Oak Mountain State Park

Located just south of Birmingham, Oak Mountain State Park is the largest state park in Alabama.  The park boasts 51 miles of trails over a variety of terrain and difficulty levels.  Oak Mountain also features a mountain bike circuit.  Additional activities include golfing, swimming, fishing, and canoeing.

For the back country hiker looking to overnight, there are campsites spread throughout the park.  These primitive sites have no water and no camp fires are allowed.  Cooking must be done on portable camp stoves.  The park requires hikers to pack out all debris and waste.

The Double Oak Trail, also officially known as the red trail, offers almost 18 miles of mountain biking.  While the trail is open to hikers, it was designed by and is maintained by a local cyclists group.  The trail consists of several different trails, all connected in a loop.  Mostly a single track, there are a few miles of fire road thrown in.  Start at the north trail head and go counter clockwise for the best experience.  This allows you to climb up to the ridge and have a super fast, almost suicidal, downhill part to the final seven miles of trail through flatter terrain.  If tortuous climbs are your thing, take the trail in the normal direction.  Coming from this way, there will be place almost impossible to climb.

The trail features lots of different terrain, basically everything you could expect to find in a track in Alabama: sand, dirt, hard rock, loose rock and roots, with a little bit of asphalt thrown in.  Try to ride during the week, as the trail tends to get crowded during the weekend.  To help alleviate congestion on the first couple of miles of trail, a new two mile beginners trail has been added for anyone just starting out or just looking for a quick loop.

All of Oak Mountain State Parks trails are marked with numbered signs.  If trouble arises, call the park rangers office and tell them the number of the last sign that you passed and they will send help.  Most of the trails pass Peavine Falls, with the Peavine Falls Trail being the most direct.  The Falls are the can’t miss natural wonder of the park, so any visit to the Oak Mountain State Park should include a trip up to see them.  Should you decide to actually head down to the bottom of the falls, most people tend to try it from the left side.   Once at the bottom, a little downstream, there are some outcroppings that make for decent rock climbing and bouldering.

The South Rim Trail is two miles longer and a more challenging hike up Double Oak Mountain before turning to Peavine Falls.  This trail offers some of the best views in the park.

Starting at the South Trailhead, the Shackleford Point Trail leads to the Falls and then on to the highest location in the park, Shackleford Point.

The Foothills Trail makes for a nice excursion, and at eight miles long, not a simple out and back.  One of the few trails not to pass the Falls, it does cross several creeks.  The trail is a favorite of turtle lovers, as the creeks in north part of the park tend to be brimming with them.

Many of the trails intersect, making it easy to create your own custom loops.  Also, the trails all have at least some hilly parts, and it is not uncommon to see an elevation change of 700 feet in a few miles.

Oak Mountain State Park offers a lake a miles of creek to paddle and fish in.  For those looking for more than a boat ride, the North Fork of the Yellow Leaf Creek offers some whitewater.  While you can rent canoes at the Marina, the pricing makes this an unattractive option.