Monte Sano State Park is a popular recreational destination near Huntsville, Alabama. The park encompasses more than 2,100 acres atop Monte Sano Mountain, just east of town. Visitors may enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational pursuits, as well as a visit to the planetarium and observatory located within the park.
The 1,600 foot high Monte Sano Mountain has been popular with visitors since the 1820s. Monte Sano, meaning “mountain of health” in Spanish, was once the home of a health resort hotel and sanatorium. A railroad running from downtown Huntsville to the Hotel Monte Sano provided easy access for visitors. Today a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Project trail preserves what is left of the old railroad bed. The original park facilities were constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), including the stone cabins with fireplaces that may be rented today. The original park lodge built by the CCC was destroyed by fire in 1947 but was rebuilt in 2002. The lodge is available for event rentals.
Monte Sano State Park offers over 14 miles of hiking trails to explore. The North and South Plateau Trails are easier trails that allow spectacular views of the Tennessee River Valley. The McKay Hollow and Mountain Mist Trails cover more challenging terrain and offer glimpses of some of the wildlife that lives on the mountain, including deer and feral goats.
There are two campgrounds in the park. Campers in the improved campground can take advantage of the water, electric, and sewer hookups. There is also a primitive campground for those who prefer a more rustic environment. Other park amenities include a picnic area, playground, and a camp store.
Perhaps the most unusual feature of Monte Sano State Park is the Von Braun Astronomical Society’s (VBAS) Planetarium, located near the park entrance. The VBAS is a non-profit volunteer organization comprised of amateur and professional astronomers. The planetarium is open to the public every Saturday evening at 7:30pm for a program. The current program is “Exploring Saturn”. Admission prices are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children under age 6 are admitted free. After the program visitors may view the night sky through one of the society’s telescopes, weather permitting.
Monte Sano State Park is a great place to visit at any time of year. Native azaleas provide color in the spring, the leaves are spectacular in the fall, and the views are scenic all year. The park is located at 5105 Nolen Avenue in Huntsville. Day use hours are from 7am to sundown. Park admission is $2 on weekdays and $3 on weekends. There is no charge for children ages 5 and under. Visitors to northern Alabama are sure to enjoy what this popular park has to offer.