Hiking with Hailey: Red Mountain Park
Whether you’re exploring trails or learning about mining, Red Mountain Park is a great place to getaway
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WSFA) - Sometimes it’s nice to get outside, whether it’s for five minutes or five hours. If you’re looking for a place to recharge, Red Mountain Park is the place for you.
”Red Mountain Park is a 1500-acre nature and industrial history park here in the city limits of Birmingham, Alabama,” said T.C. McLemore, the Executive Director of Red Mountain. “The trails are all multi-use for hiking, mountain biking, walking, and our trail system is mostly on old railroad beds. So, our major thoroughfare that we’ll be walking on today are the old Birmingham Mineral Railroad South. It’s pretty neat to be able to get outdoors and get into outdoor recreation and experience Birmingham history at the same time.”
According to their website, Red Mountain is where Birmingham truly began. While the park opened its doors in 2012 after sitting dormant for half a century, this red dirt is full of rich history.
Red Mountain offers many activities; naturally, some avid hikers frequent the park, and some visitors come just to enjoy the vibes.
“A lot of folks will just walk into where we are right here at the main kiosk, sit down at a picnic table and enjoy their lunch on their lunch break at work, and then some folks will hike every mile that we have,” said McLemore. “Since we’re so close to the city center and surrounding municipalities, we see a lot of folks integrate coming to the park into their everyday life in a way that is pretty unique.”
While hiking is a big draw at Red Mountain, it’s the park’s past that truly makes it unique. In fact, every step you take, you’re walking on history. Several mines were recovered and have since been closed off to the public, but still provide guests with a look back in time.
Red Mountain’s mining history runs deep – like 500-thousand feet below the ground deep – and through the years, the miners developed a pretty perfected system.
“Really, all of the examples of the progressions of mining are pretty visible here, but the mining looked very different through the progressions of mining technology,” said McLemore. “At the beginning, it would have been a team of men and mules with nothing more than pickaxes and shovels. The iron ore would have been dumped off the tipple into the carts below, and it would have gone into a furnace in the valley.”
Over time Red Mountain has become a sanctuary for its visitors; it offers an opportunity to clear your mind and find peace among the plants, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were crucial, I think to mental health and just as a space for families and folks from the surrounding communities to escape from being locked up in their house throughout COVID-19,” said McLemore. “It introduced a lot of people to the park for the first time because they were looking for ways to get outside; last year I saw grandparents and parents and toddlers get together but at a distance here, so it was neat that this was sort of a refuge for folks navigating the pandemic.”
Red Mountain Park is also wheelchair-friendly. The park owns two high-powered off-road wheelchairs called The Nomad that allow everyone to enjoy the trails. To plan your visit to Red Mountain or read more about the history, visit them online at www.redmountainpark.org.
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