Monte Sano State Park is very popular in the northern part of the state for two reasons; the beautiful nature located there, and the wildflowers.
When the leaves are changing in the fall and the spring, the park come alive with numerous wildflowers, and native azaleas are some of the most popular.
However, that is not all there is to see, as the park is also the home for several types of wildlife that include a small population of feral goats.
These beautiful goats are believed to have escaped for nearby local farms and have taken up residence in the park.
Monte Sano State Park got its name from the mountain it is located on, that overlooks the city of Huntsville, located in northeast Alabama.
The term “Monte Sano” is Spanish for “mountain of health’, and the entire local area was named for its abundant number of mineral springs, and well as it’s crystal-clear air.
The mountain itself peaks to 1,600 feet, and because of this, it provides numerous panoramic vistas of the city below it.
The Park has become so popular that it has been inducted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame, for winning its certificate of excellence five years in a row.
Monte Sano State Park and its 2,100 plus acres were purchased in the early 1930’s, and between 1935 and 1940 the Civilian Conservation Corps, also known as the CCC, built several structures.
These structures included 11 rustic cabins, an amphitheater, and a rustic lodge by using the natural stone found on the mountain, and the State Park officially opened on August 25th, 1938.
The lodge burned down in 1948 and was not rebuilt until 2002.
However, the history of Monte Sano State Park actually began a lot earlier, as people had been visiting this area since the early 19th century.
The reason for this was quite simple; to visit the historic mineral springs trying to improve their health.
In the early 1920’s, there was town named Viduta established on the mountain, however it no longer exists.
The famous Hotel Monte Sano opened in the year 1877, and for its time, was extremely glamourous.
It was a beautiful three-story Queen Anne style luxury health resort that featured 233 rooms and had a very unique way of getting visitors up to the hotel during the peak of its popularity.
These quests were transported by the Monte Sano Railway, which originated in Huntsville, and then climbed to the top of the mountain.
During its main popularity, it had several famous guests that included William H. Vanderbilt, Helen Keller, Walter Damrosch, and William Waldorf Astor.
However, financial problems as well as a lack of visitors, forced the hotel to close by the year 1900.
After a brief tenure as a private summer residence, it fell into disrepair and is no longer standing.
The current lodge at the park also has native stone walls and exposed-beam ceilings, as well as facilities for meetings and special events.
There are 14 stone-crafted cabins that feature fireplaces, screened porches, as well as all the modern amenities.
The campground in the park has 61 sites with water and electricity, 17 with sewer hookups, as well as 21 old fashioned camps sites.
The amphitheater has presentations by park rangers as well as local events that include concerts and plays.
There are three pavilions that overlook the valley and are available for the public to rent, as well as modern playground and a disc golf course.
The North Alabama Japanese Garden
First on the list of the most popular attractions at Monte Sano State Park is the famous North Alabama Japanese Garden.
This beautiful garden was started in 1988 by Mr. Robert Black, and it started out as just a hobby as well as something to do with his family.
It was in an area that was not well traveled by the pubic, and it was also not developed.
The Tea House for this garden was built in 1991, to add to the it’s character, and the first annual Japanese Spring Festival was held in the following year.
This beautiful Japanese Festival is full of Japanese Maples as well as native azaleas and is one of the most popular areas in the entire state to take pictures as well as bird watch.
The Spring and Autumn celebrations are on the first Sunday in May and October and include several cultural experiences.
The Spring Festival includes the tea ceremony, the Koto (Japanese Harp) dance, Taiko, (Japanese Drums), as well as Karate and Kendo.
The Autumn Celebration starts when the Japanese Maples start to change colors, the mums are in full bloom, and has the same cultural experiences as the Spring celebration.
Next on the list of the best attractions at Monte Sano State Park is the Planetarium, which is owned and operated by the Von Braun Astronomical Society on the park grounds and is open to the public every Saturday night.
If the weather permits, you and your family will have the opportunity to look at some of the wonders of the universe the telescopes offer, following the planetarium programs.
These programs are presented and projected onto the dome of the Planetarium, with three HD digital projectors.
Most all of the shows are suitable for all ages, but there are some topics that are a bit more technical.
Some of them include a program on black holes or the structure of stars and may be too difficult for the younger audience.
The VBAS, the von Braun Astronomical Society, is a non-profit organization made up of both amateur and professional astronomers.
In addition to operating the planetarium and observatories, they also conduct sidewalk astronomy events.
The Hiking Trails
The final of the most popular attractions at Monte Sano State Park, is the numerous hiking trails that can be found there.
The terrain in the park is surprising rugged given how close it is to the city of Huntsville, and because of this, its 20-mile network of hiking and mountain biking trails is very popular.
Here are some of the most popular trails.
South Plateau to Mountain Mist Loop
This trail is a 3.8-mile trail that has moderate traffic, and is located near Brownsboro, Alabama.
It offers the visitors beautiful wildflowers and is good for all skill levels, and dogs are allowed if on a leash.
North Plateau, Cold Springs, and Mountain Loop Trail
This trail, also located near Brownsboro, is a light traffic 4.4-mile trail and is rated moderate.
It features a lot of wildlife and is used for both hiking as well as nature trips and is accessible all year-round.
Stone Cuts Trail
This trail is a 2.4-mile loop trial that is that is heavily trafficked, rated moderate, and features several beautiful wildflowers.
It features a number of activities, and leashed dogs are also allowed.
Monte Sano Waterline Trail
This trail is also a heavily trafficked trail, is 1-7-miles long, and features a small waterfall.
It is primarily used for hiking, camping, as well as nature trips, and also allows dogs.
The next of the best trails at Monte Sano State Park is the Arrowheads Trail, a 6.5-mile moderately trafficked loop trail.
It is also rated moderate, features numerous wildflowers, and also allows dogs on a leash.
Three Caves via Alms House Trail
This trail is a 3.8-mile trail, also with moderate traffic, and is an out and back trail located close to Huntsville.
It features a river and is good for all skill levels, and is primarily used for hiking, walking, as well as nature trips.
There are also several other trails located at the Monte Sano Sate Park that include the Bluff-line to Alms House Loop, the Wildflower Trail, the Railroad Bed Trail, the Bankhead Parkway Northeast Trail, and the Fire Tower Trail.
If you have never visited Monte Sano Sate Park, you and your family will be pleasantly surprised by the natural beauty located in north-east Alabama.
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