Birmingham Bucket List: Autumn Walks.

Despite the fact that I would prefer for it to stay out of my house, I do love nature – especially in the fall.

And although it seemed to start later than usual, Autumn has been lovely here. The weather has been mild and sunny, and the extraordinarily bright leaf colors seem to have come in two distinct waves, offering a magical encore as soon as I thought they were falling.

As such, we’ve been trying to appreciate the outdoors as much as possible, including exploring some new places.

On my birthday, which was before the leaves changed, I walked at Red Mountain Park with my kids and a friend. Although I’ve taken countless hikes on many different RMP trails, there are still several I hadn’t checked out, including the trail to the SkyHy Treehouse.

On our journey, we found ruins, some of which looked more like Mexican ruins than mining leftovers in Birmingham, leading me to perhaps pretend that I was on an exotic birthday exploration rather than twenty minutes from home.

Mining Ruins at Red Mountain Park.
I had no idea what to expect when we found the Treehouse, but upon first seeing it, I just knew that Ali would NOT be going over that bridge.

SkyHy Treehouse at Red Mountain Park

It was much higher up than it appears, wiggled a good deal, and was extraordinarily narrow.

But she was miraculously brave, and with the help of my friend Ashley, excitedly made it to the other side.

SkyHy Treehouse at Red Mountain Park

…Where she promptly had to sit down and document her journey thus far. The girl is nothing if not a journalist.

SkyHy Treehouse at Red Mountain Park

While she made notes, I tried to ferociously hold onto Noah while taking photos of the exciting new view.

SkyHy Treehouse View at Red Mountain Park

And yes – that is Birmingham – seemingly in the middle of a forest. Viewing from above can certainly offer a new perspective.

SkyHy Treehouse View at Red Mountain Park

For our next walk, we visited the little known Irondale Furnace Trail. It’s actually in Mountain Brook (On Stone River Road, for those who want to find it), and about 1 1/3 miles long. It’s fairly flat, which is something that’s hard to come by around here, and is also an important feature to cut down on the Toddler Whine Factor.

(The TWF was extremely high for the above Red Mountain Hike, but still worth it.)

The Irondale Furnace Trail runs by a creek on one side and a forested hill on the other. And right now, it’s stunning.

Irondale Furnace Trail in Mountain Brook

About halfway down the trail, you’ll find the ruins of the Irondale Furnace, which increases the educational value of this walk from P.E. (exercise) and Science (leaves) to PE, Science, and Alabama History. Homeschoolers everywhere should be flocking to this trail post-haste.

Irondale Furnace Trail in Mountain Brook
Across from the ruins (which, despite their educational value I did not photograph,) there’s a clearing where you can walk down to the creek, and perhaps throw sticks for someone else’s dog. Or your dog, if you’re a better person than I.

Irondale Furnace Trail in Mountain Brook

The trail empties out into someone’s driveway on Old Leeds Road, and has a final hoorah of having rocks on which to sit and contemplate one’s journey thus far.

Irondale Furnace Trail in Mountain Brook

Good luck prying your kids off of those rocks for the walk back.

Irondale Furnace Trail in Mountain Brook

Last Saturday, we went with Chris to Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, somewhere we’ve embarrassingly never visited (as adults, anyway), despite its centralized location and stunning beauty.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Birmingham Alabama

Ruffner Mountain is a shockingly big nature preserve in between Birmingham and Irondale – over 1,000 acres of beauty right in the middle of the city.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Birmingham Alabama

There are several overlooks of quarries and city, all fantastically stunning right now.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Birmingham Alabama

We took the 1.5 mile hike to the Birmingham Overlook, and since Chris was with us, he brought along the jogging stroller in case we had a high occurrence of Toddler Whine Factor.

I do not recommend this strategy.

The trails were narrow and winding,

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Birmingham Alabama

And had quite a number of natural and unnatural stairs involved, none of which were friendly to the jogging stroller.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in Birmingham Alabama

Not to say that the TWF didn’t crop up, but Noah refused to ride because the trail was too bumpy, so the stroller’s impact to our walk was a net 50% reduction to the parental ability to help, stop, and guide children.

(After passing the sixth person that said “Wow – a jogging stroller? Never seen that out here before”, Chris admitted to the error of his attemptingly-helpful ways.)

But we finally made it to the top overlook, which was thoroughly worth the uphill walk, despite the fog enshrouding Birmingham that day.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve View in Birmingham Alabama

If it had been a clear day, the view would have been exactly opposite of the one from the SkyHy Treehouse at Red Mountain, looking at Birmingham’s East side instead of its West.

(As opposed to our normal sunset view, which looks at its South side. But Birmingham really doesn’t have a bad angle.)

Birmingham Alabama Sunset
After our walk, we drove a few blocks over and ate at The Irondale Café, which was a great place for the children to watch trains, and for me to watch graffiti.

Irondale Trains

Also – who knew they had Chuggington Bushes?? You can’t find those every day.

Irondale Trains

In the last couple of days I’ve noticed even more stunning colors than before – perhaps a third wave of color. So it’s not too late – at least around here. Get out there and explore, people.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve

After all, it’s a kid-approved activity. Most of the time.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve

Leave your comment below!


  1. Chuggington Bushes!!! Love it!

  2. Wonderful post!!!

  3. Chuggington. Ugh. My husband secretly deleted the Chuggington app from the iPad because it was so annoying. I’ll take Thomas any day. Thomas would kick Chuggington’s butt in a celebrity cartoon deathmatch.

  4. Wow, so pretty! And it’s actually warm enough to take your kids outside and not have them frozen! I need to visit in Winter, not Summer!

  5. Sigh. I’m jealous. We’re well past fall up in here in the frozen north and have entered what I glumly refer to as the gray season. You do a great job showing how beautiful Birmingham is. I’m definitely putting it on my list of cities to visit.

  6. So lovely! I’m a little jealous of how un-brown your trees are when they change color.

  7. Sweet! I’ve lived here for almost 15 years (or has it been 15 years now?!) and have never yet been to Red Mtn Park. My little clan of homeschoolers would adore that treehouse walk. Must. Go.

  8. wonderful, inviting photos of a beautiful area of our Birmingham!

  9. Thanks for the for the tips! We are up here this wknd and did ruffner and red mtn!
    Peace from Mississippi

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