“An easy lollipop loop out to O'Shaughnessy Point and back.”
— Zack Butler
The Family Bike Trail
is an excellent introductory ride to Monte Sano State Park and features some of the park's best flowing aspects in a lollipop loop format. This trail snakes its way along the plateau out to O'Shaughnessy Point, where it dumps you out on the South Plateau Loop
, and circles back around to rejoin itself and take you back to the trailhead.
O'Shaughnessy Point is clearly the highlight of this ride: on a clear day you can see all the way to Hampton Cove and over the western plateau of the mountain. This trail, because of its lack of technical difficulty and elevation change, also receives a great deal of traffic. There is no set direction on the loop portion of the trail, so watch for oncoming bikers and hikers!
This ride begins at the Hikers' Parking Lot. Take the South Plateau Loop
connector from the trailhead kiosk to the South Plateau Loop
, where you'll keep to the left at the fork. You'll want to continue along the South Plateau Loop
and cross the wooden bridge and hop a few roots before you come to the intersection with the Sinks Trail
. Keep to the right to continue on the South Plateau Loop
. After about 500 feet, hang a right on the Family Bike Trail
. The next mile is nothing but flow with a few short, easy climbs interspersed throughout. A few roots may slow you down but a little exercise won't hurt.
Towards the end of this blissful mile, there is a slightly technical section where the trail descends down a slightly eroded embankment. Take it slow; you'll shortly intersect with the Bog Trail
and the South Plateau Loop
(which follows the Gravel Road Trail
at this point). Continue straight across on the Family Bike Trail
, where you'll enter a dense pine forest. This 0.7-mile section of the trail is typified by pine needles and sharp turns, although a few straight sections exist here. A wooden bridge signifies that you're approaching the Fire Tower Trail
At the Fire Tower Trail
, turn right; the Family Bike Trail
runs along it up the hill for a short distance. The trail then forks. You'll want to keep left at the fork and straight at the next intersection. The next half-mile is a fast, fun section where you can almost the edge of the plateau. It is punctuated by a short section with sharp turns just before the U-turn intersection that dumps you out on the South Plateau Loop
. Hang a right at the U-turn and a left on the South Plateau Loop
to get to O'Shaughnessy Point.
At O'Shaughnessy Point, soak in the view and continue around the loop. Take a left to get back to the Family Bike Trail
, where you'll pick up where you left off earlier. This section of the lollipop loop takes you back uphill towards the Fire Tower Trail
. At the Fire Tower Trail
, you'll recognize the section of the Family Bike Trail
that you came down earlier. You can then retrace your ride back to the trailhead.
History & Background
Along this ride, you'll pass by the Joe B. Shirley Fire Tower and O'Shaughnessy Point.
Although the fire tower is no longer in use now that aircraft have taken over its original role, it is one of the few remaining fire towers in the U.S. The 100-ft Aermoter model with a 7ft x 7ft metal cab was constructed in 1968 by the Alabama Forestry Commission to replace an earlier wooden tower dating to the 1940's. The original tower was used by NASA in the 1950's to track and record telemetry from Sputnik I and Explorer I satellites.
O'Shaughnessy Point is named for the John O'Shaughnessy family, which was one of the original families which owned the property which now comprises Monte Sano State Park. The John O'Shaughnessy and Robert Fearn homesites are located a short distance down the Fire Tower Trail
from the intersection with the Family Bike Trail