Birmingham, Alabama is referred to as the Magic City because the iron industry boomed so quickly following the Civil War. Birmingham has a park to match every running style, an eatery to match every appetite, and is home to some of the best coffee and craft beer. There’s no Ham like B’ham!
In this article, Lily Trotters Ambassador, Holly, discusses best places to run and/or hike, then grab a post workout coffee or beer in Birmingham, Alabama.
Best Places to Run
If pavement is your choice, then Lakeshore Trail is your place! This is a flat 5 mile round trip trail that runs along Lakeshore Parkway next to a creek, without the worry of traffic. My recommendation is to park in the Target parking lot near Brookwood Mall. If you want to add a few miles, Lakeshore Trail connects to Jemison Trail that runs right through Mountain Brook, one of the prettiest suburbs in Birmingham. You will run past the historic Shades Creed Old Mill House with a working water wheel and cross a creek where concrete pillars act as stepping stones to keep your feet dry.
If you are like me and prefer trails, Birmingham is home to Alabama’s largest state park--Oak Mountain State Park, located just south of the town. This park has more than 50 miles of trails and is my favorite place to run when I’m home. There are many options from an easy 3-mile loop around a lake to a 17-mile backcountry loop with more than 1300 feet of elevation gain. Oak Mountain is truly a beautiful place with views of creeks, waterfalls (Peavine Falls), hardwood forests, ridge lines, and rocky overlooks (King’s Chair). There are two trailheads-- North and South--which are both good starting points for a trail run or hike. The trails are marked well so you will not get lost! Download a trail map.
Another favorite trail running location is Red Mountain Park. This mountain was the site of the Sloss Mines, which supplied ore to Birmingham’s iron furnaces. Red Mountain Park has a 15-mile trail system of exciting and diverse terrain including 2 overlooks of downtown Birmingham, 3 historic iron ore mining sites, a treehouse and much more! Like Oak Mountain, the trails are marked really well so you cannot get lost.
Best Running Group
When I first moved to Birmingham, I worked part time at Lululemon and quickly met several girls that were training for an Ultra. They invited me to go on a trail run, and from that day forward I have been obsessed! Through friends, I met more trail running friends and quickly learned about a group called Birmingham Ultra Trail Society, better know as “BUTS.” Don’t let the name fool you--you do not have to be an Ultra runner to join this group! They have runners of all shapes, sizes, distances, paces, etc. They welcomed me with open arms and I have been a member for several years now! BUTS members sponsor group runs, events, help clean up the local trails, sponsor races and so much more; overall, it is just a GREAT organization filled with GREAT individuals! They have spoiled me so that every time I move to a new city, I can never find a trail running group that lives up to their standards. Learn about membership benefits and more here: http://runbuts.com.
Favorite Post-Run Coffee Spots
Finding cute coffee shops is one of my favorite hobbies, and Birmingham has so many from which to choose. Octane Coffee is my favorite “go-to” and they have two locations: Uptown area connected to the Westin Hotel and Homewood. Pro-Tip: Get the Molasses and/or Peanut Butter cookies--you will NOT be disappointed! If you are craving food after a long run, head to Alabama Biscuit Company for one of the best biscuits in the state: the Croque Madame. And they serve Octane Coffee so you can knock out two birds with one stone!
Revelator Coffee is modern and hip with locations in downtown Birmingham and Mountain Brook. I really love the pretty interior design. Pro-Tip: The Mountain Brook location is right next to the Grand Bohemian Hotel and within walking distance to the Botanical Gardens and Birmingham Zoo.
If you are out running all day and want to enjoy an ice cold beer instead of coffee, Birmingham hosts some of the best craft breweries around. There are too many to write about, so I will just mention my top two. My number one choice is Good People Brewing Company located right across the street from Region Fields Baseball Stadium, home to the Birmingham Barons. Pro-Tip: The Snakehandler Double IPA is the bomb! My second choice is Cahaba Brewing Company, named after the local Cahaba River and located in a 21,000 square foot warehouse with an incredible patio!
I have barely scratched the surface, but these are my top recommendations on where to move and fuel in Birmingham. This city is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast who also wants to enjoy the big city environment. Next time you’re in Birmingham, Alabama, check out some of these spots and let me know what you think in the comments below!