Editor's note: This post is part of the Eighth Day Escape adventure series and contest by Parks Explorer. Throughout this year, Parks Explorer will share trip ideas, staff stories, activity suggestions, and much more from each Alabama State Park. These monthly posts will be personal accounts of traveling Park Naturalist Emily Vanderford, where she details her park adventures and experiences in the unique natural areas across the state. While reading about park adventures is not nearly as meaningful as experiencing them first-hand, Parks Explorer wants you to know just how many opportunities there are for you to enjoy Alabama the beautiful.

The Eighth Day Escape Contest began January 8, 2016 and will conclude January 8, 2017. Monthly winners will be randomly selected each month and the grand prize winner will be drawn January 8, 2017. Click here for contest entry forms and more information. Be sure to enjoy previous monthly adventures also: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMay (Part I),May (Part II)JuneJulyAugust (Part I)August (Part II)SeptemberOctoberNovember (Part I), November (Part II)


Escape to Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Alabama

If you’ve never been to Monte Sano State Park for a visit, please plan one in the coming year. I was fortunate to visit Monte Sano several times this year for various programs, and it seems like I learned something new about the park every time I visited. For the final installment of the Eighth Day Escape Series, I will share a few photos and experiences from throughout the year during my trips to Monte Sano Mountain.

    

I spent time in the park during the early part of spring just as the winter grays were turning to green. A couple of my visits were after significant rain events so water was flowing in some of the park’s waterfalls along the trails. Ephemeral pools were full of water, and frogs and salamanders were beginning to lay their eggs. A little later in the spring, I enjoyed the park’s great wildflowers. The trails really come to life throughout spring and summer when the vibrant colors of wildflowers stand out amongst the rock fissures throughout the park. If you are looking for a trail to see some of these one-of-a-kind rock formations, check out the Stone Cuts Trail which can be accessed from the Sinks Trail.   

Monte Sano State Park – Hiking Trails

One of my favorite things about Monte Sano is the birding opportunities, especially during spring and fall migration. Hardwood forests cover the karst slopes within the park, providing summer habitat to an array of migratory birds like Scarlet Tanagers and Kentucky Warblers. The overlooks at the park are great places for watching resident raptors throughout the year. Late April and early May are prime times to see both migrants and summer residents like warblers and vireos plus tanagers, thrushes, and more.

A year-round treat at Monte Sano is staying in one of the CCC-built cabins in the park. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a work program created by Roosevelt's New Deal in response to the Great Depression. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service administered this program, and its public work projects included lakes and dams, trails, roads and bridges, cabins, pavilions and shelters, as well as water and sewer systems. Native stone and timber were utilized in many of these early construction projects, and can still be observed in several Alabama State Parks. At Monte Sano, visitors can experience CCC history throughout the park in the cabins, lodge, rockwork, CCC museum, memorial and more.

  

In addition to experiencing the CCC handiwork in the cabins, I also enjoyed a program in the Monte Sano Event Lodge. A group of folks gathered for a Learning Quest class, and enjoyed a guided hike  afterwards. The view from the Lodge patio is stunning, and is a great place to begin a group hike. If you have an event coming up, the Lodge may be the perfect place for you and your guests.

Monte Sano is truly a gem in the Alabama State Park system, and I’m thankful for the time I spent enjoying the views of Monte Sano Mountain this year.


Suggestions for your next trip to Monte Sano State Park:

  • Enjoy a weekend camping and hiking in the park
  • Stay in a CCC-built cabin and enjoy mountain biking the Monte Sano and North Alabama Land Trust trail systems
  • Play a round of disc golf on the Monte Sano course

Go Explore!

Thursday, December 8, 2016