By: Russell Helms
Reviewed by: Britt Blake
Menasha Ridge Press, 2008
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, Birmingham provides sixty hike descriptions close enough to Birmingham that the drive and hike can be completed in one day. Each hike includes driving directions, an elevation profile, basic trail map, and hike description. Helms offers thorough descriptions that make each hike easy to locate, and the reader is informed on what to expect along the walk. The author provides lists of hikes by type (length, waterfalls, wildflowers, etc.) as well as discourse on safety, hydration, and trail etiquette.
60 Hikes offers trips of varied lengths and terrain; most are suitable for beginners. The well-written preface and narratives for the Ruffner Mountain hikes and the “Civil Rights Trail” provide geological and historical perspectives of the Birmingham area. Readers will find appendices that list area hiking clubs as well as places to buy maps and hiking gear.
The descriptions in the 2008 edition are reprints from the 2003 edition with the addition of trailhead GPS coordinates and some edits. In the second edition, “Boulder Canyon Loop” replaces “Big Mountain Loop,” and “Spain Park/Veterans Park” replaces “Sumatanga Mountain Loop.”
Most trails have changed little in five years, but some wilderness hikes would benefit from more thorough updates. For example, the description in “Pinhoti Trail: Adams Gap to Disaster” is inaccurate. Distance is longer than indicated, and information beyond the wooden sign at mile three is incorrect. At this sign, the Pinhoti turns sharply right onto an old woods road, then soon turns left off the road at a small directional sign placed about ten feet off the trail. Helms states the trail ends among downed pines, but this is not the case.
The map in “Nubbin Creek Loop” is badly flawed. Hikers should seek other maps. Also, the elevation profile in “Oak Mountain Loop” is inaccurate and should be disregarded.
Readers may discover discrepancies, but 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, Birmingham is generally accurate and a good beginner’s resource, particularly when supplemented with more detailed maps for the nature hikes. The book’s layout is easy to use, and the reader is certain to learn more about the Birmingham area while exercising in a variety of settings.
Britt Blake is an experienced hiker from Birmingham.