Monte Sano State Park: Trip Report

When: Feb 24-26, 2023

Location: Huntsville, AL

Campground: Monte Sano State Park

Sites: 6,7

Weather Conditions: Rainy and Foggy. Lows in the 40s, Highs in the 50s.

Duration: Two  nights

Amenities: Water/Electric/Sewer , Showers, Hiking Trails, Playground

Kid Friendly: Yes

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We camped at Monte Sano in late February on a weekend with 50% rain predictions. After evaluating the hourly rainy predictions for the weekend, we decided we would go ahead and make the trip since it looked to be clear Friday evening and most of Saturday. Unfortunately, those hourly predictions didn’t prove accurate up on the mountain. It rained during most of our setup, cleared out for the night, then rained much of Saturday morning and again in the afternoon. In spite of the rain, we were able to enjoy a good bit of time outside, hang out under the awning and tarp during light rain, and got to see our kids enjoy some independent playtime on the bunkbeds when we wanted out of the weather.

The Elmore’s arrived first on Friday around 4 pm. Logan set up in the pouring down rain which stopped shortly after getting everything hooked up. We went on a short walk around the campground and ate some reheated boston butt for an easy dinner. The kids anxiously awaited the arrival of the Kennedy’s who unfortunately didn’t arrive until bedtime. A younger more adventurous version of myself would have scoffed at the idea of watching tv while camping, and while I do try to avoid it. I didn’t mind having some PBS Kids to play for the kids as we wound down for bedtime on this dreary weekend. 

On Saturday, the Elmore kids were up and at it around 6 am. We colored and had breakfast in the camper before heading out for a walk to the overlook around 7 am. It was too cloudy to see much of anything, but we enjoyed seeing more of the campground. As we returned it started to lightly rain. We gave the Kennedy’s a heads up that we were up and ready to play and they joined around 8 am. Once we realized the rain wasn’t going to end any time soon, we set up our Big Agnes tarp which allowed us to spread out more while still staying dry.

Mid-morning we sent the guys down the mountain to the famous Star Market, a locally owned grocer known for their butcher shop, and we took the kids on a bike ride around the campground. We quickly realized that 5 kids of various ages and abilities on wheels wasn’t a great idea in dense fog. We scrapped that and spent some time at the timber-built playground located in the campground.

We ate lunch in the camper while it rained. As it cleared out (for what we thought was the remainder of the trip) we decided to walk over to the playground. We had to drop off some trash so we walked out of the campground to the camp store and started at the formal entrance to the North Alabama Japanese garden. We later realized there is a shortcut from the campground straight to the garden. It’s a beautiful garden with bamboo, a lovely red bridge, and even a beautiful Japanese style pavilion. We wandered through mazes of bamboo before continuing on a connecting trail that led to the Old Monte Sano Railway, then crossed the road to the day use area that includes an historic CCC pavilion, picnic area, and large playground. We enjoyed ourselves for a bit before another downpour started. We took cover in the pavilion and actually had enough cell service (a luxury lacking in the campground) to check the weather. From the looks of the radar, it wasn’t letting up for a couple of hours, so Logan volunteered to run back for a truck. Sure enough, as soon as he got back to the truck, it tapered off. 

We got back, got into dry clothes, and gathered the kids for some hot chocolate and indoor play in the camper. This is really the first trip we have spent enough time indoors with our kids old enough to independently play. They enjoyed having their own little cubby in the bunkbeds. The Yoto Player was a fun addition that kept the tunes flowing and stories playing. It’s so easy for the kids to use independently and the cards work without wi-fi.

We had a dinner of burgers, hot dogs, and deliciously crispy asparagus and potatoes and Nick cooked on his Pit Boss griddle. The kids were exhausted and went to bed early. Luckily the rain cleared out, so the adults gathered around a fire Logan worked hard to build with very wet wood.

On Sunday, we had a nice breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and fresh bacon and sausage from Star Market. The kids played well while we packed things up. Everything outside was soaked whether it was undercover or not, but we did enjoy a morning without rain… although the fog never lifted enough to get a view.

It was so nice having a nice, short drive home after spending the weekend on a misty mountain that felt days away from home. We will definitely be back to Monte Sano. We enjoyed the spacious campsites and would like to take more time to explore the numerous trails, the planetarium, and visit the overlooks. the only negative about our campsites (6 and 7) is that there was almost no cell service. In certain areas I could get one bar, but not enough to get calls or messages out. WIFI coverage is limited to the camp store, so you are out of luck at individual campsites. This wasn’t a big deal for us, but it is something I wish I knew before we got up there as communication was challenging. Additionally, it wouldn’t work well for someone planning to work during their stay.

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