“A ride combining the best views and flow that Lake Guntersville State Park has to offer.
— Zack Butler
This ride begins at the park entrance off of AL-227. The first mile and a half is a relatively steep, sustained climb, and may require some hike-a-bike unless you're in really good shape. Once you get to the Golf Course Loop
, the ride begins to level out and becomes a series of roller coasters along the top of Taylor Mountain.
This portion of the ride is somewhat confusing due to the numerous side trails and alternate paths. There are two bridges, two rock-armored creek fords, and a few temporary detours before you make a right turn to go towards the Park's Lodge.
The section of the ride just below the Golf Course Clubhouse is extremely fun. The best views can be seen from the north side of the Golf Course Loop
and the west end of the Butler Pass Trail
. The west end of the Butler Pass Trail
and some portions of the Moonshine Trail
are somewhat technical.
Need to Know
If the ride or hike-a-bike up to the top of Taylor Mountain wore you out, you can always stop by the Park Lodge to get a bite to eat at the restaurant or the gift shop. It's not quite at the half-way point in terms of distance, but it is in terms of effort!
From the parking lot at the park entrance, take the Connector from Park Entrance to Terrill Trail
to the Connector Trail - Short connector between Moonshine and Cascade Trail, with access to Terrell and Taylor Mtn trails.
. Most of this is relatively level, except for a short climb up to the park road. After crossing the road, you'll come to a trail intersection where you'll turn right to go towards the Taylor Mountain Trail
. Continue up the mountain on the Taylor Mountain Trail
. Some of this trail is steep and may require some hike-a-bike depending on how sore your legs get. There are also bail points to the park road in the event of emergencies.
Once you get to the Golf Course Loop
, the real fun starts. This trail encircles the park's golf course, although this section of the trail is on the other side of the park road. Several side paths branch off from the Golf Course Loop
; the ones branching off to the right are bail points to the park road, and those branching off on the left are either alternate lines or new trails that will take you back down the mountain. Once you get to an intersection with a trail map kiosk, turn right to go to the Lodge. If you need food or water, the Lodge is a good place to stop and do that.
If you don't stop inside the Lodge, turn right and follow Lodge Dr to the main park road. Turn left on the park road towards the Golf Course Office, but stay on the grassy shoulder on the left side of the park road. After a few hundred yards, the trail becomes apparent on the left side of the guard rails. This is one of the most scenic parts of the ride. The trail continues to the Mabrey Overlook and on the other side of the overlook, parallel to the road. After a few hundred more yards, it crosses the road at the end of the Golf Course Parking Lot.
After crossing the road, more fun commences on the newest portion of the park's "Gateway Trail." Rollers, berms, switchberms, and all the other features expected of gravity flow trails abound for the next helf-mile. You can thank IMBA's Trail Solutions for this. After you cross a gravel access road, the fun temporarily stops as you'll have to use the original portion of the Golf Course Loop
--which isn't terrible--but there are a few stop climbs that may require some hike-a-bike. After about a half-mile of this, the trail begins to level out some and begins to roll gently. If you look to the left, you can see nice views of Lake Guntersville and Town Creek, thanks to the April 2011 tornado outbreak which decimated most of this side of the park.
The trail then gives way to a wooded section with several creek crossings. Most of this section is gently rolling and not very technical (except for the creek crossings). A steep, sustained climb will put you back at the park road, which you'll cross and come back to the Taylor Mountain Trail
. Continue on the Golf Course Loop
, as you did previously, but do not turn right towards the lodge this time. Instead, go straight to the Butler Pass Trail
The Butler Pass Trail
is mostly a continuation of what you just rode, with a gentle descent until you get to a spot behind the ranger residence. At the top of the brief climb, some of the best views of the lake are your reward. The trail continues gently downhill for another half-mile to a technical spot, and then runs along the ridge line to the Moonshine Trail
. Turn left here and continue through some technical spots down to a gravel trailhead on the park road. Continue "straight" on the Connector Trail - Short connector between Moonshine and Cascade Trail, with access to Terrell and Taylor Mtn trails.
over the "river" (on a wooden bridge) and through the woods, back to where you started.
History & Background
Most of the trails on this ride were built or rerouted after the April 2011 tornadoes which decimated most of Lake Guntersville State Park. The tornadoes knocked down a number of trees, which has given way to excellent views of the lake. In 2014, the Alabama State Parks Division entered into an agreement with IMBA Trail Solutions to build and reroute new trails within the park, which included most of the trails on this ride.