Resources For (New? All?) Trail Runners in Huntsville
My friends and I have been leading a “No Runner Left Behind” trail group since last Spring and I’ve realized that there are a lot of resources I have/use that others could make use of. We’ve also learned that there’s a learning curve when it comes to language and reference points, so I thought: Why not try to combine all of this information into one spot? This is my attempt to do that. If you are a local trail runner and can think of anything else for me to add, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I am starting this today but I’m certain I’ll be adding more and more as my friends share information they find useful. Also, the majority of this relates to local training groups and local races. If you are just wanting to run on your own around this area? The majority of this is unnecessary. But if you’re hoping to becoming part of the (AMAZING) community that meets regularly and you’d like to run some local trail races? This may make it a tiny bit easier.
Disclaimer: I am an expert in nothing. Except maybe eating donuts. I have just been running with new trail runners for long enough that I’ve started noticing I say a lot of the same things over and over again. There are a million trails in this town my feet haven’t even touched. This is basically: “Things Kim Talks About A Lot On Her Sunday No Runner Left Behind Trail Runs.” I’m not trying to proclaim to be an expert in anything but trying to force everyone to love trail running as much as I do.
Now! Without further ado!
Basically, the main trails that local running groups most often use center around Monte Sano Mountain. Most groups separate them into “Monte Sano trails” and the “Land Trust trails”. In reality, some are within both boundaries but it’s a quick/dirty way to break it up. When group meet at the “Hiker’s Lot” inside the state park, they’re mostly focusing on the Monte Sano trails. The “Hiker’s Lot” can be found by entering the state park on Nolen (before the park opens there’s an honor box to put admission), passing the playground and the lodge, and staying to the right at the fork. The parking lot is the gravel lot right at the fork.
(You can run all of the same trails from that lot as from a parking area at a hairpin of Fearn Drive and avoid entrance fees. However, that parking area is small so large groups don’t meet there.)
If they’re meeting at the “Burritt Lot” or “Trough Springs Trailhead” (I’ve heard it called both) they’re using both Monte Sano and Land Trust trails. This parking lot is on Monte Sano Blvd. If you’re coming from Govenor’s Drive it’s on the right, shortly after the entrance to the Burritt museum.
There are also groups that meet at the “Land Trust Lot” and obviously those are using the Land Trust trails. That parking lot is found on your right coming up Bankhead Parkway. It’s probably the one most used by hikers as it’s a quick/easy way to get to some popular spots like 3 Caves.
I have 3 high res digital maps I pull up on a regular basis. Download all 3 high-res copies here. I’m hoping that serving this up from my blog hosting won’t cause me a problem, but until it does, there they are. I’ll be using the “web friendly” ones below, but download the zipped file of the high res ones if you want to use them for yourself.
Full Briartech Map
This is not very fancy and therefore is easy for me to crop and print up to carry with me on runs. However, it is missing a few trails so it’s not ideal for a real new runner. If you like to print up maps though, and don’t like to use a lot of ink, I suggest you start with this one. This one does mark some interesting points like “Pulpit Rock” on Alms House and “CCC Pipeline” that is lined with stairs between Goat and Mountain Mist. So, if you like detours to explore, this is a good map, just be aware there are trails missing.
Full Monte Sano Map
This one is not as high res as the next one, so if you want to look at the Land Trust trails, don’t use this one. But this is a good overview, especially for races like McKay Hollow Madness 12K/25K, Mountain Mist 50K and Grand Viduta Stage Race that use trails on both sides of Monte Sano Blvd.
Full MSSP and Land Trust Trails Map
This map is the best to use for the trails on the LTNA area as it’s the highest resolution and most detailed.
Must Have Ap
If you carry your phone (which I highly recommend) then you should buy this app. It’s called “Maplets” and it does cost money but it’s WELL WORTH the $2.99 if you’re going to be trail running. You download any maps of the area to your phone and they’re georeferenced so you can pull them up (even without service since you downloaded them) and it will show your location on the map. This app has saved me MANY times. However, I do still carry paper maps with me because they’re quicker in general.
Local Trail Running Lingo
Death Trail – I first heard of this “trail” when I was training for my first McKay Hollow and someone said, “You need to do Death Trail, at least once.” I went home and pulled up my trusty maps and found it NO WHERE. Well, it’s what locals call the stretch of the McKay Hollow Trail that leads UP to the playground area. If you’ve been up on Monte Sano at the overlook, Death Trail leads up to that point. It’s a hand-and-foot section of the trail and if you’re doing the McKay Hollow 25K, it takes you to the finish line. It’s tough but it’s fantastic.
Rest Shelter – This is the other end of the McKay Hollow Trail that starts on the White/South Plateau loop. There is a trail marker for McKay, but there is also a “Rest Shelter” sign at that point, hence the name. It’s a tough downhill for McKay Hollow 25K, but it’s a tougher uphill at Mountain Mist 50K. There are other “Rest Shelter” signs, so don’t start exploring if you don’t see a trail sign.
3 Benches – This one is at least on the map, but unless you know where to look you won’t be able to find it. This one gets referenced a lot because it’s at and near several intersections.
K2 – This one is still a little foreign to me as it’s not usable during hunting season which is when I run. If any local wants to download this graphic and tell me exactly where it is, that would be awesome. You go UP (I think?) during Mountain Mist 50K but down (I think?) during Viduta Stage race.
White Loop: Marked as the South Plateau loop on the maps, but has white blaze marks on the trees, hence the name.
Blue Loop: Marked as the North Plateau loop on the maps, but has blue blaze marks on the trees.
Note about North/South loop lingo. During Dizzy Fifties 50K training season, you’ll hear people refer to “North Dizzy Loops” and “South Dizzy Loops”. And while the South Dizzy Loop does use a lot of the South Plateau Loop, they are not the same thing. Same as the North loops. This confused a lot of people this year. Just know that in October and November “North Loop” and “South Loop” may have different meanings if you’re talking to trail runners.
I am publishing this now as is, but I full expect to be making notes and adding information forever as people correct me or inform me of other good resources.