After volunteering in Guntersville, we got a recommendation from the outfitter there to camp at a state park on a hill overlooking Huntsville, Monte Sano. Monte Sano State Park offers a full range of accomodations from a lodge to a primitive camping area. We ended up staying two nights in a primitive site and riding for two days.
Jay and I do not usually ride bikes together. Jay is an expert mountain biker who loves to ride steep technical trail with challenges such as “log skinnies” and “drop offs”. I am a novice rider that prefers to ride smooth trails, described as being “flowing” or as having great visibility. Luckily, Monte Sano had trails to meet both our needs, so this post is going to be co-wrote and can hopefully inform novice and expert bikers alike.
For the Novice
I loved the Bucca Family Loop trail. LOVED it. After struggling on more technical trails and feeling like I was spending all of my time just getting on and off the bike, I was so excited for a trail that allowed me to pick up some speed, get off the brakes and practice my form while enjoying some awesome scenery. The trail starts at the main trail parking lot, just a stones throw away from the camp store. You get on the South Plateau Loop trail following signs for the Family Bucca Trail. This little stretch is actually the most rooted of the entire route, so if you don’t like riding on roots, don’t be deterred. After you pass the turn off for the Bog Trail, the trail narrows and winds through dense undergrowth. There are lots of turns, but they are well laid out and you can move through quickly since there aren’t any technical obstacles to navigate. This section is also where I spooked a deer and saw him running off into the brush.
The next section is actually a loop, so you have a choice to continue straight, or to go up to the right and run the loop counter clockwise. This is an easy way to add on more miles, by running the loop in both directions. The loop portion takes you out to O’Shaughnessy Point, a beautiful rocky overlook, which is also a major trail intersection. I ran into Jay here and we took a break on the rocks, which provide a great place for a picnic. When I rode the trail the 2nd time, it only took me 30 minutes to ride from the trailhead to the point, and even less on the way back. Once you are bored with the Family Loop you can step up to the North Plateau Loop. I rode about 1/3 of the North Plateau and it was enough to get my heart pumping and my legs shaking.
For the Advanced Rider
In my opinion none of the double black diamond rated trails are actually double black diamonds but they are challenging enough that I could not climb some of them with out putting a foot down and even walking some sections. I rode most of the trails in the park and enjoyed them a lot. Of the trails I rode, Sinks has the fastest downhill section in the park. It also has enough unexpected turns that it really does not let you relax even for a minute. Other particularly note worthy trails are Keiths, and the Goat trail. The stone cuts are a unique feature that makes the very tough rooted climb worth it. I highly recommend parking your bike and walking the hiking only section of stone cuts in addition to riding the mountain bike bypass. It is a very narrow passage through a cool rock formation.
I have to say that I also enjoyed the Family trail. It’s on a relatively flat plateau, but it does roll up and down and twist and turn a lot. Enough that it’s really fun while carrying a lot of speed. It also has good visibility so you can see other trail users coming a long way out, meaning you do not have to hold back. Don’t let the really tame name convince you to skip this fast buff single track.