Whether you’re a visitor hoping to maintain your workout routine, or a resident who wants to start a new exercise regimen, Huntsville, Alabama, features a nice variety of greenways where you can walk, run or ride your bike.
Whichever group of greenway user you fit into, this article will help you get to know the city’s best greenways.
Currently, Huntsville features about 22 miles of paved greenway — most of which is concrete with some asphalt surfaces. Their greenway master plan calls for adding a great deal more in the near future. In addition, neighboring Madison has some nice paths of their own.
Best of all, many of Huntsville’s greenways provide smooth passage through beautiful wooded areas filled with birds and other wildlife where you can enjoy scenery featuring creeks and rivers.
Here’s a roundup of the top six Huntsville greenways for 2021.
Enjoy an appealing mixture of wooded and grassy areas on the Aldridge Creek Greenway
The Aldridge Creek Greenway is a 4.8 mile long, mostly flat linear park with a paved path on the south side of Huntsville. With a mixture of concrete and asphalt sections, it’s ideal for walkers, skateboarders, joggers, runners and bicyclists.
Running north to south parallel to the creek for most of its length, the 10- to 12-foot wide path offers some nice creekscapes and other scenery with a pleasing mixture of wooded and open, grassy landscapes. Leashed dogs are welcomed.
A railroad trestle near the south end is perhaps the most photographed spot along this path. There are several places where you can walk right down to the creekbed. The entire trail has excellent birding potential.
Its northern terminus is at the sidewalk on the west side of Bailey Cove Road S.E. just 0.46 miles south of Weatherly Road S.E. Its southern terminus is located just off Hobbs Island Road at the old entrance to the city’s Ditto Landing marina which has a lot of green space of its own.
Found in an area that’s primarily residential, most of the people you’ll see on the Aldridge Creek Greenway will have simply walked, jogged or rode their bicycle from their homes.
But, there are several spots where visitors and folks from other neighborhoods can get to it from a shopping plaza, a church, a park or other adjacent green space. From north to south, here’s the best places for visitors to access the Aldridge Creek Greenway:
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
12200 Bailey Cove Rd. S.E. (map)
Just below the church property, a short path from the Bailey Cove Road sidewalk connects to the trail, and the trail crosses the creek on a narrow steel and concrete footbridge. Combine those with some shade trees at the church’s lower parking lot, and you have a nice setting to start and end your stroll or workout.
Looking north from the footbridge at St. Thomas Episcopal Church
Johnston Park/Aldridge Creek Greenway Trailhead parking
1100 Mountain Gap Rd. (map)
Located adjacent to the Publix Super Market at 12796 Bailey Cove Rd. S.E., this park currently features little more than parking and some easy access to the greenway. There are about 16 acres of grass and a restroom building. You can park in a shade.
To get to the trail, go west across the Mountain Gap Road bridge on the extra wide sidewalk. Once you’re on the other side of the creek, you can then go down the ramp to the greenway.
13020 Bailey Cove Rd. S.E. (map)
McGucken Park is one of Huntsville’s many youth sports facilities. The 37-acre park features baseball/softball fields, tennis courts, and soccer fields. A footbridge found at the northwest corner of the park provides passage across the creek to the greenway and neighborhood elementary school.
16159 Chaney Thompson Rd. S.E. (map)
The Aldridge Creek Greenway passes near the picnics tables at this park’s eastern edge. At a little over 50 acres, Southside Park features a dog park, an archery range, a playground, restrooms and a wooded disc golf course.
293 Ditto Landing Rd. S.E.
Starting here is logical for cyclists who want to traverse the entire Aldridge Creek Greenway on a out-and-back ride, or add the Tennessee River Greenway, which is found at Ditto Landing, to their trip. Combining the two greenways makes a round trip of 12 miles possible, a distance that can be appealing for someone who is training for a marathon, or for a road cyclist who is working their way up to longer rides.
There are several places to park at Ditto Landing including the campground and the marina. I saw people parked in the grass and on the closed road near to the actual Aldridge Creek Greenway trailhead.
The southern terminus of the Aldridge Creek Greenway is found at Ditto Landing
A new main entrance to Ditto Landing was completed in 2019 or 2020, and you can easily ride a bike or skateboard almost directly from the shaded campground parking lot to the Aldridge Creek Greenway.
You’ll find more info about Ditto Landing and the Tennessee River Greenway below.
Enjoy the water views at the Tennessee River Greenway at Ditto Landing
The Tennessee River Greenway is a 1-mile multipurpose paved path. It’s 12 feet in width and is mostly flat with a top elevation that’s only about 11 feet higher than its lowest elevation. One end of the mostly shaded path is found at the Ditto Landing campground while the other end is found at a gate 500 feet from the intersection of Hobbs Island Road S.E. and Harbor Road S.E.
When it comes to walking, running or family bicycle rides with children, it’s hard to beat a mostly shaded path like this one found at the southern tip of Huntsville. The riverfront scenery alone is worth the trip, as are the sunsets.
In addition to walkers, runners and bike riders, you almost always see people enjoying the grassy green spaces whether it be for birding, sunbathing, or watching the boats go by.
Leashed dogs are welcomed.
The portion of greenway that’s parallel to the waterway sits about 25 feet above the water due to the steep slope found along the river bank that works like a levee to protect against flooding.
Just one of the many amenities found at Ditto Landing, the greenway is often shown as a little over a mile. Some maps have it cutting through the marina/boat ramp parking lot. Some show it sharing a street with cars and trucks, and that is necessary if you want to connect to the Aldridge Creek Greenway for a longer run or bike ride.
But, the actual path that starts in the trees at the campground parking lot is almost exactly 1-mile long, and 0.94 miles when measured from a small sign that explains what the greenway is, and how it was funded.
Enjoy the woods at the Big Cove Creek Greenway
The 2.86 mile long Big Cove Creek Greenway is a popular paved path in the Hampton Cove area of southeast Huntsville. All but a few hundred yards of the asphalt path is shaded as it passes through a variety of wooded areas. Most of the people who use the mostly flat trail on a regular basis are there to walk, jog or run, but you’ll also see bicycle riders and an occasional skateboarder or rollerblader.
The greenway is near the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Hampton Cove’s River Course, and one of the holes comes into view about 1,100 feet from the point where the path intersects with the road at Hays Nature Preserve.
For longer excursions, the Big Cove Creek Greenway can easily be combined with the connected Little Cove Road Greenway and the Flint River Greenway. See below for more info about those paths.
Free parking is available at a small lot just off Old Hwy. 431 (map), or across the highway at the Hampton Cove Elementary School.
You can also park at the lot found near the Flint River in the Hays Nature Preserve (map). In the northern section, above the school, many of the residents of a large real estate development use the short paths that lead from their streets to the greenway. Leashed dogs are welcomed.
The city’s long-range plans call for the Big Cove Creek Greenway to be extended about three miles to the north.
Connect with nature at the Flint River Greenway and adjacent preserve
The Flint River Greenway is a mostly concrete path of about 1.9 miles that’s also found in the Hampton Cove area of the city. About one-fifth of the path has an asphalt surface. For about 65% of its length, the path runs within a few yards of the small river’s edge and crosses the river twice via small concrete and steel bridges.
The river snakes its way through the woods, providing a lovely setting for exercising. The greenway is near to the golf course, and passes over one golf cart path at a bridge and intersects with another at ground level. Watch for puddles and mud in low areas following periods of heavy rainfall.
Free parking is available at both ends of the path. The Big Cove Creek Greenway and the Flint River Greenway meet within the Hays Nature Preserve at a paved parking lot with about 30 spaces (map).
You can also park at other places in the preserve and make your way to the path. The Flint River Greenway’s north parking lot, found adjacent to Old Hwy. 431, is paved and provides over 45 spaces (map). Kayakers often park at both lots.
Dogs on short leaches are welcomed.
The city plans to extend the Flint River Greenway both upstream and downstream. It should be at least eight miles in length once those plans are realized.
Since the greenway passes through the Hays Nature Preserve, it’s easy to combine a visit to its many trails, playground, lake, creek, wildflower garden and more.
A Hays Nature Preserve scene
Enjoy big skies and open spaces on the Little Cove Road Greenway
The 5-mile long Little Cove Road Greenway is a smooth mostly asphalt path that runs mostly alongside a busy street in the upscale Hampton Cove community of Huntsville. Well-maintained grassy areas surround the greenway for its entire length.
Only three feet of grass separate the path from the street in some areas, but the space is up to 45 feet in other areas. The east end of the Little Cove Road Greenway dead ends at the Flint River only two miles from the town of Gurley. On the west end, it seamlessly connects to the Big Cove Creek Greenway in front of Hampton Cove Elementary School.
The path is mostly flat, but there is a notable, gradual hill towards the east end at the foot of a mountain. The lowest spot is 593 feet above sea level while the highest spot is only 86 feet higher at 679 feet above sea level.
Be cautious at the places where the Little Cove Road Greenway intersects with streets and driveways. There are stop signs on the path for runners and cyclists at at least 15 streets. You should stop and look both ways before proceeding. Bicycles rolling through stop signs and cars rolling through stops signs at the same time don’t mix safely.
Remember, you can easily combine the Little Cove Road Greenway, the Big Cove Creek Greenway and the Flint River Greenway for longer runs or rides. The Big Cove Creek Greenway passes under the four-lane street in front of the school making that possible.
The spot where the Big Cove Creek Greenway goes underneath the street
NOTE: After going underneath the street from the school side, the greenway loops up to the bridge. Go across the bridge on the provided path, and then look for the large Big Cove Creek Greenway sign to continue to the south.
Indian Creek Greenway: the great, unfinished path on the west side of the city
The Indian Creek Greenway is another city maintained path in Huntsville, Alabama. Conveniently located to both Huntsville and Madison, there are currently two unconnected sections — the southern path which is just under three miles in length, and the northern path which is about 0.8 miles in length.
In between, an unfinished 0.85-mile portion is near where the creek passes underneath the incredibly busy Hwy. 72. It should be completed by 2023 or 2024. The final product will be a 4.6-mile greenway that closely parallels the creek through a beautiful woodland area.
For now, the separation makes for two distinct, very flat greenways that are very popular among joggers, runners and walkers. You also see a few bicyclists and skateboarders occasionally. Leashed dogs are welcomed.
The area is densely populated, but you can still get the sense that you’re in a remote area. Some short spurs connect the greenway to Creekwood Park, Columbia High School and a couple of residential areas.
Designated parking lots for the southern portion of the greenway are found at the following locations:
The northern portion doesn’t have its own parking yet, but you can easily get to the path via Town Center Drive from the Providence shopping plazas (map).
Due to the defense, aerospace and automotive industries, Huntsville has a great deal more visitors who come to town for work-related purposes than the average city of its size, and the city is growing rapidly as dozens of families move to the area each month. It’s also north Alabama’s top city in regard to people coming to shop, dine or visit tourist attractions.
The state of a city’s outdoor recreation resources is often a key factor in career and retirement relocation decisions.
A growing sliver of the population — particularly folks who are determined to maintain their exercise routines when on the road — consider the presence of quality greenways a prerequisite when choosing a vacation destination.
It’s apparent that Huntsville officials are aware of these facts as evidenced by their aggressive plans to add as many miles of path as possible, as quickly as possible. Now and in the future, visitors and new residents will not be disappointed when it comes to the city’s greenways.
The 20-plus miles of path described above provide some ideal places for walking, running, and allowing children with their first bikes to ride safely with their families.
See my other Huntsville articles
Huntsville historic places part 1