If you need to get off of the hills or run a great speed workout, the Northport Levy might be an option. The Levy is a 2 mile stretch of paved path which is only broken up by one crossing of Rice Mine Road after the 1 ½ mile mark. The course is marked off every quarter mile (thanks Richard Carrol!) and is ideal for a speed workout away from the track. Please be aware there is NO shade on the course so be careful running on the Levy during the Summer months.
In addition to the out and back total of 4 miles, you can continue past the parking lot to the Black Warrior locks which adds on another couple of miles of very flat terrain.
To get there – head toward Sokol Park on 5th Street, pass the cemetery and turn left onto 30th Ave at the convenience store. The Levy parking lot is on your left after about ½ mile.
Tuscaloosa’s Riverwalk has been a huge asset to the running community. The Riverwalk consists of about 4 miles of paved pathway starting at River Road Park and headed toward downtown, you will cross wooden bridges and the path is even lit for night time running.
The pathway passes the BAMA Belle (watch out for the short, steep hill) and the Amphitheater. You can turn around there or cross beside the Tuscaloosa News building and head up the hill turn right at the top and end behind Capitol Park school. This route is very scenic but please watch out for walkers and bikers.
Sokol Park has long served as one of the cornerstone venues of the running community in Tuscaloosa. With miles of well cared for trails and grass fields, Sokol Park lets normally road-bound runners get back to a more natural surrounding to re-charge their batteries and save some pounding on road-weary legs.
There is a basic trail that starts at the parking lot with the old barn near the soccer fields which is about 4 miles(no two GPS measurements have ever been the same). There are loops off of the main trail which can be added to make a much longer run and of course loops can be taken off of the main trail to make it shorter than 4.
The best way to discover the Sokol Park trails is to join the group run on Wednesdays at 5:30pm sponsored by The Athlete’s Foot. The group runs the main trail – some fast, some slow and we all meet up after to share war stories. There usually is enough variety in ability of the group that you should be able to find someone to run your pace and show you the basics of the trails.
Talledega National Forest
If you have a bit of time and need to get back to nature try heading down to the Talledega National forest near Duncanville. Head down 82 until you pass the Duncanville post office on your left and you’ll take the next right (before the convenience store). Don’t make any more turns! The paved road turns into a dirt road and you will go about 5 miles until you come to a bridge before the road makes a Y.
Starting at the bridge there is a very nice out and back 10 mile course that the BAMA cross country teams use. The miles are marked with paint on trees off to your right going out and coming back. These are very nice dirt roads (not trails) and are rolling with some tough hills mixed in. The course is ideal for doing long runs during marathon training – very easy on your legs and you can keep fluids at the bridge. You can do the 10, get fluids and then go out and back again according to how far your planned run will be (ex. Out and back again to the 3 mile mark gives you a 16 mile run total).
Just please be aware of the wild pigs and banjo music!
UA campus routes
The beautiful UA campus offers a myriad of running routes. Most of the campus has a ribbon of grass between the sidewalk and the road and runners may also run in the bike lanes (just watch out for the buses). Most of campus is pretty flat except for the hill leading up to the Rec Center.
The main route that has served as a Tuscaloosa Track Club race route over the years starts and ends at the lower parking lot of the Rec Center heads down campus turns left in front of Ferguson, skirts the perimeter of the Quad, left onto the sidewalk in front of University Drive to the top of the hill in front of the University Health center, left and continue to the bottom of the hill past the Rec Center pool another left which puts you at the parking lot where you started. This course was a certified 5K at one time but with all the construction let’s call it 5k-ish.
Options from this main course to make it longer would be to take a right on Hackberry to include a Riverwalk section. You can also turn right on University past the Quad to include a strip/downtown loop.
VA/UA cross country course/Arboretum
One of the hidden gems for runners is just off of where 15th and loop road come together near the VA hospital complex.
- The VA has a paved two mile loop around the perimeter of the grounds which is marked off in quarters with large white bands across the path. Perfect for speed work and just a bit of traffic in certain spots. Some tough (but short) hills are on the pathway. Start and end is near the main entrance of the VA and white arrows point you the rest of the way.
- The UA cross country course. Park in the lot just before the dirt road starts on the way to the arboretum. Either run the grass fairways which are usually well maintained for time or a recently marked 1.55 loop which mostly follows the cart paths with about a half mile of grass. The marked 1.55 loop starts near the building which used to be the pro shop - follow the yellow arrows and stay on the main paths.
- The Arboretum. There is a great dirt road which is about a mile long from one end of the Arboretum complex to the other. Many short trails criss-cross the grounds but lots of rocks and roots. Bathroom facilities and water available at the green-house.
Hurricane Creek Trails
This new addition is going to be very popular with runners and bikers in the coming years. The trail head is off of Old Alabama (map).
There is a spur from the trailhead about a mile long and then there is a 1.3 and 1.5 mile loop which are very runable and just technical enough to hold your interest. Absolutely wonderful trails!!!