Located in the heart of Birmingham, Alabama, surrounded by the bustling urban city, you will find an oasis to get away from it all. A pair of tennis shoes and a water bottle are all you need to escape from the city noise and wander through an incredible eco-system of Longleaf pines, bubbling streams and open meadows. Ruffner Mountain is a whopping 1,040-acre urban preserve, making it largest of this kind in the entire United States! All right here, in your very own backyard.
Ruffner Mountain Trails
The intricate web of trails throughout the mountain range from easy to difficult. You’ll find most hikes are under a mile, with a few hitting the 1.5-mile mark. The longest hike in Ruffner Mountain is the Possum Loop Trail which takes you through the persimmon trees, where you can sometimes catch a glimpse of opossums enjoy a later morning snack.
There are 17 total unique trails located through Ruffner Mountain. The Marian Harnach trail is perfect for anyone looking for a quick walk or break from work during the lunch hour. If you have more time, the Quarry Trail will take you through the limestone quarry, where if you look hard enough you may find sea life fossils. This hike is 1.2 miles and well worth the trip. If you want to see the remnants of a 150-year-old tree, check out the Hallow Tree Trail. This hike is short, just .3 miles. The old tree was removed in 2002 for safety reasons, but field of wild Hydrangeas make up for it. The remnants of a mining test pit remain and are now how to frogs and salamanders.
The Buckeye Trail is perhaps the most challenging of the trials in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s not a very long hike- just 0.6 miles, however the elevation changes of 300 feet or so takes my breath away every time. The trail takes you the wetland area of Ruffner Mountain in Birmingham, AL.
Before you set out on a trail, grad a visitor’s map at the Nature Center. This map is color coded and clearly identifies the difficulty of each trail. There is truly a trail for everyone, young and old at Ruffner Mountain.
Mining History on Ruffner Mountain in Birmingham, AL
Back in the late 1880’s Ruffner Mountain was the site of several mining operations. The mountain was mined for iron ore up until the late 1950s. Remnants of the mining operations remain to this day, including several mine shafts and a historical mineral rail line that weaves throughout the preserve. The mine shafts are not open to the public, however they are being used to protect native bat habitat and prevent disease in the animals.
Conservationists hope by protecting native bats and surveying the colony in Birmingham, they can figure out how to keep the species free of White-nose syndrome. This is a fungus-based disease that can affect hibernation and lead to early death. Bats play an important part in our ecosystem. And don’t worry about bats flying around you. They mostly like to keep to themselves. Plus, the park closes at dusk so you probably won’t be around to see them whizzing by in search of a late-night snack. Please also see our articles entitled “The History Of Wylam Park Birmingham, AL” and “Jefferson State Community College Birmingham, AL Review“.
What to Bring
Because the hikes are short and sweet, you won’t need any overnight gear or extra provisions. However, if you plan to hike the entire trail system it adds up to about 14 miles. If you choose to hike the entire preserve, you’ll want extra water and snacks. A small backpack should be enough for Ruffner Mountain. The mountain is free and open to the public every day. Because it’s maintained by volunteers, make an effort to stay on the trail and pack out all your garbage. Happy Trails!
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