Running in Alabama: Top Trails and Races

Lace up your running shoes and get ready to explore Alabama’s energized running scene! 

Alabama isn’t just about sweet tea and football — it’s also a runner’s paradise. 

Get ready to sprint through some of the state’s most iconic trails…

Or take part in races where the community buzz is as energizing as the competition. 

From the rolling hills that challenge your pace to flat, fast courses that let you fly, Alabama has a route to match your mood. 

There’s also a race for everyone’s calendar, keeping the excitement alive year-round.

So, grab your gear, and let’s hit the trails where each step taps into the heart of the Southern spirit!

Famous Running Trails in Alabama

‘Rail-to-Trail’ Projects

rail to trail projects

Alabama is turning old railroads into beautiful trails, perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors! 

These rail-to-trail projects offer a great way to see the state. 

Some of them are: 

  • Chief Ladiga Trail: Celebrated as Alabama’s first rail trail, this paved recreational trail follows the former Seaboard/CSX Railroad. 

It connects to Goergia’s Silver Comet Trail, creating part of the longest paved rail trail in the US. 

  • Richard Martin Trail: Located in Limestone County, this trail features a crushed stone and gravel path that follows the route of the 1850s-era Tennessee & Alabama Railroad.
  • Johnny Ray Rail Trail: A citizen-led initiative aiming to develop 37 miles of non-motorized, ADA-friendly, multi-use trail connecting Chambers, Lee, and Randolph counties. 
  • Yoholo Micco Trail: Named after a Creek Indian leader, this trail provides a historical and cultural journey starting from downtown Eufaula. 

Scenic Routes

scenic routes

Alabama is home to some truly scenic routes that showcase the natural beauty of the state. 

These trails offer breathtaking views, winding through landscapes like lush forests, rolling hills, and tranquil lakes and rivers. 

Aside from running, these trails are perfect for hikers, cyclists, and nature lovers. 

Some of these picturesque paths are: 

  • Oak Mountain Red Trail: This 13.9-mile loop trail in Pelham is known for its challenging routes and beautiful scenery. 
  • Red Mountain Full Loop: This 9.7-mile loop near Birmingham offers a moderately challenging hike and a gorgeous backdrop for some alone time. 
  • Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail: Located near the coast in Baldwin County, this trail features a mix of pine forests, freshwater lakes, and coastal swamps. 
  • Five Mile Creek Greenway: This trail currently stretches 5.5 miles across Central Alabama and is popular for its flat, shady paths. 

Plans are underway to extend it further through the region. 

Urban Paths

urban paths

Urban trails offer a refreshing slice of nature right in the heart of a city. 

These are perfect for urban dwellers looking to stretch their legs without straying far from home. 

These convenient city trails are woven through neighborhoods and quiet streets, providing easy access to beautiful, safe paths for running. 

Here are some of Alabama’s urban pathways: 

  • Rotary Trail: This unique trail winds through Downtown Birmingham. It’s great for a lively jog, enhanced by easy access to local cafes. 
[Speaking of cafes, check out these restaurants if you ever find yourself in Alabama!]
  • Ruffner Mountain: Located just outside of Birmingham, this is a network of trails that showcase the area’s natural beauty. 

The Quarry Trail is particularly notable, taking you past native plants and wildlife. 

  • Black Creek Trail: This trail in Gadsden offers a serene experience, with its path along Black Creek leading to a striking waterfall. 

This trail features boardwalks and suspension bridges. 

  • Hugh Kaul Ecoscape: This trail is part of an outdoor teaching tool that features giant sculptures and wildflowers. 

Notable Races

Marathons and Half-Marathons

marathons and half-marathons

Alabama is a hotspot for runners looking to test their endurance in marathons and half-marathons. 

These events challenge athletes while bringing communities together from across the state and beyond. 

  • Mercedes-Benz Marathon: Held in Birmingham, this well-known event features both a full marathon and a half-marathon. It’s a flat and fast course, loved by runners seeking personal bests and qualifying times for larger events. 
  • Mount Cheaha 50K: This challenging ultra-marathon takes runners to the highest point in Alabama.  

I ran this one in 2017!

This course is known for its demanding terrain and stunning natural scenery. 

  • Montgomery Marathon: This marathon and half-marathon feature a beautiful course through Alabama’s capital. 

It’s a real testament to Southern hospitality, with a post-race brunch with smooth jazz. 

  • Mobile Marathon: Our very own race is praised for its scenic route that showcases the city’s historic and coastal areas

It’s a great way to experience the charm of Mobile while testing your endurance! 

5Ks and Fun Runs

5ks and fun runs

Alabama is bustling with 5Ks and fun runs that cater to runners of all ages and abilities. 

They’re a celebration of community, health, and fun. 

These races often support local charities, making them a great way to give back while getting active. 

  • Rumpshaker 5K: Held in Birmingham, this event focuses on raising awareness and funds for colorectal cancer. 
  • The Shark 5K: Taking place in Orange Beach, this race is held on July 4th each year. It features a festive atmosphere with a DJ and a party. 
  • Fiddlers 5K and Kids Fun Run: Located in Athens, this event is held in late September. It’s a family-friendly event that celebrates local culture and community. 
  • Cookie Dash 5K and Fun Run: Hosted in Hampton Cove, this sweet-themed run happens in April. 

Trail Races

trail races

Alabama offers a thrilling array of trail races set in its stunning state parks, natural reserves, and roads. 

These are some of the most exciting trail races across the state —

Where the beauty of nature meets the thrill of competition! 

  •  Azalea Trail Run: This event is not just a run but a scenic tour through Mobile’s historic and blooming streets – complete with live oaks

It’s celebrated every March, drawing participants to enjoy the vibrant beauty of azaleas in full bloom. 

  • Pinhoti 100: This 100-mile trail race is set in the Talladega National Forest, typically held in November. 

It’s renowned for its challenging terrain and the stunning autumn colors that provide a picturesque backdrop for the grueling endurance test.

  • Blood Rock 100: This ultra-trail race offers 100-mile and 50-mile options, set in the challenging terrains of Oak Mountain State Park. 

This course takes runners through some of the most remote and rugged trails in Alabama. 

  • McKay Hollow Madness Trail Run: Held in Huntsville’s Monte Sano State Park, this 25K race is known for its challenging terrain, offering runners a mix of steep ascents, rocky paths, and beautiful forest views.

Training Tips

Running in Alabama is no joke! 

Here are some training tips for dealing with Alabama’s climate and ensuring a safe and productive running experience: 

How to Handle Hot and Humid Conditions

  • Train during cooler parts of the day, like early morning or late evening. 
  • Wear lightweight, breathable clothing to help manage sweat and keep your body cool. 
  • Gradually acclimate to the heat by increasing your exposure over several weeks. 
  • Don’t overdo it. Take a break. Grab some food in the meantime!

Best Times to Train and Compete

  • Aim for spring and fall months for the more comfortable weather conditions. 
  • Avoid peak summer for long runs or competitions due to intense heat. 

Essential Gear 

essential gear

  • Invest in moisture-wicking apparel to keep dry and comfortable. 
  • Wear a hat and UV-protective sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun. 
  • Choose well-ventilated running shoes suited for high temperatures. 

Hydration and Safety

hydration and safety

  • Carry water or hydration packs on longer runs to prevent dehydration. 
  • Plan routes with access to water sources or safe spots to rest. 
  • Inform someone of your route when running in remote or less-populated areas. 

Resources for Finding Trails and Races

  • Running in the USA: This site is the largest online directory of races and clubs.
  • Known for its extensive race finder tool, offers detailed listings of running events nationwide. 
  • AllTrails: This site is primarily known for trail discovery. It’s a great resource for finding off-road races in Alabama. 
  • RunnerClick: This one specializes in providing detailed reviews and info on a wide range of running events. 
  • Race Raves: This site allows users to sort races by ratings or reviews, providing insights from fellow runners. 

Related Reading: Weird things to do in Mobile Alabama – Click Here To Learn More

Final Thoughts

Alabama is a runner’s playground, with everything from stunning trails to lively races that bring the community together. 

Running is definitely one of the more exciting things to do in the state

Why not jump into a local event and connect with other runners? 

Let’s keep moving and exploring together in the Heart of Dixie.After all, there’s no better souvenir than the sense of accomplishment of finishing a trail or race!

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