Hays Nature Preserve in Owens Cross Roads is a family and dog friendly, multi-use parkland among hardwood forest on the Flint River. With wide, well worn trails, plenty of shade, creeks, swamps, playspaces for kids, and numerous other chances to get your outdoor therapy, Hays is one of most undeveloped and wild parks in north Alabama.
The link provided on the HNP Facebook page is down, but there’s good info on the preserve to be found at: www.huntsvilleal.gov/environment/green-team/nature-preserves/hays-nature-preserve/hays-nature-preserve-trail-description.
A quick read of that page will make your visit more rewarding and informative. There’s a lot to see, including an education center, a labryinthine wildflower garden, limestone cave, beaver dam, and many varieties of trees including black walnut, tupelo, willow and water oaks.
Like to identify animal footprints? There’s a animal track ID trail researched and completed by Girl Scout Troop 455 for all to enjoy. The preserve is also a great place for birding and wildlife watching. You’ll find local and migratory birds alike, as well as rabbits, deer, and raccoons.
Horseback riding is welcome on the northern trails, and all trails are suitable for cyclists. Restrooms, free parking, and handicap access help make Hays an attractive family outing. Facebook reviews say there’s swings of all kinds for the little ones, and even a climbing wall.
Hays Nature Preserve is located at 7161 US-431, Owens Cross Roads, AL 35763. The preserve is open most days from 6AM until 6PM.
By: Stephen Locke
Stephen Locke grew up in north Alabama, and returned to find a beautiful wife and East Limestone mutt to call family, after years of toil and revelry afar, and having absorbed the lesson, "Don'tcha think, sometime's it's wise not to grow up?" His true loves include waterfalls, houseplants, architecture, photography, basketball, and whistling along to his favorite guitar solos.