports, or an outdoor specialty store, such as Alabama Outdoors or Mountain High Outfitters.

Jumping from the Road to the Trail

Time to talk technique. As you transition to the trail, you’ll have to slightly modify how you run. Strides need to be shorter, especially on an incline. This will allow you to react quickly to obstacles that will pop up on your run. Make sure you pick your feet up, maintain good balance, and keep your eyes down while scanning the terrain 15 feet or so in front of you. If it looks like two steps are needed, go ahead and take three. Being alert and aware is key.

Be Safe, Not Sorry

Part of participating in any sport is being safe and avoiding injury. With trail running, you must take a few extra steps on top of the standard rules for running.

Wear brightly colored clothes. If something does happen, you want a park ranger or someone else to locate you easily. This also helps identify you as something other than food for the freezer during hunting season. Second, get a map of the trail system and have a navigation aid. Make note of the phone number for the park ranger, and save it in your phone. It’s easy to get turned the wrong way while on the trail, even a well-marked one. Next, know what the hazards are. Alabama is home to more than 50 species of snakes, six of which are venomous, some of which you will see on the trail.

Also, if you couldn’t meet up with your group or a friend to run, make sure you tell someone where you are running and when you should be back.

Know the Rules of the Trail

Yo7uSyMwmaQ6MwQQgEec4You’ll find great running trails at award-winning Oak Mountain State Park outside Birmingham. Rain0975

Every sport has its own etiquette, designed so everyone has opportunity to enjoy it equally. Trail running is no exception, and its rules aren’t much different from those you follow when hiking or camping. Take out what you brought in, stay on the trail, and be kind.

However, it’s important to know who yields to whom when a trail runner encounters a hiker or mountain biker. If you didn’t know, yield to those on the uphill—they have a limited field of vision. Everyone yields to horses, and mountain bikers yield to everyone else. However, don’t assume anything, just be alert and use good judgement. Don’t sneak up on a hiker or fellow runner. If you offer a simple, “On your left,” you’ll keep them from jumping out of their shoes. Also, if a mountain bike is coming at you on a narrow trail, be kind and step off for a second to let the rider pass. They’ll appreciate it.

Where to Trail Run in Alabama

Now you need to know where to go. In Alabama there’s no shortage of trails, and the Alabama State Park system features some of the most diverse trail systems in the country. You’ll find great running trails at award-winning Oak Mountain State Park outside Birmingham; Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville; and Cheaha State Park east of Birmingham. You can start checking out the list of trails for the Southeastern Trail Run races or the XTERRA Trail Run Series in Alabama. This will give you a good start toward finding a nearby trail or ideas for exploring a different part of the state.

Written by Hap Pruitt for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.

Trail Running Tips

We are sharing a few trail running tips and reminders with both seasoned and beginning trail runners. New to trail running? Check out our tips below and you’ll soon dominate the trails.

End of Summer Trail Run

End of Summer Trail Run

Focus on the Trail

Sticks, rocks and roots, oh my! The beauty of trail running is the outdoor adventure that comes with it. Running on trails offers a constant change of landscape, working muscles that don’t get much action on flat land. A challenge of running on rugged terrain comes in keeping balance to avoid injury. It’s all too easy to land wrong, fall and twist or, even worse, break an ankle on the trail. To avoid risk of injury, slow down a bit and stop and ‘smell the roses.’ If you don’t want to slow down, keep your eyes at least five to ten feet ahead of you at all times to familiarize yourself with the ground before you hit it.

Be Prepared

Trail runs are unpredictable. Nature allows for naturally occurring hazards to change up or obstruct your run. You may run a trail twenty times, but a spring storm can knock trees in the usual path, making your trail difficult or even impassable. Be aware of the previous day’s or even week’s weather conditions before setting off.

Stay Weather Alert

Weather can change drastically in a short period of time. If you’re planning a long trail run, be sure to monitor and look for weather changes. If you do get caught in a storm, be cautious of steep hills and slick mud. Wear a hat or visor to minimize rain in your face, and improve your visibility if it does storm. Be extra observant of the trail, as puddles can fill deep holes and cover roots and rocks.

Be Aware of Wildlife

You should know by now to “Leave No Trace,” but keep this in mind as you run through the trails. Never drop any trash on the trail, and be sure to pick up any pieces you find along the way. It is also crucial to keep nature, and its wildlife, undisturbed.

Share the Trail

While a free, open trail may be ideal to you, oftentimes you will come across more leisurely trail users. Yielding to downhill runners and other trail users will keep the trail a safe, friendly environment for all those who enjoy it.

Group Trail Runs

Group Trail Runs

Stay Safe

Run with a partner or let someone know when and where you’ll be on the trails. If you do get injured on the trail, you’ll have someone there to help you, or someone to look for you when you don’t return at your specified time. Be sure to allot enough time to complete the trail before sundown. Even when running the same distance, trail running typically takes longer that running on the road. Trying to make your way back in pitch black can be dangerous, and not very fun.

Hydrate Yourself!!

As always, staying properly hydrated on the trail—and off—is a must. Always bring a full water bottle with you.

We hope you keep these simple tips in mind as Tuesday Night Trails and warmer weather approach.  Trail running is a fun way to spice up an everyday running routine. Get active, get out there, and enjoy the trails!


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Alabama’s Best Outdoor Towns

Where you need to be in Alabama to make the most of the outdoors.

Whether you like to hike, bike, camp, run, hunt or fish, if you live in Alabama, you probably have a favorite outdoor spot. Here is a list of the top 5 Alabama towns to be in for guys and girls that like to spend their time outdoors.

5. Tuscaloosa, AL

When most people think about being outdoors in Tuscaloosa, it’s Saturdays in the Fall, but this town has much more to offer.

Get in touch with the West Alabama Mountain Biking Association for weekly rides at Sokol Park. Head to Downtown Northport for Art Nights and Festivals. Choose from parks, such as Deer Lick and Lurleen Wallace State park with campsites and trails for an adventurous weekend. Get outdoors and hit one of the 4 lakes close by for a great day of fishing with friends and family. With so many options, it’ll be hard to choose, but the city of Tuscaloosa makes enjoying Alabama’s Outdoors easy.

Team up with the University of Alabama Rec Center to rent some gear for the day or bring your own.

4. Auburn, AL

In Auburn, Chewacla State Park has invested in over 15 miles of single-track, mountain bike trails, as well as a 26-acre lake, waterfall and modern campsites. The Forest Ecology Preserve is supported by Auburn University and geared towards families and children of all ages, committed to environmental education.

With around 10 large parks, the Tuskegee National Forest and Auburn University committed to the betterment of the outdoor experience, Auburn, Alabama is climbing its way up the list of Alabama’s best outdoor towns.

3. Birmingham, AL

Birmingham is known for being one of the largest and most populated cities in Alabama. It is a hub for commerce and is one of the fastest growing cities in the Southeast. Birmingham has an incredible restaurant portfolio, as well as 4 local breweries. What people don’t realize is how much there is to do outdoors in and around the Birmingham area.

From Red Mountain to Oak Mountain, Birmingham has some amazing parks, with miles of trails to hike and bike. The Cahaba River flows right through Birmingham and is accessible to the public. Rent a canoe/kayak or float the Cahaba with friends on the weekend. Less than an hour away is Sipsey Wilderness. Located inside Bankhead National Forest, Sipsey Wilderness offers miles of trails, waterfalls, bluffs, and kayaking/canoeing.

Check out Tuesday Night Trails @ Red Mountain Park with Alabama Outdoors


2. Florence, AL

Listed as one of the top 8 southern towns by Garden & Gun magazine, Florence is truly an Alabama gem. Just across the river from Muscle Shoals, Florence is growing in popularity in the music realm with the W.C. Handy Music Festival every July. It’s a city that prides itself on being a small town and focusing on the revival of small business and sourcing product on a local level.

There’s many stories about the “singing” rivers and woods around Florence, stick around long enough, you’re bound to hear a few. Check out the Natchez Trace Parkway and the campgrounds around Florence. See how many species of Alabama’s 397 species of birds you can spot along the North Alabama Birding Trail. Shoal Creek Preserve and Cane Creek Canyon are great spots to spend the day outdoors. Visit Florence, you just might find an excuse to stay.

1. Fairhope, AL/Mobile Bay

Fairhope tops our list for the best outdoor towns in Alabama. There cannot be a list of Alabama towns and not talk about the gulf coast. Situated on the just across the bay from Mobile, Fairhope offers  the small town atmosphere, with a gulf coast feel.

Take a walk down the pier, or jump in a boat and enjoy the day catching Red Fish in the bay. Weeks Bay Reserve is over 6,000 acres of land and water protected by NOAA and Coastal Zone Management. It is an amazing place to spend an afternoon learning about the coastal environment surrounding Fairhope.

With the beaches less than an hour away, Fairhope is situated perfectly in Lower Alabama to take a long weekend and see where you end up… or you can just stay home. Either way, it’s a win-win.

These are just a few of the great towns committed to enjoying Alabama’s outdoors. If you live close by, check out one of the links and makes some plans for the weekend.

Be sure to visit Alabama Outdoors to pick up gear for the trip or to get advice on the best places to go.

“I’m Back…” – Tuesday Night Trails with AO At Red Mountain Park

tuesday night trailsTuesday Night Trails Returns!

The long, cold, dark winter Tuesdays without hope or the sense of adventure we crave are over. Beginning next Tuesday, March 11th at 6 pm (sign in at 5:30), Alabama Outdoors begins our third season of group trail runs at Red Mountain Park on Tuesday evenings.

Do you long to feel the good earth under your feet and stop to take in beautiful views (this picture is from an overlook at Red Mountain Park) before finishing up with an exhilarating rush down the fire road to the trail head? Tuesday Night Trails.

Are you excited about running through the forest, past old mining ruins, under the zip lines and rope course, joining with nature as you move swiftly and silently (or you can move slowly with laughter and joy)? Tuesday Night Trails.

Do you want to train for one of the amazing trail races available here in Birmingham? Or maybe an ultra somewhere else? Do you want to check out FKT (fastest known time) training? Tuesday Night Trails.

Tuesday Night Trails with Alabama Outdoors gives you the opportunity to either push your boundaries into new running frontiers or relax with your old friend Mr. Trail. And all with a group of runners who sincerely enjoy “the run.”

If you’re a little hesitant because you’re new to trail running remember this:

  • It’s FREE!
  • We have several groups that vary by either distance, pace or both
  • Every group has a leader to take you through the run and a “sweep” to make sure no one is left behind for the lions, tigers, bears or boogeymen to get
  • Runners sign in and out from the trail so that we know if we need to come find you (it’s only happened once that I know of last year)
  • It’s FREE!
  • We enjoy post run camaraderie at a little place across the street that has great wings and refreshing beverages
  • It’s TNT (Tuesday Night Trails) – what a blast! And it’s FREE!

Sign in starts at 5:30 pm, runs start at 6 pm (sort of ish), fun is all evening long! Come join us. See you Tuesday Nights!