Vandiver, Alabama is a pup paradise about 25 miles east of Birmingham. Not far from the I-20 Atlanta-to-Birmingham main corridor, the community is unincorporated but poised to grow as the Birmingham metropolitan area expands. For now, though, your pups can enjoy room to run in this friendly community surrounded by farmland and the deep Alabama woods. Vandiver Park has a paved walking trail and picnic area for an easy frolic. There are veterinarians in several nearby towns: two within a 15-minute drive, five more within 20 minutes, plus specialty care and 24-hour emergency care in Birmingham.
Metro Birmingham has epic dog parks. The fanciest option is 25 miles from Vandiver: The Beneful Dream Dog Park at Veterans Park in Alabaster, which cost $500,000 to design and build in 2012. It features tunnels, splash pads, and a walking course. Another pawssibility is Remy’s Dog Park at Red Mountain Park, located south of downtown near the Homewood. The park has 6 acres of off-leash play space, including separate areas for pets with special needs.
If your pack prefers adventures on the wild side, Vandiver has plenty of wilderness to explore. Oak Mountain State Park is a mere 25 miles away, well worth it for the 5 well-marked hiking trails. Ranging from the 0.3-mile Nature Trail to the more ambitious 8-mile Yellow Trail, several of the trails lead to the scenic Peavine Falls (although you can also park near the falls and hike just the last part if your pups are of the short-legged variety). Camping is pet-friendly at Oak Mountain if you want to extend your stay — including in the comfy cabins.
If your pups need pampering, there’s plenty to explore at the Outlet Shops of Grand River in Leeds, just 13 miles from Vandiver. This open-air outlet mall allows dogs to window-shop, but the real action is next door at the Coyote Drive-In Movie Theater and Cantina. Does Spot like superhero movies? More of a romance guy? Either way, he’ll enjoy a dinner date with you at this dog-friendly outdoor theater and would probably be happy to share some snacks from the concession stand. If doggy date night calls for a sit-down dinner, you’ll both love the pet-friendly outdoor seating and the meat-loving menu of Rusty’s Bar-B-Q in downtown Leeds.
Tucked between Indian Springs Village and Oak Mountain State Park, Heardmont Park is a lovely spot for an on-leash stretch. The 74-acre park about 21 miles from Vandiver has sports fields, a walking trail, and human restrooms (bring your own doggie waste bags) where pups are welcome to work out with you. Nearby sports bar Jefferson’s Restaurant is an easy stop for lunch, with burgers and wings available at their dog-friendly outdoor tables. The heavy hiking at Oak Mountain is nearby, but for walking off a full stomach, try the more domesticated lakeside walking trail at Veterans Park, 3.5 miles north and on your way home.
Less than 23 miles from Vandiver, the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve in the South Eastlake neighborhood of Birmingham was surely designed with dogs in mind. Ruff-ner? It’s obvious. As a matter of fact, the nonprofit organization that protects this wilderness area was initially formed as a coalition between members of the Birmingham Humane Society and members of the Vulcan Trail Association. The result is a network of 14 miles of walking and hiking trails to welcome you and your on-leash friends, including several scenic overlooks. Make sure everyone sticks to the marked trails, though: Ruffner Mountain is spotted with abandoned historic mines, so venturing too far off the path could lead to a scary tumble. Also, remember the waste bags and help preserve the area's beauty.
The Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook, about 24 miles from Vandiver, is home to Jemison Park’s 54-acre greenway. The Jemison Park Nature Trail is an easy 3-mile loop, comfortable for legs of all lengths, and the trail connects to the city’s sidewalk system for seamless exploration around Mountain Brook. On the northeast edge of town is the Irondale Furnace on Stone River Road. The quiet walking trail leads to some Civil War-era ruins; the site was the location of a major producer of pig iron for the rifles and canons for the Confederacy. The trail to the ruins is 1.34 miles each way, with convenient dog waste stations along the way.
The nearby Birmingham suburb of Hoover, a little over half an hour from Vandiver, might have everything your doggo needs. The Hoover Dog Park offers off-leash play areas, a track, an agility obstacle course, a picnic pavilion, and a large field for Frisbee or fetch. Or, do some (careful) climbing on the boulders and trails of the 350-acre Moss Rock Preserve. If your pups still have energy, Hoover’s Inverness Nature Park and Trails has almost 2 additional miles of on-leash trail to roam. For a true VIP — Very Important Pup — experience, become a member at Hoover’s Aldridge Botanical Gardens: members-only dogs are allowed to walk the landscaped garden on weekday evenings.