Located on the slopes of Red Mountain within sight of downtown, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is a thousand-acre gateway to Birmingham’s nature and its very existence. In the city’s early days, this area was one of the most important sources of raw materials – iron ore and limestone, two of the ingredients needed to make iron – that led to the city’s rapid growth. Today, the mountain is honeycombed with abandoned mines, old rail beds, and the foundations of mining buildings, giving the visitor a chance to explore the city’s wild and industrial history at the same time.
Although mining left the mountain barren, the forests have grown back and are teeming with native plants and animals. The first land was set aside in 1977 and there are now more than 1,000 acres of wild land, many miles of trails, several ecological communities and a recently opened visitor center.
1214 81st Street South
Birmingham, AL 35206
• What To Do •
Start at the recently-opened Tree Top Visitor Center and Mountainside Pavilion to visit the educational displays of living animals and native plants and get eye-level views of the forest canopy. The building meets the highest requirements for sustainable design and shows how modern buildings can fit gracefully into the natural environment. Visit nearby Brown Springs EcoScape.
From the center, a dozen different well-marked trails offer the chance to explore mining ruins and natural forests, man-made wetlands and a quarry.
• Seasonal Highlights •
Any time is a good time to visit Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. In spring, native wildflowers and migratory birds are abundant; the Trillium Trail is dotted with the elegant flowers. Wildflowers continue in the summer, and fall brings colorful foliage. Birding is best in spring and fall, but good all year round. Winter is a great time to see the views of Birmingham past leafless trees. Check the preserve's events calendar for educational programs and guided hikes.