April 11, 2024
natchez trace parkway

natchez trace parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a must-do recreational scenic road trip for anyone visiting three states. This guide will show you everything you need to know about the Natchez Trace Parkway, from trail maps to driving conditions to camping and picnic areas.

The Natchez Trace Parkway – The Ultimate Scenic Road Trip Through Three States

The Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile scenic drive through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a beautiful road trip experience. The parkway offers stunning views of rolling hills, forests, and wildlife, as well as a rich cultural history dating back to the Native American civilizations that once thrived in the region.

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Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.
Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.

What is the Natchez Trace Parkway?

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile recreational road and scenic drive through three states, stretching from the Tennessee Appalachian foothills to the bluffs of the lower Mississippi River. It roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace,” a historic travel corridor used by Native Americans and European settlers since ancient times. Along the way, visitors can enjoy a variety of recreational activities, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a popular recreational road trip because it connects travelers to a unique and rich history, as well as stunning natural scenery. The trail crosses four ecosystems and eight major watersheds, providing habitat for numerous plant and wildlife species.

Along the way, there are sites like Emerald Mound and Mount Locust, which have been preserved as historical landmarks. It is also designated as a National Scenic Byway and All-American Road, allowing travelers to experience the beauty of the landscape at a leisurely pace.

Overall, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a great way to explore a unique and culturally important part of the United States. It gives visitors the chance to experience 10,000 years of history, as well as some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

What Is the History of The Natchez Trace Parkway?

The history of the Natchez Trace Parkway dates back many centuries. It originated as a footpath used by Native Americans and early explorers to travel across the region. In the late 1700s, the route was heavily used by Ohio Valley farmers, who floated their goods down the Mississippi, sold their flatboats for lumber, and then returned home on foot.

In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson designated the Trace a national postal road for the delivery of mail between Nashville and Natchez, and by 1820, over 20 “stands” (inns) were located along the route to cater to the increasing traffic.

Established as a National Park System unit in 1938 and officially completed in 2005, the Natchez Trace Parkway commemorates the most significant highway of the Old Southwest. It leads travelers 444 miles through three states and 10,000 years of North American history, bisecting the traditional homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations.

The scenic Parkway is declared a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road, and has been chosen as one of America’s 10 best biking roads. Open year-round for motorists, hikers, and bikers, the Parkway provides visitors an unhurried trip through time. It crosses four ecosystems and eight major watersheds and provides habitat for nearly 1,500 species of plants, 33 mammal species, 134 bird species, and 70 species of reptiles and amphibians.

Gen. Andrew Jackson, Jefferson Davis, James Audubon, Meriwether Lewis (who died on the Trace in 1809), and Ulysses S. Grant are among the famous Americans to have traveled the Natchez Trace. Today it continues to be maintained and administered by the NPS, and provides a near-continuous greenway from the Tennessee Appalachian foothills to the bluffs of the lower Mississippi River.

Natchez Trace Parkway by timhendrix is licensed under CC BY NC ND 2.0.
Natchez Trace Parkway by timhendrix is licensed under CC BY NC ND 2.0.

Highlights of The Natchez Trace Parkway for Different Types of Trips

1. Old Fort Pillow State Historic Site

The Old Fort Pillow State Historic Site near Florence, Alabama, is a stop on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Located on the Tennessee-Mississippi border, the site commemorates the Civil War battle of Fort Pillow. It features a museum, interpretive exhibits, and a self-guided tour of the reconstructed fortification and earthworks. Visitors can also explore the park’s walking trails, picnic areas, boat launch, and fishing dock, as well as the historic site’s reconstructed hospital, powder magazine, and cannons. There is also an observation deck that overlooks the battlefield.

2. Meriwether Lewis National Monument

The highlights of Meriwether Lewis National Monument include the Meriwether Lewis Monument and Grave Site (milepost 385.9), Fall Hallow Trail (milepost 391.9), Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive (milepost 401.4), Trail to Jackson Falls and Baker Bluff Overlook (milepost 404.7), Bridge at Birdsong Hollow (milepost 438), Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge over SR 96 in Tennessee, Rocky Springs Methodist Church, Rocky Springs Cemetery, Cypress Swamp, and the Scenic Waterfall. At this site, visitors can explore the strange circumstances of Lewis’s death, as well as take part in several hiking trails.

To get to the Monument from Franklin, it takes about an hour and a half a day to explore the entire area. Emerald Mound, located just west of the Trace and north of Highway 61 near Natchez, is another important historic site along the Natchez Trace, offering a unique look at the ingenuity and industry of the native culture.

3. Elvis Presley Birthplace

The Elvis Presley Birthplace is a museum and tourist attraction located in Tupelo, Mississippi, at the site of Presley’s birth in 1935. The museum pays homage to the early life of Elvis Presley, providing visitors with insight into the country roots and humble beginnings of the King of Rock Roll. It includes a replica of the two-room house where Presley was born, along with exhibits detailing his family’s life and his early musical influences.

The Elvis Presley Birthplace is a popular attraction along the Natchez Trace Parkway, due to its unique historical significance and its close proximity to other attractions, such as the Tupelo Automobile Museum and the Natchez Trace Visitor Center. Moreover, the birthplace serves as an important reminder of the region’s rich history and cultural heritage, as well as of Presley’s lasting impact on American music and culture. As such, it is an integral part of the Natchez Trace Parkway experience, and an important highlight for both Elvis fans and history buffs alike.

Cypress Swamp Natchez Trace Parkway by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0.
Cypress Swamp Natchez Trace Parkway by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0.

4. The Swampers Exhibit

The Swampers Exhibit at Milepost 122 is a highlight for road trips on the Natchez Trace Parkway due to its stunningly diverse ecosystem. The Cypress Swamp offers visitors a self-guided half-mile tour on a raised boardwalk, offering the chance to spot alligators, a variety of birds and other wildlife. Travelers can also enjoy a unique experience exploring the Ross Barnett Reservoir Overlook, the West Florida Boundary, the Historic settlement of Pigeon Roost, the Bynum Mounds and other unique features of the parkway.

The diverse ecosystems of the parkway provide a unique opportunity for learning about the natural environment, and the Swampers Exhibit is a great way to explore and appreciate the beauty of the area. The exhibit also offers visitors the chance to engage in local arts and entertainment while learning more about the region’s history and culture. The Swampers Exhibit is a perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the Natchez Trace Parkway and make the most of any road trip.

5. Colbert’s Creek

The highlight of the Natchez Trace Parkway at Colbert Creek is Rock Spring Nature Trail, which is site #10 on the North Alabama Birding Trail. This trail is a twenty-minute walk along Colbert Creek and is an excellent place to see ruby-throated hummingbirds feasting on jewelweed nectar in the fall. The Rock Spring Nature Trail can be found at the coordinates 34.869°N, 87.897°W, at an elevation of 330.2 m.

6. Natchez State Historic Site

The Natchez State Historic Site is a 444-mile-long National Park that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. It is filled with beautiful scenery and interesting historical sites for travelers to explore. Highlights of the Natchez State Historic Site include:

  1. Cycling: Enjoy a leisurely bike ride along the Natchez Trace Parkway and take in the sights.
  2. Camping: Pick a campsite along the Parkway to enjoy a weekend getaway.
  3. Foliage, Blooms and Wildlife: The National Park is home to a variety of different plant and animal species and is bursting with color during the spring and summer months.
  4. Hiking: Take a hike on one of the many trails throughout the National Park.
  5. Interpretive Sites and Exhibits: Check out the many interpretive sites and exhibits along the Parkway to learn more about the history and culture of the area.
  6. Motorcycling: Enjoy the freedom of the open road on one of the many scenic routes of the Natchez Trace Parkway.
  7. RVing: Set up camp along the Parkway and explore the area at your own pace.
  8. The Mississippi River at Sunset: Catch the breathtaking sight of the Mississippi River at sunset from Silver Street in Natchez.
  9. Longwood: Tour the grand mansion of Longwood, built in the mid-1850s.
  10. Natchez Under-the-Hill: Take a visit to the historic riverfront restaurants and shops on Silver Street.
  11. Magnolia Grill: Enjoy a delicious meal with a view of the river.
  12. Under-the-Hill Saloon: Have a drink with locals and tourists alike at the saloon.
  13. The Camp: Grab a burger and a craft beer.
  14. Roux 61: Try some Cajun-inspired seafood dishes.
  15. The Donut Shop: Stop by for a sweet treat.
  16. Kings Tavern: Enjoy a cocktail, flatbread, and fresh fish.
  17. Monmouth Historic Inn: Spend a night in this 1818 inn and feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
  18. Dunleith: Stay in this 1856 mansion and explore the grounds.
  19. Adventure Awaits: The Natchez Trace Parkway offers so many opportunities for outdoor recreation and sightseeing.
Emerald Mound Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.
Emerald Mound Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.

7. The Muscles Shoals Sound Studio

The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is a recording studio located in Sheffield, Alabama that is renowned for producing some of the most influential music of the 20th century. Founded in 1969 by four session musicians, the studio has seen the likes of Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, and the Rolling Stones record some of their most famous songs. The unique sound of the studio has been attributed to its naturally reverberant acoustics, which gives the music a distinct, warm tone.

The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is a highlight of the Natchez Trace Parkway for several reasons. Firstly, it is a symbol of the deep musical roots that have been cultivated in the south and is a highly respected studio in the music industry. Secondly, it is a great example of how a small community can have a major impact on the cultural landscape of the United States. Lastly, it is an inspiring reminder of just how powerful music can be in uniting people and driving social change.

8. RCA Studio B

RCA Studio B on the Natchez Trace Parkway is a Nashville music landmark and an important part of country music history. Opened in 1957, it was the first recording studio of its kind in the South, and was home to the legendary “Nashville Sound music” of country music. The studio was the site of some of the most iconic and influential recordings in the history of country music, by artists such as Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, and Roy Orbison.

The studio was also influential in the development of what is now known as the Nashville Sound, a mix of country, pop, and classical music that was popularized by some of the genre’s greatest stars. This style of music was developed in the 1950s and 1960s at RCA Studio B, and helped to propel Nashville’s music industry to the heights it is at today.

The significance of RCA Studio B is not only in its place in country music history but also in its location. It is on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a historic route that was used by Native Americans and early settlers, and is now a popular tourist destination. The studio’s location has made it a tourist attraction in its own right, and has helped to bring attention to the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is now a National Scenic Byway.

There is no doubt that RCA Studio B on the Natchez Trace Parkway is an important part of country music’s history, and has contributed to the genre’s growth and evolution. The studio has also helped to bring attention to the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is now a popular tourist destination. Its influence on the Nashville Sound, and its importance to both country music and the region, make it an interesting and important part of the history of the United States.

9. Shiloh National Military Park

Shiloh National Military Park, located at milepost 385.9 of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Hohenwald, Tennessee, is a national monument to honor Meriwether Lewis. It is managed by the Shiloh National Military Park and includes various highlights that honor the historic site and Lewis’ mysterious death. Highlights of the park include the grave marker for Lewis, the Grinder’s Stand where he stayed during his travels, and the landscape of the area, including the areas where the Battle of Shiloh took place in April 1862. Visitors can also explore the original Union and Confederate earthworks, the historic Shiloh National Cemetery, the Shiloh Indian Mounds, and the Shiloh Interpretive Center.

Road to Emerald Mound Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.
Road to Emerald Mound Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.

10. The Trail’s End Museum

The Trail’s End Museum is a popular stop for road trips along the Natchez Trace Parkway because it offers a comprehensive look at the history, culture, and natural beauty of the area. Located at Milepost 266, the museum features a bookstore, nature center, informational video, knowledgeable park rangers, and a hiking trail that leads to a nearby Chickasaw Village site. Visitors can explore the historic tobacco barn, which is a visible landmark that helps people find the two-mile, one-way drive along the Old Trace trail.

As they travel the bumpy dirt road, they will get to experience the beautiful views of the valley and get a taste of what it was like to travel to the Old Trace. Additionally, the museum offers a great range of activities, from the Emerald Mound, one of the largest Indian temple mounds in the United States, to Timberland Park, which has cozy interpretive centers and lovely trails.

Further along the Trace, visitors will find the Donut Shop with its delicious donuts, the Jackson Falls with its striking view, and the Monument and Grave Site of Meriwether Lewis. All in all, the Trail’s End Museum offers truly remarkable and unforgettable experiences that are sure to make any road trip even more memorable.

What Is the Best Way to Explore the Natchez Trace Parkway?

The best way to explore the Natchez Trace Parkway is to drive down the two-lane road and experience its beautiful sights, diverse wildlife, and historical sites. Start in Nashville, Tennessee, and make your way south to Natchez, Mississippi. Along the way, there are numerous attractions to explore such as interpretive sites, scenic overlooks, campgrounds, trails, and waterfalls. Be sure to check out the 18 different communities with tasty local cuisine. You can also take an enjoyable cycling or hiking trip, or even go camping or RVing. Whatever you choose to do, you won’t be disappointed with the wild beauty of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Natchez Trace Parkway: Camping

Camping along the Natchez Trace Parkway offers a variety of options, from bed and breakfast establishments to hotels and park campgrounds. The National Park Service operates three campgrounds within the parkway boundaries:

  1. Rocky Springs (Milepost 54)
  2. Jeff Busby (Milepost 193.1)
  3. Meriwether Lewis (Milepost 385)

Campgrounds on Or Adjacent to The Parkway

Campgrounds on or Adjacent to the Parkway Natchez Trace Parkway U S National Park Service
Campgrounds on or Adjacent to the Parkway Natchez Trace Parkway U S National Park Service
Source: National Park Service
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6754981 L

What Landmarks Can Be Found on The Natchez Trace Parkway?

Along the Natchez Trace Parkway, you can find many landmarks, including the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge (Milepost 438), Jackson Falls (Milepost 404.7), a Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive (Milepost 401.4), the Meriwether Lewis Monument (Milepost 385.9), Rock Spring Nature Trail (Milepost 330.2), Colbert Ferry (Milepost 327.3), Tishomingo State Park (Milepost 304), Donivan Slough (Milepost 283), Natchez Trace Parkway Headquarters Visitor Center (Milepost 266), Bynum Mounds (Milepost 232.4), a Cypress Swamp (Milepost 122), the Ross Barnett Reservoir (Milepost 105.6), the Sunken Trace (Milepost 41.5), and the Mount Locust Inn and Plantation (Milepost 15.5). At the end of the Parkway is Natchez, located at the Mississippi River.

Final Thoughts

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a beautiful and historic road trip. With its stunning views, rich cultural history, and opportunities for outdoor adventure, the parkway is an unforgettable experience that will leave you wanting to return again and again.

Happy Trails,

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Traces Through Time: Natchez Trace Parkway

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Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a national parkway in the southeastern United States that commemorates the historic Natchez Trace and preserves sections of

Natchez Trace
the 444-mile (715 km) Natchez Trace Parkway, which follows the approximate path of the Trace, as well as the related Natchez Trace Trail. Parts of the original

Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge
The Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge is a concrete double arch bridge located in Williamson County, Tennessee, 8.7 mi (14.0 km) from the northern terminus

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