Students explore Tuscaloosa hiking trailsBy Bailey Shoenberger | 10/10/2015 8:27pm
There are many hiking trails around Tuscaloosa for students to explore. CW | Jonathan Daniels
With the weather cooling down and the seasons changing, now is the time to enjoy all of the nature that Alabama has to offer. For students who enjoy getting off the beaten path, Tuscaloosa is driving distance from several great hiking trails and outdoor adventure opportunities.
“I’m from Texas, where it is very flat around. I came here, and there are so many elevation changes. There are trees everywhere and everything is really green. It’s just really pretty,” Lauren Gilmer, a senior majoring in Psychology, said.
Gilmer works at the Outdoor Recreation Center and leads many of the University of Alabama sponsored backpacking and hiking trips. The Outdoor Rec service aims give students who may not be familiar with going out into nature on their own an introduction to nature.
“I like being active and its hard to do that just going to the gym, it gets kind of boring, but going out side is relaxing while still getting to do something,” said Virginia Skipper.
Going out to one of the nearby trails, such as Lake Nicol or even the Tuscaloosa River Walk can be a fun way to get moving outdoors. For a more adventurous day hike, Gilmer suggests the Walls of Jericho, a six mile trail in northern Alabama.
“When you get down to the bottom it’s really cool because you see this amazing waterfall, and then you climb up the back and you see the walls. When there is a lot of water coming down especially it is very majestic,” Gilmer said.
Many students find that being outdoors is a great way to relieve stress and get away from the pressure of student life. Studies have shown that even just looking at photographs of nature can give a cognitive boost.
“The coolest thing is that when you are thrown so many different curveballs in life, that your life may never really be stable, but the earth is. You can be yourself and really live a little instead of just being alive,” Megan Birkes, a junior majoring in Restaurant Hospitality and Management, said.
Tuscaloosa has may hikes as well. Lake Lurleen State Park is located just thirteen miles off of the University of Alabama campus and has just under 26 miles of trails. Other local favorites include Rocky Branch Park and Hurricane Creek, both of which are under 20 miles from campus.
“My favorite color is green, so every tree and every bush has a different shade. Being inside all the time is very confining so I like to go outside, seeing different wildlife, and the smell of the great outdoors is all a much needed release,” Skipper said.
Some tips include checking a map before starting a trail and checking sunrise/sunset times so that hikers never get caught in the dark. However, both Gilmer and Birkes suggest that students new to hiking should just have fun with it.
“One time I dressed up like Indiana Jones and just started hopping around the forest. We swung on branches like we were little kids,” Birkes said.
An extensive list of trails in Tuscaloosa can be found at http://urec.sa.ua.edu/alabeta_maps.cfm.