“A scenic tour of Lake Guntersville State Park.”
— Zack Butler
Closed when wet, although these trails drain well.
This is North Alabama's version of the trails at the Tsali Recreation Area. You'll receive scenic vistas of Lake Guntersville from the Tom Bevill Trail
and the Cutchenmine Trail
, and for the most part, these trails are not terribly difficult but feature a few strenuous climbs.
Although these trails were not originally intended for mountain biking and receive no maintenance from a local IMBA chapter, the park's staff and other volunteers have restored them to excellent condition after the April 27, 2011, tornadoes wreaked havoc on them.
There are quite a few climbs on this route but it flows well. The Cave Trail
is the most crooked although a newly re-routed segment of the Tom Bevill Trail
is also more difficult. The Cutchenmine Trail
is mostly easy but has a few steep but brief climbs.
Need to Know
Access at the Cave Trail
start is limited. There are other access points to the park roads along the route that can be utilized, as well. The portion of the ride on the Tom Bevill Trail
between the 7 and 8 mile points was badly damaged during the 2011 tornado outbreak and has been re-routed in such a way as to offer excellent views of the lake.
Lake Guntersville State Park also offers a golf course, cabins, a restaurant, a campground, and a hotel. Boat rentals are also available.
This ride begins on Lodge Drive as you head towards the campground. Park on the side of the road, or park at the trailhead for the Moonshine, Kings Chapel, and Waterfall
trails and ride on the park road to the Cave Trail
The Cave Trail
crosses the road here, so you'll want to take the direction going south on the trail. If you go north and pass the cave, you went the wrong way. The trail meanders through the woods and up and down a few "hills" before crossing a closed road. Although it's relatively smooth, it has a few rooty sections and some erosion in a few spots. After crossing the closed road, it gets a little more difficult with a couple of climbs before reaching the Tom Bevill Trail
Take a left turn on the Tom Bevill Trail
and continue on up it. There will be a fork after about 0.4 mile. This route assumes you take left fork, which is not as steep, but the right fork is mostly rideable if you want a nice climb. The two forks rejoin each other just before the unmarked intersection with the Cutchenmine Trail
Turn left onto the connector trail and descend down to AL Highway 227. Cross the highway (be careful!) and head northeast on it (i.e., turn left) a short distance until you see a small pull-out for the Cutchenmine Trail
on the right. The Cutchenmine Trail
is a pleasant rolling ride along Short Creek with a couple of bridges to cross. It is wide, but it has a few somewhat steep climbs which make for fun downhills on the way back. Take the Cutchenmine Trail
all the way out to its end at a creek bed and return back to the Tom Bevill Trail
the way you came.
Turn left when you get back to the Tom Bevill Trail
to continue the loop around Ellenburg Mountain. For the most part, this trail rolls along the mountainside with a couple of steeper climbs, but nothing unmanageable. There are two switchbacks about halfway around the mountain, and you can also get nice views of the lake from this area. The absence of trees (due to the tornado outbreak of 2011) in this area is almost eerie but the lake is beautiful. You'll then pass through a nice thickly forested area which will leave you thinking of Tsali with some fun rolling terrain before you return to the intersection with the Cave Trail
Once back at the Cave Trail
, return the way you came. Alternate options include taking the Spring Trail to the closed road and returning via the Kings Chapel Trail
or the Terrell Trail
, which passes by the old Kings Chapel Cemetery.
History & Background
Lake Guntersville State Park is located along the banks of the Tennessee River in NE Alabama. The park overlooks the majestic 69,000-acre Guntersville Lake and ranges over more than 6,000 acres of natural woodlands. It has 36 miles of multi-use (hiking, biking, and equestrian) trails. Many of the trails pass by remnants of days gone by: old stills, cemeteries, old homesites, and old roads. The park also features a full-service restaurant, a beach complex, outdoor swimming pool, a hotel, cabins, and chalets, and a fishing center along with conference space. The park has recovered from the April 2011 tornadoes.
The 3.4-mile Tom Bevill Trail
features old home sites and excellent views of the lake, and was a 1980 YACC project. The Cutchenmine Trail
is 2.2 miles one way (4.4 out-and back), and follows an old coal mine road along Short Creek. It is a good place to spot herons, wood ducks, and other waterfowl. Eagles are sometimes visible from this trail, depending on the seasons.