The Land Trust of North Alabama (LTNA) is a member-supported non-profit organization established to conserve natural areas, provide spaces for outdoor recreation, and share opportunities to learn about the value of Alabama’s wild spaces. Arising from a significant community effort to save the western slope of Monte Sano mountain from development, LTNA was incorporated in June 1987 as a 501(c)(3) organization in Huntsville, Madison County, with support from the city council. Alabama’s first land trust, LTNA has since become the lead organization for establishing natural areas in north Alabama, allowing all residents easy access to experience nature first-hand. The organization is overseen by a board of directors and staff and is funded by foundation, public, and private donations.
The 11 LTNA properties remain protected from development and, in most cases, are open to the public for outdoor recreation. To date, the organization has protected more than 10,000 acres within its ten-county service area. These lands include habitat for rare—and in some cases, endangered—species and encircle the city of Huntsville to the west, north, and east. These properties are also used as outdoor laboratories for local schools, scientists, and researchers, allowing students to personally experience the biological diversity of the environment. A wide range of environmental education programs are hosted throughout the year to encourage appreciation and understanding of the natural world for participants of all ages.
LTNA public nature preserves offer some 80 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, birding, and other outdoor recreation activities. These properties are open from dawn to dusk daily and free to access thanks to support from members.
Bethel Springs Nature Preserve encompasses 360 acres on Keel Mountain between the towns of Woodville and Owens Cross Roads. It features two miles of trails that wind through forest, farmland, the ruins of a mill and cotton gin, and up a fairly steep cliff to one of Madison County’s largest waterfalls. The preserve’s three caves provide habitat for endangered Indiana and northern long eared bats.
Blevins Gap Nature Preserve conserves 1,086 acres on two parcels just south of Huntsville. The 727-acre section offers eight miles of hiking trails with views of the valleys, and the 267-acre section features trails up a rocky incline and waterfalls during wet weather. The main trailhead is home to a pollinator garden.
Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve conserves 551 acres just east of Huntsville. In addition to the 4.5 miles of hiking trails, open to mountain bikers and horseback riders, visitors may enjoy the 18-hole disc golf course. The Moonshine Trail provides bird lovers with a blind for watching visiting bird species. The Terry Education Pavilion hosts environmental education programming and may be rented for private gatherings.
Green Mountain Nature Preserve encompasses 366 acres just west of Owens Cross Roads. Its five miles of hiking trails wind past streams and waterfalls as well as Alum Cave, a rock shelter used by Native Americans of the Middle Woodland period. Next to Alum Cave is Alum Falls during wet seasons.
Harvest Square Nature Preserve is located in the community of Harvest and encompasses 69 acres, 33 of which are still used for farming. It features two miles of trails with a wheelchair-accessible section as well as two ponds open for fishing and a picnic pavilion.
Hickory Cove Nature Preserve is located in eastern Huntsville just north of Monte Sano State Park. It encompasses 146 acres and features a 1.75-mile loop trail. Sites along the trail include a spring house, mixed deciduous forest, and waterfalls during wet weather.
Monte Sano Nature Preserve encompasses more than 1,100 acres just east of downtown Huntsville. It is one of the largest urban nature preserves in the United States. The preserve’s 22 miles of trails are open to hikers and mountain bikers and range past waterfalls, sinkholes, historic sites, and wildflower meadows. The Bankhead Pavilion has picnic tables and is available for rental. The preserve’s trails connect with the 22 miles of trails in Monte Sano State Park.
Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve is located in the city of Madison and is owned by the city. It encompasses approximately 160 acres of rocky, sometimes steep terrain dotted with interesting rock formations. Its 3.5 miles of trails traverse 350 feet of elevation change through mixed hardwood and evergreen forests and over and along streams. A pavilion provides a picnic area for visitors.
Wade Mountain Nature Preserve encompasses 935 acres to the north of downtown Huntsville. It offers visitors 12 miles of trails open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Trails wind through forested areas at shallow elevations initially and then become steeper in later sections to provide views of the valley at the top. There visitors can walk around the Devil’s Race Track, a loop around a large limestone outcrop set amidst a wildflower meadow.
Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is located just southwest of Tuscumbia, Colbert County, and encompasses 693 acres. The preserve was established by geologist Jim Lacefield and his wife, Faye, who built the trail system themselves over several years. The trails wind through diverse geological and ecological landscapes, historic sites, and archaeological features.
Bradford Creek Greenway is located along Bradford Creek in Madison and encompasses approximately six acres. It combines land managed by the Land Trust and owned by the city. The 2.24-mile trail is a paved pedestrian and bike trail along Bradford Creek that offers visitors views of the creek, hardwood forest, and wetlands. It lies at the northern border of Palmer Park.