Located in the City of Madison not far off of Hughes Road, this preserve offers a little over three miles of trail featuring some difficult but beautiful climbs thanks to the rocky terrain. Known for its interesting rock formations, “Balance Rock” is a particular favorite. In the winter when the trees are bare, you can see views of Madison below. A large pavilion is available for picnics as well as a playground making this a comfortable starting point for families to explore the outdoors. This property is owned by the City of Madison while the trail system is maintain and managed by Land Trust of North Alabama.
230 Stoneway Trail, Madison, AL 35758
Parking & Information: There are two parking areas available to access the trails. The main parking area and trail entrance is located next to the pavilion. At this location, you’ll find the information kiosk with a trail map and helpful reminders. The second parking area is located just uphill next to the water tower. You can start your hike from here beginning on Balance Rock Trail if you do not need to visit the information kiosk. Just remember to take a trail map with you (available to download on this page).
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The upper portion of the trail system, closest to the trailhead, offers some easier hikes perfect for families or beginners. These trails, like the rest of Rainbow Mountain, are rocky but do not contain significant changes in elevation. While the upper area of the preserve delivers an easy stroll, once the trails turn downhill hikers should be prepared for a more challenging journey. The rocky terrain provides a stony stairway down the mountain, with an approximately 350 foot elevation change along the way. The mountain provides a small yet diverse range of habitats varying from the hot westerly slopes to cooler moist easterly slopes. Tree species include eastern red cedar mixed with various oaks, hickories and other hardwoods. The eastern slope has numerous watercourses with a primary stream running to the southeast.
- Balance Rock Trail (0.27 mi): This picturesque trail along the west side of the mountain ridge is a local favorite. The trail is well marked and cleared, fairly flat, and has amazing views over Madison looking west. Access this trail by following a red dirt path from the upper parking lot or where it intersects Rainbow Mtn. Loop. This short trail is an alluring way to see incredible formations of huge limestone boulders. The limestone boulders have been eroded by water and make a fun place to explore and play hide-n-seek. Enjoy a stop at a pair of benches to marvel at the view west over Madison and the Balance Rock formation.
- Berry Trail (0.08 mi): This short but steep connector trail runs between the Rainbow Mtn. Loop and Wild trails. This trail intersects the Rainbow Mtn. Loop at the marvelous boulder formations. The trail descends sharply downward, it is well marked but challenging going up or down. This trail is narrow and the rocks and roots almost form stairs. Add this trail to your itinerary for a shorter hike.
- Rainbow Loop Trail (1.53 mi): This is the longest and most popular of the trails on the Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve. Known for its rocky terrain and beautiful wild flowers, this moderately difficult trail is a four season wonder. On this hike you will have amazing views over Madison and then descend over 350 feet to a peaceful woodland with multiple cave openings and springs along the way. There are four scenic benches along the way, so take a break and soak in the beauty of the woods all around.
- High Pass Trail (0.11 mi): This scenic connector trail is a beautiful way to add some variety to your hike. Access this trial from the upper parking area by making a left off the Balance Rock trail. About 155 feet from the parking lot you will see the trail marker. This trial will lead you to a narrow path lined with wildflowers. Enjoy a bench with stunning views from an overlook, and see if you notice the prickly pear cactus along the way.
- Ja Moo Ko Loop Trail (0.8 mi): This loop is an extension of the Rainbow Mtn. Loop trail. This moderately difficult trail has a few steep sections that are rocky and technical, but is otherwise flat and pretty. Well shaded by a thick canopy, this hike has lots of wild flowers and trees. You will notice sinkholes and small cave openings along this trial; be sure to enjoy a rest at either bench as they mark the start of steeper sections of the trail.
- Jake’s Trail Loop (0.07 mi): This connector trail can be reached either by the end of the Stoneridge Trail or at two points along the Rainbow Mtn. Loop trail near the playground. Use this easy, well marked, relatively flat trail to bypass the playground or to do short loops as you train up for more aggressive hikes in the preserve.
- Spring Trail (0.2 mi): A scenic shortcut from the Rainbow Mtn. Loop Trail, this trial is particularly stunning in the winter and spring when heavy rain turns the year-round spring into a seasonal waterfall. This steep trail allows you to listen to the babble of the multiple springs that run down the Rainbow Mtn. and along this trail. A narrow trail with many rocks and a 230 foot elevation change; two benches on this trail mark the beginning of the spring and the end of the trail. Climb this trail to build your stamina and enjoy the peaceful water.
- Stoneridge Trail (0.07 mi): This trail begins at the Land Trust kiosk and runs past the playground and ends at Jake’s trail. This easy trail is flat and only interrupted by tree roots and small rocks. This is a great beginner trail and a beautiful introduction to Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve.
- Wild Trail (0.35 mi): This moderate but charming trail lives up to its name. Access this trail from the Rainbow Mtn. Loop Trail, and use it as a connector trail to the top of the Spring Trail, or to add an alternate route to the Rainbow Mtn. Loop. The southernmost portion of this trail features a 70 foot elevation change over rocks and roots to form stairs. The remainder of the trial is flat, with a few sections that require maneuvering over large boulders. This trail is narrow and winds through beautiful woods and stands of wild flowers.