This ride has spurts of elevation change followed by nicer flowing level sections punctuated by occasional rock gardens. It takes you along bluffs with views of Huntsville, Hampton Cove, Owens Cross Roads, and Redstone Arsenal. There are occasional steep and somewhat eroded hike-a-bike sections but the majority of this ride is scenic and flowing.
Do not go past the television tower or you'll be on private land. Some of the private land is open to hunting.
From the gravel parking area at the crest of Cecil Ashburn Drive, take the Bill & Marion Certain Trail
up Green Mountain to the Sugar Tree Trail
. The first 50 feet or so is rocky and may require walking your bike but it's rideable (although somewhat steep) once you get past that.
At the Sugar Tree Trail
, keep right on the Sugar Tree Trail
and stay on it until you come to the Varndoe Trail on the left. This segment flows nicely and is not as steep or technical as the previous segment.
Turn left on the Varndoe Trail and stay on it until it ends back at the Bill & Marion Certain Trail
. This segment has a little of everything. Although the first portion of it generally rolls along the natural bench below the bluff, there are a lot of technical features (mostly rock gardens) and a number of narrow spots. It crosses the power line easement about 2/3rds of the way down the trail and meanders below the bluff a little further before a steep ascent up to the television tower and the Bill & Marion Certain Trail
. The ascent includes three switchbacks and is very rocky.
At the television tower, take a left on the Bill & Marion Certain Trail
and head north. On the way, you'll pass the Big Cove Overlook on your right (stop to enjoy the scenery) and the West Bluff Trail
on your left. For this ride, continue on the Bill & Marion Certain Trail
until you get to the power line easement. This section is relatively smooth and flat as it runs along the east bluff overlooking Big Cove.
At the power line easement, you can get a nice view of Big Cove and Hampton Cove. Also, notice the trail on the left. This is called the Power Line Trail (no markers here because the TVA owns this land), and ride the short distance down the Power Line Trail to the other side of the ridge. This trail isn't complicated and is just a mixture of sand, gravel, and red Alabama clay. Here, you can enjoy views of Huntsville (Bailey Cove is just below you), Redstone Arsenal, and the Tennessee River.
You'll notice a trail running parallel to the bluff if you look north (to the right as you come down the Power Line Trail). Ride down this trail (the West Bluff Trail
) along the bluff. This section is especially scenic around sunset. It flows nicely but be careful not to pick up too much speed lest you ride off the bluff. There are a few fallen trees to slow you down, as well.
After about 0.5 mile, the West Bluff Trail
rejoins the Bill & Marion Certain Trail
. Continue north (left or straight) to the end of the ridge and continue down the mountain on the Bill & Marion Certain Trail
. This section is rocky, steep, technical, and eroded in spots. You may have to hike-a-bike a few areas here, especially where the trail runs along a "waterfall". There are quite a few switchbacks and places where the trail was re-routed around downed trees.
Eventually, you'll return to the intersection with the Sugar Tree Trail
and continue back down the mountain along the route you started on.
Portions of this ride follow the original Spacewalk Trail, which existed before the construction of Cecil Ashburn Drive in the 1990's. The Bill and Marion Certain Trail was named for the original propietors of the property purchased by the Forever Wild Land Trust for the Huntsville Land Trust (now the Land Trust of North Alabama). Some of these trails are former logging roads.