Something about springtime amplifies the desire to go outdoors. The ebb of winter weather and the restlessness from time spent inside makes a trip outside one of the best spring activities. There’s a certain appeal of walking down the wooded paths of a winding trail on a mild March weekend: the perfect activity for a family outing or a solo escapade. Sandy beach strolls, rigorous marshy treks, tours of local history — no matter what you’re looking for, this guide will help you plan your next adventure, right in our own neck of the woods.
The Bon Secour National Wildlife Center Refuge Trails
Four trails, 6 miles to explore
Trails: 1 – 4 miles
Location: Hwy 180, Gulf Shores
Here’s an amazing site to experience a plethora of environments in one place. Hikers can head through wetlands, maritime forests, scrub habitats, swales and dunes — and see a range of animals along the way, including loggerhead sea turtles, alligators and, if lucky, an Alabama beach mouse or two. The Jeff Friend Trail is the shortest, at 1 mile long, and is wheelchair accessible. The longest trek, the Pine Beach Trail, includes a rewarding beach walk at the end. All trails are open year-round from sunrise to sunset.
Muddy Creek Interpretive Trail
Boardwalk off Bellingrath Road
Trails: 2.3 miles
Part of the Muddy Creek Wetlands Management Area, the Muddy Creek Interpretive Trail offers a hike that is both fun and informative. With boardwalks crossing over streams and marshy areas, this loop trail is easily navigable. Markers throughout the trail offer insight into the flora and fauna of the rich, pine grove environment. It’s well-maintained, shady, relatively level and is a good distance for children and pets.
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
Dunes, butterflies and boulders
Trails: 15 miles
Location: Orange Beach
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail encompasses six ecosystems and seven interconnecting trails, providing all the environmental diversity you could ask for. Pines and oaks are abundant, and so is the wildlife — there are over 100 different species! The butterfly garden and Boulder Park are just two of the worthwhile stops. Six restrooms and two water fountains are easily accessible. The trails are also ADA-compliant, making them suitable for everyone.
Glenn Sebastian Nature Trail
USA Campus, Mobile
Trails: 1 – 5 miles
Location: USA Campus, Mobile
Located at the heart of the University of South Alabama campus, this flexible, on-campus jaunt is enjoyable for hobbyists and experts alike. The five color-coded routes stretch across woods of pine and oak and swamps boasting an assortment of fish and birds. Stable trail pathways and trees with markers help hikers stay on course. The yellow route is best for a quick de-stress session, and the red route is ideal for a weekend adventure. Pets must be kept on a leash.
Village Point Park Preserve Loop
Boardwalk and views
Trails: 1.4 miles
Location: Main St., Daphne
Oaks with Spanish moss, hickory, wax myrtle and wildflowers populate the Village Point Park Preserve Loop Trail, setting hikers up for a gorgeous, gentle walk. Packed with history, the path passes through D’Olive Cemetery and by the magnificent Jackson Oak, which General Andrew Jackson is rumored to have climbed while rallying his troops during the War of 1812. The trail leads to a boardwalk with a beautiful view of Mobile Bay. It is best to plan a visit in the spring or fall during a dry week to avoid flooding. If visiting in the summer, bring bug repellent and plan your trip for the mornings and late afternoons.
Audubon Bird Sanctuary Trails
Spring migration bird-watching
Trails: 4.3 miles
Location: Dauphin Island
Brimming with wildlife and encompassing wetlands, lakes and beaches, the Audubon Bird Sanctuary Trails are some of the most scenic in Alabama. Boardwalks help hikers navigate the marshy areas, with the dry areas of trail remaining flat and walkable. Markers point out wildlife that may be present in and around the trail, including turtles, alligators and, of course, lots of birds. Birdwatchers will want to make sure to plan a visit in the spring — Dauphin Island has been named one of the top four places in North America to watch spring migrations. Sunscreen and bug repellent are advisable when visiting in the summer. The trails end on the beach, just a short walk from Fort Gaines, making them the perfect option for a potential weekend day trip.
Perdido River Hiking Trail
Hike along the water
Trails: 17.9 miles (one way)
A dirt and sand trail winds through a wood of pine and white cedar. A rushing river is within earshot. This might make the Perdido River Hiking Trail sound as though it’s a leisurely stroll, but don’t let the description fool you! This trail goes through patches of heavily wooded forest and requires hikers to cross over a few creeks as well. It is particularly popular for backpack hiking trips. Trees have yellow markings that serve as a guide along the way, and the trail has access to six shelters and three parking areas that come at the beginning, middle and end of the route. Since the river is within close proximity to the trail, planning a hike for a dry period will ensure you don’t reach any flooded areas.
Weeks Bay Nature Trail
Dirt paths and boardwalks
Trails: 1.3 miles
Location: Hwy 98, near Fairhope
Those searching for a free, fun and refreshing hike near Fairhope should look no further than the Weeks Bay Nature Trail. Thanks to the estuary’s characteristic blend of saltwater and freshwater environments, the area features numerous animals and plants, including blue crabs, red-bellied turtles and more than 350 species of bird. Signs identify vegetation and animal species. Dirt paths and boardwalks guide hikers across marshes and through woods of magnolia and cypress. Although much of the trail is shaded, it is best hiked in cooler months and on mornings and evenings in the summer.
Graham Creek Nature Trail
Check out the pitcher plants
Trails: 0.1 – 4.3 miles
The preserve is open from dawn to dusk and has a mix of marked and unmarked trails, allowing hikers the freedom to be as adventurous as they choose and strike a balance between a tranquil stroll and a rugged hike. The Pitcher Plant Loop Trail is just over 1 mile and lined with pink and green carnivorous plants, making it a great option for those interested in sightseeing. The longest trail, the Creek Crawl Trail, is just over 4 miles and encircles the outside edge of the preserve. The shortest trail is ADA compliant. Maps are available to download from the preserve website, inside the Graham Creek Interpretive Center and at two kiosks on the trails. Groups of five or more can schedule a guided hike by contacting the City of Foley’s Environmental Department at the interpretive center.
Blakeley State Park
Hiking and history
Trails: 0.08 – 2.1 miles
Location: Spanish Fort
Taking a hike or a history trip? With the trails in the Historic Blakeley State Park, you can do both! Hikers, bikers and horseback riders enjoy the winding trails and beautiful scenery surrounding the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and learning local Civil War history. Navigation can be tricky, so make sure to bring a map. Admission is $4 for adults; $3 for kids ages 6 to 12; and free for children under 6. Veterans and active military also receive free admission. Pets must remain on a leash. Open every day from 8 a.m. to dusk.
More to Explore
Davida Hastie Nature Trail
Trails: 2 mile
Nestled in the Baldwin County Bicentennial Park, the Davida Hastie Nature Trail combines indigenous flora and fauna, a wetland pavilion and historical landmarks. Open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Black Willow Trail
Trails: 0.5 miles
Location: Spanish Fort
This boardwalk trail in Meaher State Park crosses several islands on Mobile Bay. Views of marine birds, various species of fish and plants are in no short supply on this loop trail. Admission is $1 for adults; 50 cents for children under 12 and senior citizens. The trail is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Roland Cooper State Park Trails
Trails: 1.5 miles
The nature trails in Roland Cooper State Park are a featured stop on the Alabama Black Belt Birding Trail. In addition to hiking, the park offers fishing and camping. Admission is $2 per adult; $1.50 for children 6 to 12 and seniors over 62; free for children under 5. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk.