Oak Mountain State Park, located just south of Birmingham in Pelham, is Alabama's largest state park; its 9,940 acres include heavily forested hills and bottomlands. The park's natural attractions include Maggie's Glen, a popular hiking destination along a small stream; Peavine Falls, a 65-foot cascade over a picturesque rock face deep in the park; and Shackleford Point, at 1,260 feet the highest point in the park. In 2009, the park had 370,000 visitors, annual operating expenses of $3.1 million, and a staff of 58 people.
The park was created as a result of the State Land Act of 1927, establishing a park of 940 acres. In the 1930s, the National Park Service acquired approximately 8,000 acres surrounding the park. From 1934 to 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed several roads in the park and constructed pavilions, cabins, and Lake Tranquility Dam. In 1943, the National Park Service deeded the land and facilities to Oak Mountain State Park.
Set amidst a rugged, wooded landscape, Oak Mountain offers visitors numerous facilities, including tennis courts, horseback trails with guided rides provided by a concessioner, a BMX bicycle motocross track, a petting farm, picnic areas, and two 85-acre lakes with many water-related activities. One of the park's major attractions is an 18-hole public championship course created by noted course designer Earl Stone. The course has been named as one of the top 75 public courses in the United States by Golf Digest and hosts qualifying rounds for the Alabama Open.
The Oak Mountain Interpretive Center teaches visitors about Alabama's wildlife, plants, geology, and natural history. Interactive exhibits provide opportunities to learn about the state's natural attractions, and visitors also can see live small animal exhibits and a butterfly garden. The center offers programs and hikes led by naturalists and is also home to the largest wildlife rehabilitation center in Alabama. This facility receives and cares for more than 2,500 injured and orphaned wild animals annually. Visitors may tour the center and view recovering animals, watch as wildlife rehabilitators work with the animals, and learn about Alabama's native wild birds, mammals, and reptiles. The Treetop Nature Trail, which is accessed from the center, is an elevated boardwalk that winds through the leafy tree canopy and offers close-up views of rehabilitated but unreleasable hawks and owls in natural habitat enclosures.
The park features more than 50 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy short routes to strenuous multi-mile treks that can may take two or more days. A 17-mile biking trail is available as well as a 10.7-mile horse trail. The bike trail is a loop that combines a dedicated single track and fire, forest, and paved roads. The trail is heavily used and was formerly the training grounds of the U.S. Olympic Mountain Biking Team.
The modern campground has 85 recreational vehicle sites with water, electricity, and sewer hook-ups and 60 tent sites bordering Beaver Lake. The campground is surrounded by hills and towering pine trees. Ten fully equipped cabins surrounding a secluded 28-acre lake are available for rent. The park offers backcountry camping for hikers and backpackers in designated sites.
Oak Mountain's two lakes offer visitors swimming, boating, and fishing opportunities. Double Oak Lake offers a marina with pedal boat and canoe rentals as well as a swimming beach with picnic tables, restrooms, and changing areas nearby. Both lakes are stocked with largemouth bass, bream, catfish, and crappie. Flat bottomed john-boats are available for rent, and private boats may be launched at either lake. Tranquility Lake has a fishing pier that juts into the lake and provides access for those who do not wish to use a boat.
Thomas V. Ress
Published June 16, 2010
Last updated June 5, 2012