Cool time to hit the hills

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Oak Mountain State Park may appear less thrilling to visit during the winter season than summer, but many hikers and nature lovers find just the opposite true.

During the winter months at the park, animals like snakes and insects that pose a real nuisance during the summer months are absent. Plus, Alabama winters are warm enough to enjoy the outdoors during the colder months, and nature enthusiasts don&8217;t have to worry about overheating or crowds.

The park offers a wide variety of trails for all levels of experience, from the South Trailhead beginners mountain biking and family-hiking trail, to the experts only Double Oak Trail, which is 17 miles long.

Vicky Nelson, a ranger and the park&8217;s superintendent also recommended the Wildlife Center Trail for families. &8220;There are birdhouses and owls in big cages on the way up to the wildlife center that won&8217;t be able to be let go in the wild again for various reasons. Families take the trail to the center and then can go though their exhibits.&8221;

She also said that winter was the best time to hike the Pea Vine trail leading to Pea Vine Falls. Recent rainfall activity has made the falls full of rushing water, while drier summer months often dry up the waterfall.

A group with Southeastern Outings and Vulcan Trail Association took advantage of the mild winter at Oak Mountain State Park on Sunday with a five and half mile hike.

The hikers divided into two groups that went to areas of the park with different degrees of difficulty and terrain.

Acyenith Alexander, organizer of the event, said Oak Mountain State Park was a popular destination for the group since members began hiking, biking, and participating in other outdoors activities four years ago.

Trail information

-Wildlife Center Trail – .3 miles, leads to Alabama Wildlife Center, family friendly

-South Rim Trail – 6.7 miles point-to-point, 3-4 hours, difficult then more level the rest of way

-Shackleford Point Trail – 6.3 miles point-to-point, 3-4 hours, easy with moderate climbs up a rocky slope

-Foothills Trail – 8.2 miles point-to-point, about 5-6 hours, moderate to difficult then easy to moderate for last half

-Peavine Falls Trail – 4.6 miles out-and-back, 3-4 hours, moderate to difficult due to steep grades

-Double Oak Trail – 17 miles loop, mountain biking trail,moderate to difficul