hickory leafRainbow Mountain Trails, Madison AL

Several miles of hiking trails are available in the largest public greenspace area in Madison. The property is owned by the City of Madison. Madison Greenways & Trails leads the preservation and maintenance effort. Local Boy Scouts have built many of the signs, benches, and birdhouses, and help maintain the trails.

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Overview

The Rainbow Mountain Trails park was initiated in an effort to promote the conservation of Madison’s last remaining undeveloped areas. The area of the trails is located on 130+ acres of city land at Stoneridge Park. The trails offer a panoramic view of the Madison areas stretching for miles to the southeast and southwest.

The rapid development of Madison has left very few natural areas. Rainbow Mountain is quickly becoming an island of the last indigenous fauna and flora in Madison. Spring and summer flowers are abundant and easily photographed. Some of the larger animals seen on the mountain are wild turkey, coyote, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, fox, rabbit; and groundhog. Reptiles range from the eastern box turtle to tree lizards. Amphibious salamanders live in the springs. Redbuds, dogwoods, maples, buckthorns, oaks, and many other species of trees can be found. Ferns, mosses, lichen, and mushrooms are beautiful during the wet seasons.

Many of the “jewels” of the mountain will be lost as development continues. Animal corridors, from Indian Creek across Slaughter Road, will be eliminated and migration between these areas will cease. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. The trails range in difficulty from easy to strenuous, primarily due to elevation changes. We would like to keep the mountain trails as natural as possible.

Geology

Rainbow Mountain, like Monte Sano Mountain is part of the Southern Appalachian Plateau. It was deposited during the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian periods of the Paleozoic era (570-225 million years ago). Although its altitude peaks at 1150 feet, it shares some of the same fossils and geologic characteristics of Monte Sano. Some of the fossils found on Rainbow Mountain include the bryzoans, crinoids, blastoids, and brachiopods. Rugosa coral are easily found in the Waterfall Spring. These fossils are indicative of the lowland sea that once covered the mid-interior of the United States from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. Rainbow Mountain is a good example of the Hartselle Sandstone formation. The Hartselle Sandstone formation consists of sandstone, limestone, and shale. Differences in the erosive resistance of these types of rock have resulted in bluffs, small seasonal waterfalls, and caves.

Balance Rock

The Balance Rock is an excellent example of these erosion differences. Visual examination of the bluffs adjacent to the Balance Rock reveals wavy lines and pebbles in the sandstone caused by the actions of water from long ago seas. The two caves (Rainbow Pit – 65 feet deep and Belly-Up Cave) are the result of water leaching the limestone rock. Small stalactites can be seen in the entrance to Belly-Up Cave. Although the area of Rainbow Mountain is small relative to Monte Sano, it is a most valuable asset to the community. Its potential for educational and recreational activities is unique for the city of Madison. Rainbow Mountain’s geologic and biodiverse qualities are a reminder that we share the Earth with a complex variety of life and its many forms.

Future Plans

  • Extend the trails to the neighborhoods at the foot of the mountain to provide trailheads for easy public access to the top of the mountain.
  • Work with adjacent undeveloped land owners and the Land Trust to expand the park.

Directions to Trailhead

From Hwy. 72 (University Dr.); turn south onto Hughes Road.

From Madison Blvd. (old Hwy 20), turn north onto Hughes Rd.

Follow the brown Rainbow Trails signs.

Once on Hughes Road, turn east onto Lynnbrook Drive into Stone Ridge subdivision across from Discovery Middle School; turn right onto Concord Drive then take a left on Stoneway Trail to the top of the hill; bear right at the T intersection and go to the parking lot at the water tower (app. .6 mile).