Monte Sano offers a network of trails to make just about everyone happy. You'll find a web of over 60 miles of trails crisscrossing more than 3,700 acres of public property and some private property on the mountain. On the top of the mountain smooth and relatively flat trails await you, while the more adventurous can take the plunge off the plateau. There you'll find plenty of rocks to make you fully appreciate your suspension. Plus, there are short and medium length verticals that will either pump your legs, or numb your hands.
Monte Sano State Park contains the best variety of trails on the mountain. Families can ride down the gravel road to the old fire tower, or even continue on the flat double track of the South Plateau Loop to the overlook at O'Shaughnessy Point. For those that want fun, flat and flowing single track, the Bucca Family Bike Trail is the route to take. It meanders along the plateau out to O'Shaughnessy Point and back. Out towards O'Shaughnessy Point, you can even stop and visit the old fire tower. If the trail gets to be too much, there are a few bailout points on the gravel road allowing a quick escape to the gravel road and the easier portion of the South Plateau Loop.
To get a taste of what you'll experience off the plateau, take a quick lap around the North Plateau Loop/Fire Tower Trail loop. In 1.2 miles, rocks, roots, and short climbs expose you to what lies below. So if you can handle this you're ready for the plunge. However, like the Bucca Family Bike Trail, if it gets to be too much, you can easily take a quick detour to campground road. If you're ready for more intermediate fun, try the fast descent down the Sinks Trail from the biker's parking lot. Keep on the Sinks Trail after you get to its first intersection with the Mountain Mist Trail. It will work its way back around granting you exit on the easier half of the Mountain Mist Trail.
Now, if that doesn't satisfy your appetite, or you're just ready for more advanced and technical riding then read on. The southern half of the Mountain Mist Trail rolls along just under the cliff line of the plateau. Plenty of rock and technical features abound. Also try out the Goat Trail, which includes our best rock gardens, switchbacks, rock armoring, and wooden features. The Keith Trail and the Logan Point Trail together feature some of our better climbs and flowing technical aspects. Cold Springs, McKay Hollow, and Warpath Ridge, feature highly technical downhill sections, or ascents--depending on which way you go. Some parts are double black diamond and may involve hiking your bike.
For long sections of advanced riding, the Land Trust's side of the mountain has it. Try out the long climb/descent of the Fagan Spring/Wildflower to Toll Gate to Cold Springs Trail combo. You can work your way from the bottom all the way to the top of the mountain. It starts off as tight technical rocky single track then changes to rough old road bed (1800's toll road) and back again. If you can make the whole thing you are an animal. The Toll Gate-High Trail-Bluffline loop features everything from tough climbs to fast and technical contour single track to crazy downhill with plenty of drops.
Those who want epic rides won't be disappointed either. From the Land Trust Parking Lot and Trailhead on Bankhead Parkway, follow this route: Toll Gate Trail to High Trail to Bluffline Trail to the South Monte Sano Trailhead on Monte Sano Boulevard. From the South Monte Sano Trailhead, take the Arrowhead Trail to its final end at the Natural Well Trail (the Arrowhead and Natural Well trails intersect three times), and then take the Natural Well Trail to the McKay Hollow Trail, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's. Take a right on the McKay Hollow Trail and continue for about a mile along the natural bench in the mountain until the trail begins a 0.75-mile ascent up to the South Plateau Loop (there is some hike-a-bike on this section). Take a right on the South Plateau Loop to O'Shaughnessy Point and take the Mountain Mist Trail down to the Goat Trail. Then take the Goat Trail past the Warpath Ridge Connector and continue to the Flat Rock Connector Trail. Take the Flat Rock Connector to the Flat Rock Trail, and turn left on the Flat Rock Trail. Take the Flat Rock Trail all the way out to Flat Rock and continue on back to the Land Trust Parking Lot and Trailhead.
The suggested "Epic Route" provides 18 miles of advanced technical riding and is not suitable for beginners. You'll conquer at least three long climbs, and of course, descents to match, along with numerous rock gardens. When the Flat Rock Trail is wet and during hunting season, skip the Flat Rock Trail and incorporate any of the trails inside the State Park into your route; most of the Flat Rock Trail runs on private hunting land and is closed during hunting season. You can get as much as 50 miles of riding with minimal repeat of any trail, even during hunting season.
An exhaustive map of all of the trails on Monte Sano Mountain is available from the City of Huntsville website at http://www.huntsvilleal.gov/gis/gis_maps/pdfs/MonteSanoTrails.pdf. Note that this map does not indicate distances or difficulty levels of the trails. The Monte Sano State Park map indicates difficulty levels for all of the trails within its jurisdiction but it is slightly outdated as all of the trails are now open to biking. Hiking is also allowed on all of the trails on Monte Sano.
While riding be sure to look out for the 300 ft. Natural Well along the Natural Well Trail, the many sink holes, the above ground caves called the Stone Cuts, the overlooks of the valley below, and of course, the wild goats, deer, squirrels, and snakes that are often encountered on the trails. If riding on the Flat Rock Trail, be sure to check out the geological formation known as "Flat Rock".
Some of the trails have some historical significance. The McKay Hollow and Natural Well trails were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's, before Monte Sano State Park was first opened. Parts of the Sinks Trail, Mountain Mist Trail, and Logan Point Trail were originally part of an old wagon road that connected Huntsville with Ryland, Maysville, and Gurley before the advent of the automobile brought about the construction of the paved roads that are now used for that purpose.
Most of the Fire Tower Trail and South Plateau Loop were originally parts of a carriage road system that led to the homes of Robert Fearn and James O'Shaughnessy, who lived on top of the plateau during the 1800's. The ruins of these homes can be accessed from the Fire Tower Trail, where historic markers provide additional information about them. Ruins of the historic Monte Sano Railroad and the Hotel Monte Sano can also be seen at various locations on the mountain. A number of springs and spring house ruins also dot the sides of the mountain, and running waterfalls can be seen during the spring and fall at a number of locations. The Monte Sano State Park and Huntsville Land Trust websites (as well as rangers at the State Park campground office) can provide additional information regarding the rich history of the mountain, which dates back well before the American Civil War. Additional landmarks on Monte Sano include the Burritt Museum and Park near the South Monte Sano Trailhead on top of Round Top Mountain, which hosts a few short trails as well as the historic mansion built by local physician Dr. William Burritt early in the 1900's.
Those who prefer more modern history and thrills may want to take a trip into town to visit the US Space and Rocket Center.