Huntsville is a fantastic city with the best of both worlds: a bustling urban atmosphere and beautiful outdoor locations to explore nature. Our North Alabama Ambassador Robert Posey takes us on a journey of the best places to escape in nature in Huntsville.
I uttered to a friend last week while sitting in the crowd at a PACKED Jazz in the Park, "I love this city!" I love Huntsville because I was born and raised in "small town Alabama" but have the heart of a city mouse. I enjoy wandering through the downtown area with my camera and no plans. There's nothing like it for me, but I also love to hike. I love to check myself for ticks, chase snakes, and try to recognize bird and bug sounds.
Huntsville is not at odds with these weird "I come from the sticks" type desires. If you're looking for places you can wander through the woods and never be quite too far from fine dining and busy city streets, then Huntsville is the perfect town.
My personal favorite Huntsville get away is Blevins Gap. Blevins Gap Nature Preserve features more than 12 miles of hiking trails. You are completely disconnected from the city but never too far from a beautiful view of it. In fact, the views of Huntsville from the Certain Trail are hands down my favorite views of the city. If you're interested in going the information right now can be a little confusing because of the Cecil Ashburn closure. My advice is take the Sugar Tree Trailhead off of Sugar Tree Place SE. This is a little bit longer hike but well worth it when you arrive at the stunning views on the connecting Certain Trail. When you get to the power lines on the Certain Trail be sure to check out both sides. One side features a fantastic view of Hampton Cove and walking parallel with the power lines will lead you to an equally stunning view of the Bailey Cove/Jones Valley area. I have seen a lot of wildlife here but I think they are a little more skittish. I've only seen deer here a few times and it was when I was walking the trails quietly looking for them.
If I'm looking for less of a hike and more of a relaxing day sitting in my hammock then I go to Hays Nature Preserve. This place has started seeing a little more traffic recently but it's in my opinion one of the most underrated spots in the area. It's a hit with local photographers because of its beautiful scenery with incredibly easy access. You will see some of us doing photo sessions while you're there, I assure you. Hays has everything. There is a small lake for fishing, flat hiking trails that are great for beginners, a fantastic playground, and I even hear it's a local Pokémon Go hotspot. I suggest taking a hike to the tupelo trees! If you want wildlife, I'm always shocked at the amount I see here. There's quite a river/creek ecosystem at this preserve despite it's location. The Flint Creek runs directly through the preserve and is home to a TON of beavers. I have also met a lot of birdwatchers there and had an amazing encounter with an owl that was flying around in the area near the tupelo trees.
While there are several other places for a good outdoor adventure in Huntsville the last I feel the need to mention is Goldsmith Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary almost directly across from Hays. I know. I get it…why not talk about Monte Sano? Well, to be honest because you knew enough to wonder why I don't mention it. Monte Sano is GREAT! I spend a lot of free time there but you already know about that place, and if you don't do you even Huntsville? Goldsmith Schiffman is a lesser known spot and I always have a blast when we visit. First of all, the birds, butterflies, and dragonflies alone are enough of a reason to visit! I would suggest going a little further though. Follow the trail through the field to a very secluded segment of the Flint river. This area is one of my favorite land accessible areas of the Flint river. Seeing the Flint from this spot was the first time I started to fully appreciate its beauty and made me want to explore all of it with a kayak. So there you have it…my favorite places near Huntsville to chance an encounter with lyme disease! Go out this fall and watch the leaves change from among the leaves. The temperatures are about to be perfect. I can't tell you enough how great it feels to lay back in a hammock and soak in the sound of nature, so overwhelming that it becomes a calming hum.