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Take a Hike at Hickory Cove

August 1, 2023
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On a sunny morning at the start of June, Land Trust staff, board, volunteers, members, and hikers gathered to officially open our tenth public preserve – Hickory Cove Nature Preserve. After a moment to share our enormous appreciation for Land Trust supporters, the ribbon was cut to enthusiastic applause and hikers were welcomed to start exploring.

Legacy Loop winds through the trees

Concord Land Development, Inc. (Legacy Homes) donated the 144-acre mountainside to the Land Trust in Spring 2023. The exciting but unusual thing about this property is that it came with an existing parking area and 1.75-mile hiking trail that connects to a paved 1-mile City of Huntsville greenway. The trail named Legacy Loop, as in Legacy Homes who is the developer of the Trailhead community adjacent to the property. The trail is a well-established favorite of nearby residents and area mountain bikers. The Land Trust is ready to get started making needed improvements and welcoming new visitors to enjoy this beautiful area.

Legacy Loop winds through the trees

Hickory Cove Nature Preserve is located directly across Hwy 72 from our Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve. If you’re coming from downtown Huntsville, you’ll turn right at Moore’s Mill Road into the Trailhead community. At Trailhead Main Street, you take another right and straight ahead at the end of the road you’ll see a City of Huntsville greenway parking area. From there, stroll down the paved greenway towards the mountain and within sight of the parking area you’ll find the trail entrance. The greenway itself offers a nice walk with tall grasses alongside the path and lots of birds and insects buzzing around.

Trail entrance and information kiosk

A Land Trust information kiosk marks the beginning of the trail. Stop here to review the map, which is available to download online along with trail maps for all other Land Trust nature preserves. You can also find trail rules and helpful hiking tips to ensure you’re prepared before your hike.

Remnants of a spring house near the start of the trail

As you walk into the tree line to begin your hike, you’ll immediately find some interesting remnants from the past. On the right side of the trail, there is a water trough once used for livestock and just beyond that is what’s left of a stone spring house. Spring houses were used to keep foods cold before refrigeration. Cold water from the spring that runs alongside the structure cools the area. The trail currently runs directly adjacent to the side wall of the spring house, which is slowly eroding and compromising the foundation. In an effort to prevent further damage and preserve the structure, we are working on plans to reroute the main trail entrance and redirect the heaviest trail traffic. However, there will still be a spur trail to the spring house site. We highly recommend a stop at this shady spot to appreciate the trickling sound of the spring. We are working to gather more historical information about the property and plan to share that story through interpretive signage, guided hikes, and other educational resources.

Lots of interesting rock formations and boulders along this portion of the trail

From there, the trail winds you back and forth as you climb up the mountainside passing between large boulders and rock formations. This part of the trail is rocky and the elevation change offers a moderate challenge.

“Twisted Cedar”

Around halfway up, keep an eye out for a feature that the Land Trust staff calls the “twisted cedar”. On the right side of the trail, there is a one-of-a-kind tree whose trunk and branches have grown spiraling upward. We’re not sure what made it grow in this way but it sure is cool.

A perfect spot to take a break mid-hike

When the trail reaches the top of the mountain, it makes a tight loop before turning back downhill. The rest of the trail meanders along the hillside gradually descending in elevation. Along the way, you’ll find a large boulder that some refer to as “pride rock” since it definitely gives Lion King vibes. Perched atop the rock, you can enjoy a pretty view of the tree covered hillside below. As you continue, you’ll cross 3 bridges at dry washes, although after significant rain you may occasionally be lucky enough to catch them flowing.

Bridges cross washes along the trail’s path

At the end of the trail, you’ll emerge from the forest a little further down the paved greenway from where you began. Take a left onto the greenway and you’re just a short walk away from the parking area.

Stroll back to the parking area on Trailhead Greenway

This location, near the parking lot, is the future site of the Nature Discovery Center, a welcoming space that will serve as a jumping off point for residents and visitors of all ages, backgrounds, and ability to learn about and experience North Alabama’s diverse natural world. Now that we’ve identified a home for this exciting project, we’re just beginning the process of making it a reality. As we confirm more details, we’ll be sure to share so you can follow along and hopefully help make it happen. You can read more about the vision for the Nature Discovery Center at