With over 100 miles of single track and a state park less than 10-miles from downtown, the mountain bike trails in Huntsville Alabama are staking their claim as some of the best mountain biking in Alabama.
Huntsville mountain bike trails present challenges for riders of all skill levels. Just to the west of the town lies miles and miles of gravel rides stretching through the marshes of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. In town, you’ll find several dedicated riding areas. Rising above the city are mountain top plateaus that offer relatively flat riding through the trees. Once you’re ready, you can start climbing the hills and connecting the trails to form a full day of epic riding.
We’re not only professional travel writers; we are Huntsville residents who love the outdoors. This Huntsville mountain biking guide will show you where to ride in Rocket City.
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Gravel Riding at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re looking to leave the pavement for the first time, you should consider gravel riding. You can explore nature with technical trail features, and there’s no place better to explore wetlands in Huntsville than Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Here you find over 300 different species of birds, 47 species of mammals, and 75 species of reptiles. Some of our favorites include the geese, ducks, and cranes that spend their winters at WNR and the alligators lurking in the marshy backwaters.
Two classic routes through Wheeler are the 12-mile White Springs Dike / Eagle Nest Island Loop or the 7.5-mile Jolley B Loop. The former takes you alongside the Tennessee River and through farm fields, while the latter takes deep woods with occasional views of Blackwell Swamp. These are two loops that will get you out exploring off-road and coming home with a little dirt on your tires.
Mountain Biking on the Space and Rocket Center Trails
Behind Huntsville’s iconic Space and Rocket Center is a collection of 16 mountain bike trails that take you over hill and dale with a quirky collection of space junk for eye candy. Most importantly for local riders, this is the largest collection of beginner trails in the region, with a few very rideable intermediate routes thrown in. Not all of these trails are created equal, but there’s enough good riding to build a few good loops and let you develop your skills.
To reach the mountain bike parking area, you take the access road to the fence between the Space and Rocket Center and the Huntsville Botanical Garden. The parking lot is just off to the left by the aviation pond. I like the Cockpit Trail well enough, but not the trails that it connects to.
Instead, I would take this route around the aviation pond to ride Narnia and Sherwood Forest. It’s a little short (~3 miles), but you can always ride the Narnia / Sherwood Forest loop in both directions to round out your day. Also, just my take, I believe that the “intermediate” Sherwood Forest Trail is actually easier than the “beginner” Cockpit Trail because of the exposed roots on Cockpit.
John Hunt Park Mountain Bike Course
The John Hunt Park Mountain Bike Course is a newly built dedicated mountain bike trail that’s similar to the SRC trails. It even has a real test rocket you ride by. From the HAMR site – “These trails will sport 50+ super fast machine built berms, rollers galore, and sweeping views of the entire Huntsville valley area. The trail is alternating directional bike-only and designed to be a future NICA race site suitable for all ages and skill levels.” This course was completed in 2021, so everything is fresh, but with the construction style and NICA races coming, I expect them to be kept in excellent condition.
Warner Von Braun said – “It will free man from his remaining chains, the chains of gravity which still tie him to this planet.” He was talking about rockets, but it holds true for the JHP trail. If you can keep your speed around the corners, you’ll be catching air on the rollers. Just be careful with the combination jumps, or the second part of the Von Braun quote about the gates of heaven might come into play…lol!
Don’t worry if you’re a newer or beginner level rider, you should have no problem just rolling over the rollers and finding clean lines. The JHP trails are truly suited for riders of all levels.
Monte Sano State Park Mountain Biking
Mountain Biking Monte in Sano State Park puts you in the epicenter of Huntsville riding. It’s located atop Monte Sano Mountain (1621′) and is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Huntsville.
It’s the Monte Sano mountain bike trails that make mountain biking in Huntsville special, and almost every trail you ride can take you into the park. If you enter the park through the fee station, they will ask you for a $5 day-use fee. There is an honor box if you enter from the hairpin turn parking area. I decided to buy an annual pass, but I have never been asked to show it anywhere other than the fee station.
South Plateau / North Plateau / Family Trail
Monte Sano’s most distinctive feature is a large flat plateau on the mountain top. You can bike (or hike) for miles without any significant elevation change. New riders will want to start on the South Plateau, which is crisscrossed with trails. You’ll have many options, but I like to head out on the South Loop Trail on top of the western bluffs and return on the Family Trail. This (4-mile) route gives you a good combination of views and flowing trails without too many technical features.
When you feel ready, you can add in the North Plateau Loop Trail. It adds about 2-miles of riding with just a couple of technical features. Namely, crossing over the top of a waterfall near the junction with Cold Spring Trail and a rutted-out stream crossing near the terminus at the Fire Tower Trail. I’m a decent rider, and I still haven’t cleared that darn stream crossing, but there’s enough solid beginner / low intermediate riding to make it worthwhile even with a little hike-a-bike.
One final note, if you’re looking to connect the north and south loops, consider using the Fire Tower and Connector trails to make it more of a loop and less of a figure-8.
The Sinks Trail
I love the Sinks Trail. More specifically, I love the middle section of the Sinks Trail heading downhill south to north. It’s a wonderful piece of single track that takes you by some karst windows with flowy downhill. There’s even a signature short climb under a fallen tree. The real question is how to turn this fantastic trail segment into a rideable loop.
There are some “gotcha” sections of trail on this section of the mountain. Stone Cuts is a famed hiking area that’s in no way rideable, and the bypass is so rutted out that it’s not much better. The start of the Sinks Trail by the park cabins is in rough shape too, and I would consider it an advanced trail until it gets a little TLC. The other end of the trail climbing up to the viewpoint is decidedly steep.
I ride up the closed road (old Bankhead Parkway) from the Hairpin Parking to avoid these rough sections and the rigmarole entering the park. Then I head down Mountain Mist and either keep going to the top of the Sink for a short loop (3.8-miles) or take the long way around Logan Point (5.5-miles). Either way, it’s a fun ride with a bit of elevation change.
Bankhead / Dallas Branch Lollipop Loop
Starting from either the Land Trust Lot or the Hairpin Turn, this lollipop loop offers a fun little run into some of Huntsville’s premier riding county. From the Land Trust parking, it’s a 2-mile, 200′-gain route, and it’s just a little farther when you park at the Hairpin Turn.
There was a time when I would have suggested starting from Oak Park, but that trail is in rough shape following heavy rains in 2021. I would put an asterisk on any recommendation to go riding there unless it comes with an updated trail report. That being said, starting from the Land Trust Lot is probably your best bet because it adds little elevation gain before you start heading down the top of Oak Park.
The upper section of Oak Park is a little steep but still in good shape and not too technical. You turn off to Buzzard’s Roost for a couple of pedals before taking Dallas Branch uphill to rejoin Bankhead. The uphill on Dallas Branch isn’t too bad, but there are a couple of stream crossings that you’ll need to find the right line to ride through. You can ride this loop in either direction. I think it’s a little more technical to climb up Dallas Branch while it’s a little more physical to climb Oak Park, but the choice is yours.
Bankhead – Dummy Line Loop
Consider the (4-mile, 400′ gain) Bankhead – Dummy Line Loop a graduation exercise. Even though these trails are ranked as ‘intermediate,’ you’ll encounter some sustained climbs and technical sections. I would even be tempted to upgrade some of the stream crossings to full-fledged advanced status. You also can graduate to riding out of the Land Trust Parking Lot. It’s slightly lower on the mountain and has a bike repair station to boot.
Head up Bankhead Trail from the Land Trust Parking Lot, which climbs 375′ over 2 miles. You climb up another 25′ on the Dummy Line Connector Trail before giving up all that elevation on a long technical descent on the Dummy Line Trail.
Let me take a moment to pass on a couple of notes about riding on Bankhead Trail. It’s arguably the most popular trail in Huntsville because it’s at the center of many classic routes. It’s been re-routed a couple of times so take the mapped path with a grain of salt and trust what you see. Also, be aware of the “Downhill Only” section between the junction with Dallas Branch and the Hairpin Turn.
Redstone Arsenal Mountain Biking Trails
The Redstone Arsenal mountain bike trails are a true hidden gem in the city. There are 36 trails that cover roughly 36 miles with over 3,600′ of elevation gain. The paved Redstone Gateway Trail is seven miles long, and there are about four miles of gravel roads included in this mileage. Take those out, and you still have 25-miles of true mountain biking to play on. The trails are well marked at the trail junctions, but there’s no map at the trailhead, so you’ll want to check out the map if you want to do some exploring.
If you work on base, it’s a great place to ride after Daylight Savings Time ends so you can get a ride in while the sun is out. If you don’t have base access, you can check here for Redstone visitor information.
With so many riding choices, you might ask where you should start. In my opinion, a great first ride is combining the Madkin Mountain Loop with the Weeden Loop. This one-two combo gets you just under 8-miles of riding with only 300′ of gain. According to the Trailforks, the Madkin Loop and East Weeden are beginner routes, and West Weeden is intermediate. However, some short, rutted climbs on Madkin make it a little sporty for a true novice.
Shout Out To Huntsville Bike Shops
I’m taking a moment to acknowledge Huntsville bike shops, particularly Bicycle Cove who set me up with my sweet Trek Top Fuel. This is more than a blatant LSI snag. These shops are essential for our trail community. They’re a meeting place for local riders and goodness knows I beat my bike up.
Thanks guys for all your hard work and don’t hesitate to stop into a shop if you’re looking for a little beta or to get your bike trail ready.
Wrapping Up Our Guide to Mountain Bike Trails in Huntsville AL
The mountain bike trails in Huntsville Al that we listed will take you from your first ride off-pavement all the way up to high intermediate rides. If you’re looking for something a little more difficult, we’ve included some of the most rideable advanced routes on the maps. We’ve also excluded some trails that are either unrideable or just not any fun, particularly on Monte Sano. So if you’re looking for a full day of riding, you’ll have plenty of resources in this guide to put together a full day of riding or more.
One other note about my local trails, they tend to get muddy after a rain, so please wait 24-48 hours after the rain stops before heading out. I’ve seen what started as a little mud puddle turn into a 4-foot washed-out divot by the end of the season. Instead of mountain biking, try road riding in Huntsville or check out some of the beautiful waterfall hikes in our Huntsville hiking guide. There’s enough outdoor fun in Huntsville that you don’t need to tear up the trails by riding in mud.
Remember to ride safely and read our bike disclaimer before you go
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