Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge - Established September 25, 2002 for the purpose of protecting and managing a unique section of the Cahaba River and land adjacent to it. Cahaba River NWR is home to five federally listed species including the Cahaba shiner, goldline darter, round rocksnail and cylindrical lioplax snail. Currently, the refuge is 2,997 acres, but planned acquisition efforts will bring the refuge up to 3,800 acres. (256-848-7085 or the Cahaba River Society at 205-322-5326)
The Cahaba River itself stretches for almost 200 miles and is Alabama's longest free-flowing stream. The river currently supports 64 rare and imperiled plant and animal species, 13 of which are found nowhere else in the world. The river has more fish species at 131 than any other river its size in North America. Three and a half miles of the Cahaba lie within the approved acquisition boundary. The rolling uplands surrounding the river are forested with mountain longleaf and loblolly pines and mixed upland hardwood species line ravines and the river's edge.
Ruffner Mountain Preserve - A 1,000-acre nature preserve, Ruffner Mountain Preserve is just five miles from the city center. In this urban forest, 10 miles of hiking trails traverse the ridgetop and valleys; one trail ends at a spectacular overlook with a view of the city. The forest provides a home for native plants and animals and a small nature center houses educational exhibits. A covered picnic pavilion is available. (205-833-8264)
Oak Mountain State Park - At Alabama's largest state park, visitors enjoy all the outdoor pleasures of a great public facility including some of the finest mountain biking trails in the country. The park offers vacation cottages, golf, improved camping, picnicking, tennis, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, backpacking, a demonstration farm and horseback riding facilities. The park is also home to the Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. (205-663-7930)
Rickwood Caverns - In western Blount County, these caverns contain some of the most massive and fascinating underground formations in the state. During the summer, visit the swimming pool or miniature train. Year-round camping and hiking are also available. (370 Rickwood Park Road, Warrior, 205-647-9692)
Moss Rock Preserve - A beautiful 250-acre nature preserve with trees, plants, rock outcroppings, streams, waterfalls, wildlife and other unique natural features. The preserve also features nearly 10 miles of hiking footpaths. (205-739-7141)