While you're hiking through off of the Natchez Trace Parkway, know that you're walking the paths that haven been traversed for centuries. The Garrison Creek Loop Trail is no exception. This historic path is located near Franklin (a Nashville suburb). It's a 6.3-mile loop that traverses a creek and forces hikers to wade through water at some points. Although the trail is overgrown in some places, which requires some maneuvering, it's a pretty moderate hike. As with any serious hike, be sure to bring plenty of water and wear sturdy footwear. Give yourself some extra time to cross the creek bed!
Located in the western part of Davidson County, Bells Bend Park is named for the natural arc in the Cumberland River in this part of Nashville. This rural preserve has been taken care of by local Nashvillians who continued to fight for its protection from developers until it became a Nashville park in 2007. The Bells Bend landscape is shaped by the river, which creates lush fields and wildflowers, and attracts plenty of interesting wildlife. A stroll around the 2.3-mile loop trail offers uninterrupted views of wildlife and rolling fields. If you have time, pack a picnic and stay for lunch or dinner!
This .75-mile nature loop trail is short and easy--and that makes it perfect for a family outing. A self-guided nature book with explanations and educational information about 20 different stops can guide you through the trail, allowing you to spot wild flowers, trees, and other natural sights. In addition to providing an educational opportunity, this short trail features a wet weather spring and creek, and part of it is included with the historic Natchez Trace. If you're hiking with kids, give them time to stop and play in the creek if it's high enough. That's what a day out in the woods is for!
The Warner Parks System has nine hiking trails that range from incredibly easy to pretty difficult. The Harpeth Woods Trail is somewhere in the middle. This moderately difficult 2.5-mile hike leads hikers along a stream, through rocky ridges, and past native plants and wildflowers from Nashville. Since you'll be hiking near water and on some rocky ground, make sure you wear comfortable, sturdy footwear. One of the most unique aspects of this trail is that it allows hikers to cross a rock quarry that was active in the 1930s through the early 40s. Just remember that collecting fossils from this area is prohibited!
Beaman Park is a unique treasure in the Nashville Park System due to its wild, untouched land. The park lies on the Highland Rim just outside of Nashville's metropolitan area. Due to its location on the Rim, you can expect steep forested inclines, rocky ridges, and elevations around 1,000 feet on your hike. Although Beaman Park has plenty of rises and valleys, the 2.1-mile Ridgetop Trail is considered moderately difficult. The trail takes you one way into the woods, so prepare for a 4.2-mile round trip hike. If you take the Ridgetop path, you're sure to see hilltop views of a hickory forest, as well as diverse wildlife and plant life.
The 2.5-mile Warner Woods Trail is designated a moderately difficult trail by park staff. That doesn't mean it's going to be a simple walk through the woods, so make sure you wear comfortable footwear and give yourself time to stop and rest if necessary. Although the trail is relatively short, it runs through the heavily wooded, most isolated parts of Percy Warner Park. Hikers can experience a breathtaking view from the cleared knob of Luke Lea Heights at an elevation of 922 feet by walking down a paved road that the trail crosses. The Warner Woods trail is clearly marked and park staff does a great job of keeping the trail clean and safe. So get out there and explore!
About 30 minutes from Nashville, Long Hunter State Park is an oasis of 2,600 acres. Located on Percy Priest Lake, the park has plenty to offer hikers, fishermen, paddlers, and boaters. The Volunteer Trail is also called the Day Loop Trail. Expect a relatively flat, easy path with plenty of lakeside views. The 5.5-mile path mostly winds alongside the shoreline, although water access isn't readily available. Three foot bridges are located on the trail to help hikers cross a bubbling creek. Although the trail is easy, it can take a while to hike more than 5 miles in the woods. Block off a few hours and use the resting benches as needed.
Shelby Bottoms offers some of the most family-friendly hiking and strolling in Nashville. Four miles of paved trails are perfect for leisurely walks or bike rides. Best of all, the easy, wooded paths never lack wildlife or pleasant views. Deer, various birds, chipmunks, squirrels, butterflies and other wildlife can be spotted on the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. If you want to catch a glimpse of the Cumberland River, an overlook near the Shelby Park entrance to the Greenway provides a place to rest and watch the water. For those who want to get off the paved paths, look for wooded trails that jut off of the main pathway. These nature trails will offer your best bet at seeing wildlife.
The Mossy Ridge Trail in Percy Warner Park is a favorite of Nashville hikers. The 4.5-mile trail can turn into a 6-mile loop via the Cane Connector trail, but you might want to skip the extra distance if you're not a serious hiker. With rocky paths, steep hills, and trickling waterfalls, the Mossy Ridge Trail offers gorgeous vistas around every turn. The trail is busy enough that you won't feel isolated, but you'll also gain some solid quiet time in the woods. If you need a break from the trail--which is marked moderate by park staff--a short side trail leads to a "quiet point." There, you can overlook a steep, rocky ridge on one of the resting benches.
Radnor Lake is the perfect hiking spot for anyone. Beginners can take the easy 1.4-mile lake trail from the parking lot around Radnor Lake. This trail is usually clear of debris and tree limbs, so it's a great choice for families or people who can't get around very well. If you're looking for more of a challenge, the Garnier Ridge trail (1.5 miles) or South Cove Trail (1.2 miles) offer a strenuous, rocky path. On the bright side, you'll be rewarded for your climb into the woods with gorgeous vistas and a good chance of wildlife sightings. Busy enough that you never feel alone, Radnor offers solace, peace, and an up-close glimpse into the wonderful world of wildlife.