Spring is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the warmer temperatures and more hours of sunlight in the evenings.
It’s also a great time to plan a hike — wildflowers are in bloom, rivers and creeks are flowing and bugs and other pets are (for the most part) not a problem yet.
Chilton County has a couple of terrific hiking spots, while many more are within a couple of hours’ drive.
IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
A hidden gem in Chilton County, Minooka Park offers something for everyone.
The park opened around five years ago as an ATV playground because the county had been awarded an Off-Highway Vehicle Grant available for those kinds of parks.
But Minooka has so much more than the multiple ATV trails that wind their way throughout the park’s 295 acres.
A 1-mile walking trail follows the banks of a lake, which is stocked with bass and bluegill.
It’s free to walk around the lake, but passes are needed for the ATV/dirt bike trails and fishing.
For more information, call (205) 287-1217 or (205) 312-1376.
CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL PARK
Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek has its roots in the Civil War.
The park, which sits on 102 acres, originally opened in 1902 as the Old Soldiers Home for Confederate Army Veterans. It operated as that until 1939, when the retirement home closed.
There is a nature trail that wanders across the park and more than 250 Confederate veterans and their wives are buried in the cemetery, making it a great draw for nature and history lovers.
Admission to the park is free but there is a charge for admission into the park’s museum.
For more information, call (205) 755-1990.
A ROCK, SKIP & THROW
OAK MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
The miles of trails that wind through Oak Mountain State Park offer something for everyone.
The park, Alabama’s most visited one, is just a short drive up Interstate 65 in Pelham.
From meandering streams to breathtaking views, chance wildlife encounters to beautiful Peavine Falls, the park serves as a sanctuary for those wanting to get away.
Several of the park’s trails offer breathtaking views from Double Oak Mountain. Visit in May or June when everything is alive and green or October for fiery foliage.
The two most popular destinations at Oak Mountain are Peavine Falls and the Treetop Trail.
Oak Mountain features 24 miles of hiking trails, most of which make their way to Peavine Falls.
The 65-foot waterfall roars down a rock wall into a collection pool, perfect for splashing in during summer months.
The waterfall tends to dry up some during summer, trickling down the rocks, but its still worth the effort to get there, if just to cool off.
Peavine Falls is just a short walk from the South Trailhead parking lot.
The Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Center works to return injured and orphaned animals to the wild. Sadly, some animals can’t ever be released.
The Treetop Trail offers close-up views of hawks and owls along an elevated walkway.
The half-mile trail is family-friendly and handicap-accessible. The trail starts near the park office on Terrace Drive.
Foothills Trail (Yellow Trail) – 8.2 miles point-to-point, 5-6 hours, moderate to difficult in the beginning but easy for the last half.
Peavine Falls (Green Trail) – 4.6 miles out-and-back, 3-4 hours, difficult for most of the way with steep climbs.
South Rim Trail (Blue Trail) – 6.7 miles point-to-point, 3-4 hours, starts with difficult climb but soon levels out.
Shackelford Point Trail (White Trail) – 6.3 miles point-to-point, 3-4 hours, easy with a few moderate climbs. Crosses the Shackleford Point, the highest spot in the park.
Double Oak Trail (Red Trail) – 17 miles loop, moderate to difficult. The Red Trail is a mountain biking trail that hosts several races throughout the year. Hikers are allowed on the trail, but watch out for bikers!
Loops (Endless fun) — Due to several well-maintained trails at Oak Mountain, the possibilities for loop hikes are almost endless. Get a map at the park headquarters or online at alapark.com/oakmountain and plan out your own unique adventure.
There is a $3 fee for adults to use the park and discounted rates for children and seniors ($1). For more information, call (205) 620-2520.
CONSIDER THE LILIES
Every May, a couple of bends in the Cahaba River become one of Alabama’s most beautiful sights to see. That’s when the Hymenocallis coronaria, more commonly called the Cahaba Lily, blooms.
The flowers bloom between early May and late June and are more commonly found in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
A great time to visit is the last Saturday in May, when the annual Cahaba Lily Festival is taking place in West Blocton.
The best spot for viewing in Alabama is easily Hargrove Shoals on Bibb County 24, just past West Blocton Elementary. For a map and more information, visit cahabalily.com. For a map, visit cahabalilly.com.
IF YOU HAVE A DAY
If you have a day to explore, consider visiting Mt. Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama. There’s a mountain of reasons to visit the park, which stands at 2,407 feet above sea level.
Several trails work their way up and over the mountain, most noticeably, the Pinhoti National Recreational Trail, which continuse on into Georgia.
Hike the Cave Creek Trail-Pinhoti Loop to hit the best views in the park. The 7-mile hike crosses the famous McDill Point and breathtaking views of the Cheaha Wilderness, two plane wrecks from years ago and several other great lookouts.
Cheaha State Park, in northern Clay and southwestern Cleburne counties, also has a lodge, restaurant, general store, campsites and more. It is Alabama’s oldest continuously operating park.
For more information, visit alapark.com/cheaharesort or call 1-800-ALA-PARK.