Where? St. Claire County: 3525 County Road 42, Steele, AL 35987 If you type Horse Pens 40, Alabama into your phone’s maps app, it will pop right up.
What is it? This is a privately owned outdoor nature park full of boulder fields.
Trail Length? There are a few trails here and there, but I don’t know that they are established trails.
How hard are we talkin’? People love climbing here and it’s a great place for beginners.
Can I swim there? No
Any other details? You can rent a cabin or if you prefer primitive camping you can secure a spot at their campsite. There is a beautiful spot next to the primitive campsite to watch the sunset. Don’t miss it!
The info below is straight outta Wikipedia:
The natural rock shelters located in Horse Pens 40 have seen over 15,000 years of human habitation. The park contains ancient Indian burial grounds dating from the earliest inhabitants of this area, all the way up to the time of the Cherokee removal known as the “Trail of Tears“. The Creek and Cherokee tribes at various times used the natural rock formations to trap and corral horses, as a natural fortress in times of war, and as a sheltered village area in times of peace. The site played host to the only peace treaty ever signed between the Creek and Cherokee tribes.
During The American Civil War, the site was used as a hiding place for horses and their owners wishing to avoid invaders from the north and the Confederate recruiters and “bushwhackers“. Once it was discovered by Confederate forces, Horse Pens 40 was then used for the storage of supplies to be used by Confederate troops as they passed nearby.
In the late 1880s, the area was settled by The Hyatt Family of Georgia. The original deed from this era refers to “the home 40, the farming 40, and the horse pens 40”, each tract consisting of 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land. This is how Horse Pens 40 got its name. Descendants of the original Hyatt family still occupy nearby areas of the mountain.
Around 1958, a man from Huntsville, Alabama named Warren Musgrove discovered the acoustic quality of the natural amphitheater and developed the park as a venue for bluegrass and Gospel music concerts. It was one of the first outdoor bluegrass music festivals in the country, and by the 1970s had grown to be one of the largest in the world. The park served as a venue showcasing many legends of the bluegrass genre including Bill Monroe, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Lester Flatt, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. Emmylou Harris made her first public appearance at Horse Pens 40, “standing barefoot on a wooden door propped up on the rocks.” During this period, the park was designated by the Alabama State Legislature as “The Home of the South’s Bluegrass Music”.
The park, while recognized and protected by the State of Alabama, is private property owned by the Schultz Family, and as such is subject to their rules for access and stay.