Grey skies and chilly temperatures often make it a challenge to lace up the shoes and get outside. Any number of excuses can roll through your head and keep you safely on your couch. On a recent weekend morning, I overcame the desire to stay sedentary on a dreary day and ventured out to Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County. The result was 22 miles of perfect singletrack trail with several friends.
Oak Mountain State Park is the crown jewel of the Alabama State Parks system. As the largest park in the state at 940 acres, it provides multiple activities and options for outdoors enthusiasts. From criss-crossing mountain biking, hiking, and horse trails, to paddleboards and kayaks on several lakes, the park is perfect for a multi-day trip or a few hours of fun.
On this particular day, I met several friends for a trail run that meandered throughout the park. We started at the South Trailhead, a popular jumping off point with a large parking lot and access to several different trails. Seconds into the run, we were climbing straight up the Yellow Trail. The trail is approximately 8 miles in one direction and winds through the park to the northeast. Years of use has made the trail relatively smooth and very easy to follow.
The terminus of the trail is the North Trailhead parking area. Multiple trails converge at this trailhead, providing many different options for hiking or running. We opted for trying a relatively new mountain biking route for a quick out-and-back. One of the benefits of running on mountain biking trails is that they are typically designed to be rolling and fun. But be careful—bikes move quickly and it’s important to always be aware and listen for riders around every bend.
After the quick side trip on the mountain biking trail, we took off down the Red Trail headed back toward our cars. This trail is a loop that takes hikers and bikers through the majority of the park. As there is so much activity on the trail, you’re sure to see many other people throughout your adventure. We passed several other runners and many bikers before finally descending on the South Trailhead. Not quite ready to leave, we did a quick loop on the 2.3 mile long Lake Trail. As the name implies, this trail surrounds Double Oak Lake, a popular destination for swimming and boating during warmer months.
After our adventure, we settled in for some chips and salsa at Margarita Grill in Pelham. Nothing replenishes the burned calories from a trail run like amazing Mexican! If you’re looking for a good drink as well, head over to The Beer Hog for a huge selection of craft brews.
In all, we’d covered 22 miles throughout the park and shared countless stories and laughs along the way. This outing was a reminder that much of the challenge to move is in our heads. Once out on the trails, the decision to get in the miles was clearly the right one.
Greg Wingo is the manager of the 100 Alabama Miles Challenge Ambassador Program and owner of ROAM Projects, an outdoor recreation consulting company.