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David Rainer: Join State Parks for Hike 24 in 24 Alabama

Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to join the naturalists and volunteers from the foothills of the Appalachians, along the Tennessee River Valley to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico for the “Hike 24 in 24 Alabama” initiative from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) State Parks Division.

The Alabama State Parks’ interpretive hike schedule (www.alapark.com/hike-24-24-alabama) includes hikes led by knowledgeable State Park staff and volunteers. Each hike varies in distance and difficulty with the goal of fun, engaging experiences for participants. Whether you are an individual, group, or family, State Parks’ Hike 24 in 24 Alabama offers the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Alabama’s natural resources with experienced guides leading the way.

The Hike 24 in 24 Alabama initiative offers guided hikes all over Alabama. Participants can join hikes from the Gulf Coast to the Appalachian foothills. The terrain varies widely on the Alabama State Parks trails. (Renee Raney Photo)

Renee Raney, Alabama State Park’s Chief of Interpretation and Education, said the idea for Hike 24 in 24 Alabama came from a program draft from Kathryn Gray, the Cheaha State Park Naturalist, for a variety of hikes at Cheaha. Raney realized that program could be expanded statewide.

“We have had the America’s State Parks First-Day Hikes initiative for multiple years,” Raney said. “But it’s hard to predict what the first day of January is going to be like. Our Park Interpretive Team decided we would try the Hike 24 in 24 Alabama, and it is statewide. All 21 parks are involved. We’re going to offer more than 300 hikes that our participants can choose from. A lot of the participants may hike more than 24 in 24. It’s going to be really easy for them to find a hike that fits their needs, level of endurance and the locations they want to explore all over the state.

“We have more than 250 miles of trails in the Alabama State Parks System. These trails are comfortable and accessible for people with diverse backgrounds and diverse abilities. We’ve been partnering with groups like Girls Who Hike Alabama and Women Who Hike to provide guided hikes for all people, whether they are comfortable hiking or whether it’s their first time to be on the trail.”

At Meaher State Park at the head of Mobile Bay, a guided hike will explore the numerous migratory bird species that travel through coastal Alabama. (Renee Raney Photo)

Raney fits in the category of experienced hiker with decades of hiking all over Alabama and the world. She has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and summitted Mt. Whitney (California), the highest point in the contiguous U.S. She has hiked the Wicklow Way in Ireland, the Verda La Mina in Puerto Rico, the Eiffel Lake Trail in Canada and portions of the Appalachian Trail.

“None of them can compare to the beauty and biodiversity of our Alabama State Parks trails,” she said. “If I had to choose trails to hike the rest of my life, and I could choose anything from across the planet, I would choose Alabama State Parks trails. You’ve got everything from the deepest canyon to the highest mountain to the most pristine Gulf to the most beautiful lakeside sunsets and sunrises.

“We have everything from birdwatching to fishing trails to trekking for trees. We’ve even developed a stuffed animal trail so we can connect those little ones in ways that make them feel safe and comfortable on the trails. They may not see a white-tailed deer or bald eagle, but if we have these stuffed animal replicas, we can stop and talk about the creature and its role in the ecosystem. They will be so excited to explore Alabama State Parks with their little hiking boots on.”

Several Alabama State Parks have numerous hikes scheduled into the summer.


  • Wildflowers Hike: Take a walk in the woods and learn to identify beautiful native flowers and why they’re so important to the ecosystem.
  • Sensory Hike: Use all your senses to observe nature and gain a better connection and understanding of our natural resources.
  • Trekking for Trees: Trees are a vital natural resource and essential to our ecosystems. Learn about the trees of northeast Alabama that provide food, shelter, lumber, air purification and much more.
  • Teddy Bear Hike:  Junior Rangers can bring their favorite stuffed animal friends from home to join them on the hike.
  • Friday Birdwatching Hike: See all the bird species that inhabit the highest point in Alabama.


  • DeSoto State Park is located in the far northeast corner of the state and offers visitors a glimpse of beautiful Appalachian terrain.
  • Early Spring Hike: Head along the West Fork of Little River to see what species of plants are starting to grow and bloom after a long winter season. Learn some natural history of the plants and some medicinal and historical uses as well.
  • Waterfall Hike: See DeSoto’s waterfalls – Lost Falls, Laurel Falls, Indian Falls, and more water features like Laurel Creek and the West Fork of Little River.
  • Sandstone Glade Hike: Learn about this unique environment and explore the glades in DeSoto State Park. Check out the beautiful plants and wondrous rock formations among the natural clearings dotting Lookout Mountain’s porous cap.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) History Hike: This hike explores several CCC “unfinished” bridges built in the late 1930s. Learn the history of why the CCC left them standing and see several original structures.


  • Birding Hike along Lake Shelby: This hike will offer the opportunity to see a variety of wading birds, hawks, osprey, eagles and other species along the park’s freshwater lake.
  • National Gopher Tortoise Day Hike: This guided hike begins at the Butterfly Garden and travels to Rosemary Dunes to see some Gopher Tortoise burrows and learn about the tortoise.
  • Highest Point in Gulf State Park Hike: Start at the Gulf Oak Ridge Trailhead for a guided hike to the highest point in Gulf State Park. Travel through a beautiful maritime forest, where the naturalist will point out some of the common plant, bird and animal species.
  • Rosemary Dunes Hike: Beginning at the Rosemary Dunes Trailhead, enjoy a guided hike to try to see Lefty, the female alligator. Hikers will learn about various plant species along the way. The hike ends with a brief presentation about alligators.


  • On the Tennessee River, Lake Guntersville State Park will have numerous hikes to watch the birds along the shoreline as well as the monthly Full Moon Hike with a guided stroll on the Benny BoBo Accessible Trail to the Golf Course with expansive views of the sky and the full moon.
  • History of the Cutchenmine Trail Hike: This trail has a history as strange as its name, and the park naturalist will discuss all about who built it, how it was done and the old coal road it follows.
  • Mommy & Me Hike: This guided hike for moms and youngsters is designed to celebrate the joys of motherhood and the wonders of nature.
  • Kings Chapel Cemetery History Hike: The park naturalist will lead the hike up to the cemetery and provide information about the land and the families who lived here before it became a state park in the 1940s.


  • Alabama’s largest state park, Oak Mountain offers a variety of guided hikes along the numerous trails in the 11,861-acre park.
  • World Health Day at Maggie’s Glen Hike: Meet at the North Trailhead to explore the natural wonders at Maggie’s Glen.
  • Critters of the Night Hike: Head out on this black-light hike to see the critters that call, crawl or creep along the trails at night.
  • King’s Chair Hike: Check out the beautiful King’s Chair Overlook on this guided hike. Be aware this is a rather challenging hike that will take two hours to complete.


  • Spring Wildlife Hike: This 4-mile round-trip guided hike includes information about the flora, fauna, lake and forests at Wind Creek.
  • Great Blue Trail Hiking Challenge: This trek is for experienced hikers, who will join the park naturalist for a 15-mile journey along the Blue Trail. Due to the overall distance and variable terrain, this hike is rated difficult.
  • Animal Sign Hike: Travel along the Speckled Snake Trail and look for signs of the species that make Wind Creek home.
  • Sunday Afternoon Stroll on Campfire Trail: This is a trip along Campfire Trail for those who want to experience nature in a leisurely fashion.
  • Tree Frog Trek: This evening hike is a class in tree frogs as the park naturalist leads the way around the Speckled Snake Trail to look and listen for tree frogs.


  • Joe Wheeler State Park on the Tennessee River will hold several Sunsets on the River Hikes to see the stunning sunset vistas as the sun goes down on the Tennessee River. Joe Wheeler has several Call of the Wild Sundays scheduled as well.
  • At Chewacla State Park, the Mountain Laurel Trail Hike heads down to Chewacla Falls and then follows Chewacla Lake and Moore’s Mill Creek upstream as hikers learn about the mountain laurel and other native plants.
  • At Meaher State Park at the head of Mobile Bay, a guided hike will explore the numerous migratory bird species that travel through coastal Alabama.

Raney said the Hike 24 in 24 Alabama initiative provides guided assistance for those who want to experience the natural world but may not be comfortable or willing to explore the trails on their own.

“I think there is this movement of wellness in nature that connects our State Parks to people in a new way,” she said. “I think we have a whole new audience who wants to be in wild places, who wants to be on the trails, but they just aren’t sure how. This Hike 24 in 24 Alabama initiative is going to give all of them the chance to fall in love with State Parks, like I have.

“That’s where I roamed when I was a child, and that’s where I’ll be until my boots won’t take me any farther.”

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