Every time I spend any amount of time in the great outdoors, I wonder why we spend so much time indoors. And every time I go hiking, I wonder why I do not do it more often. Not only is hiking a great workout, it is an adventure that makes most feel more peaceful and calm in this world that can so often be just too much. The restorative and stress-relieving powers of being outside in nature have been proven by various studies. Unlike on the treadmill which I get bored of in 5 minutes, I could hike all day, the scenery is stimulating yet peaceful at the same time.
I wonderful new tradition I see many people enjoying year after year around the holidays, is going hiking. Even our Land Trust of Alabama offers Thanksgiving Day hikes. Whether you are looking for solitude to replenish your soul or you want to go on a family adventure together, here are 8 hikes I love that also cost nothing to enjoy.
Alum Hollow, Huntsville – This Land Trust 2.6 out and back trail is great for the whole family. An easy hike with plenty of grade changes, a little rock climbing, streams, and if you go after the rain a nice waterfall. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Walls of Jericho, Skyline – One of my favorite hikes, this one is not easy but doable for most. Walls of Jericho is a day excursion so allow plenty of time to hike to the walls, rest, and then hike back. Doing this almost 7 mile hike fast paced still takes 3 1/2 hours, but to really enjoy it, you will want to start in the morning to hike in, rest at the walls, and then hike back in the early afternoon. We like to take our hammock to tie up when we get to the walls and have even taken a picnic before. In the summer it is a regular occurrence to see people swimming in the natural pools at the walls. This is also a hike that is prettiest after a lot of rain because it means the waterfalls at the Walls of Jericho will be really pouring. This is also a great hike for both cardiovascular health and for those with an adventurous spirit. You will descend down the mountain for awhile eventually crossing a creek over a log bridge, cross over another stream, and then ascend into more rocky terrain towards the walls. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Sougahoagdee Falls, Bankhead National Forest – This 3.5 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Houston, Alabama features a beautiful waterfall as do many of the trails in Bankhead National Forest. The trail is good for all skill levels. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Blevins Gap, Huntsville – One of our favorite trails is about a 5 minute drive from our home. Take the 4.1 mile Bill and Marion Certain Trail for a great workout and an overlook of the Tennessee Valley. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Canyon Mouth Trail, Little River Canyon – For another day excursion venture over to Little River Canyon near Fort Payne where you will find many trails including Canyon Mouth Trail. This picturesque, moderate trail is 2 miles long and the perhaps the most scenic of the Little River Canyon trails. It is rocky at some parts making a hiking stick a good idea.
Keel Mountain, Gurley – An easy drive from Huntsville, this 2.8 mile trail is full of forest and has a waterfall. The creek beds at this preserve can run high, or run dry very quickly according to the local rainfalls. The small waterfall flowing into a sinkhole has been dubbed by local residents as the “lost sink.” The area is home to the federally endangered Morefield’s leather flower, a unique and little known plant; it has been found in only six populations (all located within the Huntsville Mountains).
Rainbow Lake to Signal Mountain, Chattanooga – An easy hike with an incredible view, Rainbow Lake is over 100 years old and since that time has remained one of Signal Mountain’s most popular outdoor destinations. From the parking lot on Ohio Avenue, you’ll walk alongside the golf course, then past an old spring house. Around the half mile mark you’ll come to a junction and must choose between a left turn to descend immediately to Rainbow Lake, or going straight to circle the lake on a 2.3 mile loop that is rocky and challenging. Whichever you choose, you’ll eventually find yourself at Middle Creek. Upstream is the 1916 dam, the water usually cascading over its top. You will come to a 100 foot long suspension bridge over the creek, part of the Cumberland Trail. You can follow the Cumberland Trail on the south side of Middle Creek 1.4 miles to Signal Point, a rocky trail to an overlook with a breathtaking view. Instead of going back the same way, you can then walk the half mile of road from Signal Point back to your car. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Craven’s House To Sunset Rock, Chattanooga – This 3 mile hike out and back is perhaps the most picturesque of all the hikes on this list, an absolute must in Chattanooga. You can make this a day excursion or incorporate it into a weekend trip to Chattanooga. This trail has great parking, is well maintained, and is doable for the whole family with easy hiking but with a little rock climbing when get to Sunset Rock. The view is spectacular and once you have completed this hike it will be one you will want to return to again and again. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.