Trails: (unnamed)
Hike Location: Idle Hour Park and Natural Area
Geographic Location: north side of Phenix City, AL (32.49974, -85.00864)
Length: 1.8 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: December 2020
Overview: A pair of asphalt loops, one flat around Moon Lake and one rolling through woods.
Park Information:
Hike Route Map:
Summary Video:
Photo Highlight:Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of Phenix City, take US 80 to Riverchase Drive, the last exit west of the Chattahoochee River. Exit, drive south on Riverchase Dr. for 0.3 miles, then turn right on Airport Drive. The parking lot for Idle Hour Park is 0.4 miles ahead on the left.
The hike: Owned and maintained by Phenix City, Idle Hour Park occupies a shallow valley tucked between commercial and residential areas on the north side of the city. The park is centered around triangle-shaped Moon Lake, but it also features a community center, a soccer stadium, and a sports complex with numerous softball fields, baseball fields, and tennis courts. Some picnic areas and a playground round out the park's amenities. Like many city parks, Idle Hour Park has no extensive hiking opportunities, but it does offer two asphalt walking loops totaling 1.8 miles. The two loops offer very different journeys: the Moon Lake loop is a flat circumnavigation of its namesake lake, while the natural areas loop follows a rolling course through a woodland environment. Combining these two loops forms the hike described here.

Steps at start of Moon Lake loop

From the restroom building at the west end of the parking lot, walk down a set of concrete steps to reach a nice viewing area with benches beside Moon Lake. Nice views emerge up, down, and across the lake, and I was joined here by numerous types of ducks, Canada geese, cormorants, and turkey vultures. Moon Lake is an above average but easily accessible birding destination, so take a few minutes to see what you can see.

Canada geese

Moon Lake
More lakeside birds

Begin a counterclockwise journey around Moon Lake by heading west on the wide, flat asphalt path with the lake on your left. At the west end of the lake, the trail curves left as the community center comes into view to the west. Soon you pass a couple of memorials and picnic areas as you head down the south side of the lake.

Entrance to natural area

At 0.55 miles, you reach the signed entrance to the natural area. Turn right to leave the lake area and enter the natural area. The trail surface remains asphalt, but the asphalt in the natural area has been broken up by roots in numerous places. Thus, while the loop around Moon Lake is smooth and flat enough for a wheelchair or stroller, the loop through the natural area is too steep and rough.
Almost immediately the natural area trail splits to form its loop. For no particular reason, I turned left and used the trail going right as my return route, thus hiking the natural area loop clockwise. The trail descends gradually through pine forest that also features a few magnolia trees. Signs measure your progress on the natural area trail in quarter mile increments. Some planes from the Columbus, GA airport a few miles away fly low overhead, but overall the hiking is quite pleasant.

Hiking in the natural area

Just past 1 mile into the hike, you reach the lowest point on this hike where the trail curves right to begin heading up a ravine. Numerous benches provide opportunity to sit and rest if needed. At 1.25 miles, you need to turn right to head back to Idle Hour Park where the School Trail exits left and leads to Sherwood Elementary School in 600 feet.
Vehicle traffic on Idle Hour Road uphill to the left can be heard just before you close the natural area loop. Turn left to get back to the Moon Lake area, then turn right to continue your journey around Moon Lake. The trail crosses the dam that forms Moon Lake as another picnic shelter comes into view. The parking lot that contains your car sits beside this shelter, thus signaling the end of the hike.