Moss Rock Preserve is a 349 acre nature preserve owned by the City of Hoover. The preserve includes gigantic boulders, waterfalls, rare plant glades and about 10 miles of trails. Over 140 species of birds have been recorded in the preserve.
Habitat is dominated by pine-hardwood forest currently including an abundance of Mountain Longleaf Pine. More limited open habitats are associated with the sandstone glades, power line right of ways and a prairie restoration area. Nonmigratory woodland birds including Brown Headed Nuthatches, Hairy Woodpeckers, Pine Warblers, Red Shouldered Hawks and Barred Owls can be found along woodland trails any time of year. Winter brings Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers, Winter Wrens, Hermit Thrushes and sometimes Brown Creepers and Red Breasted Nuthatches. Some Neotropical migrants such as Broadwinged Hawks, Red Eyed Vireos and Indigo Buntings join resident breeding birds in Summer. However, the birding is best in Spring and Fall migration when a variety of colorful warblers, vireos, thrushes and other migrants can be seen passing through.
Sometimes Sora Rails can be found on the sandstone glades in Fall. If you visit the glades please avoid stepping on the islands of plant which contain rare and sensitive species such as Nutall’s Rayless Goldenrod, Menge’s Fame Flower, Harper’s Dodder, Elf Orpine, Boynton’s and Georgia Oaks. An approximately 30 acre area at the northeast end of Moss Rock was disturbed by a terminated development prior to being added to the preserve, but that area is now being restored to natural habitats and includes a wet meadow and prairie. These habitats support breeding Field Sparrows, Blue Grosbeaks, Yellow Breasted chats, American Woodcocks and sometimes House Wrens.
While not the most scenic trail, the Poweline Trail is flat and easily accessible from the Sulphur Springs Road Parking lot and offers clear forest edge views of warblers and other species in Spring and Fall migration. The scrubby habitat on the edge of the power line right away is good for sparrows in winter and Indigo Buntings in summer as well. The adjacent Blue Trail can be used to make a loop back to the parking area through fully forested habitat that includes some glades, boulders and cascades.
The White and Orange trails offer the most scenic birding experiences with landscapes that includes large boulders, clear streams, waterfalls and even the small wetland known as Frog Pond. The Red Trail offers a woodland birding experience through mature hardwood forests in the southwest corner of the park. The year round “birdiest” habitat can be found in the restoration area located behind an iron gate on Chapel Road. There is no parking lot in this area, but parking on the wide road shoulder of Chapel Road and the adjacent and less busy Vendure Lane is permissible so long as you do not block the gate or park out in the road. Walk up the hill on the gravel road behind the gate and when you are at the base of a grassy flat top hill (aka the prairie restoration) and you should see and hear breeding Field Sparrows, Yellow Breasted Chats as well as Red Tailed Hawks. If standing at the base of the grassy hill you should go left on the mowed trails which will lead you to the wet meadow that is a breeding ground for American Woodcocks. The woodcocks can be seen doing their courtship flights at dawn and dusk during the late Winter and early Spring.
If you continue on the mowed trail you will reach the Powerline Trail and you can go right on that trail past the Moon Rock Sandstone Glade which is on your left to reach the prairie restoration which is on your right at the junction of the Powerline Trail and the top of the same gravel road you walked in on. The prairie restoration is full of native tall grasses and wildflowers which is a favorite habitat for Goldfinches, Blue Grosbeaks and Eastern Bluebirds. The prairie also has benches that provide a view across Hoover, the Cahaba River Valley all the way to Oak Mountain State Park. The 3 acre prairie has a one way central trail through it to facilitate use. After enjoying the prairie area follow the gravel road down the hill and back to your car. See the following link for additional information on Moss Rock Preserve including a map of the trail system, parking areas and other landmarks http://hooveralabama.gov/219/Hiking-Map-Trail-Guide
To reach to the Sulfur Springs Road Parking lot take Exit 10 off of I-459 and then take a left on Highway 150 and then shortly turn left on to Preserve Parkway. Follow Preserve Parkway for a mile or so until you reach its intersection with Sulphur Springs Road. Take a left on Sulphur Springs Road and then shortly turn right into a gravel parking lot /trailhead surrounded with wood rails.
From there birders can follow the Powerline Trail east and take the Blue Trail or White trail back to the parking lot.To reach the parking for the scenic Boudlerfield Area follow the above directions until you reach the intersection with Sulphur Springs Road and then continue on Preserve Parkway across this intersection for about a mile. When you come to the first traffic circle loop about 3/4 around the circle and turn into a uphill drive leading to the parking lot/trailhead for the Boulderfield Area.
To reach the parking for the Simmons Middle School Trailhead continue through the traffic circle on Preserve Parkway until it terminates into Chapel Road. Take a left on Chapel Road and almost immediately you will see a blue sign telling you to turn left for Moss Rock Preserve Parking. Drive behind the school buses to reach the trailhead kiosk for the White and Orange Trails.
To reach the restoration area including the prairie and wet meadow continue on Chapel Road past Simmons Middle School for about a mile and you will see an Iron Gate on your left. Parking is limited to wide road shoulders along Chapel Road and Vendure Lane and do not block the gate. Walk the gravel road behind the gate using the tips mentioned in the Preserve’s description above to make a loop by the Wet Meadow, Moon Rock Sandstone Glade and Prairie Restoration. The adjacent Orange Trial offers woodland birding, waterfalls and boulders as well.
GPS: 33.376281, -86.853497