We all know the saying about how the journey is greater than the destination, but how often in our busy lives do we actual put that maxim to the test? This summer, may we suggest a 444-mile scenic path, stretching from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, to do just that?
On the Natchez Trace, a route rich with Native American, early American and Southern history, traffic moves a little slower; the vista isn’t obstructed by telephone lines and fast food signs; and the friendly culture of towns along the way invites us to suspend our hurried habits.
The road originated thousands of years ago when Native Americans developed early footpaths to hunt large game that migrated south to the Mississippi River. Eventually, the path became a trade route, and by 1809, it was navigable by wagon. The Natchez Trace served as a pathway for many iconic early Americans, like Meriwether Lewis, who actually died at an inn outside Hohenwald, Tennessee. Today, the rich history of the Old Trace is preserved by the National Park Service, so we can enjoy a picturesque drive, along with hiking, biking, horse back riding and camping.
Although cars can travel up to 50 mph on the Trace, the entire route is a designated bike trail. Except for the areas surrounding Tupelo and Jackson, Mississippi, car traffic is usually pretty light. Plus, the Trace offers rest stop facilities about every 20 miles, so cyclists are never too far from some shade and a break.
If you are willing to venture off the beaten path, side trails that jettison from the main road lead to Antebellum homes, sunken roads, Civil War battlefields and small town restaurants. Here are just a few of our picks along the Natchez Trace to savor the journey:
Meriwether Lewis Monument (milepost 385.9). Learn more about the life of Meriwether Lewis inside a cabin constructed in the 19th-century style. In addition to the monument and cabin, the area has a campground, picnic area and hiking trails.
Fall Hollow Trail (milepost 391.9). A five-minute walk will take you to a viewing platform where you can see the small waterfalls at Fall Hollow.
The Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive (milepost 401.4). The two-mile drive on the Old Trace will lead you to spectacular forest views. At the tobacco farm, you can take a load off while learning about the process of growing and drying tobacco.
Birdsong Hollow (milepost 438). This stop offers views of the double-arched bridge, which rises 155 feet above the valley below. The bridge received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1995.
Confederate Gravesites (milepost 269.4). A short walk will take you to 13 Confederate gravesites. The identity of these soldiers and the causes of their deaths remain a mystery.
Emerald Mound (milepost 10.3). Mound culture thrived in Mississippi beginning about 2,000 years ago until about 400 years ago. The Emerald Mound is the second-largest Pre-Columbian earthwork in the U.S.
Creekview Farm Retreat Bed and Breakfast. Just an hour outside of Nashville, this B&B is located on a real working farm – so expect a fresh breakfast before you take off in the morning. Or relax one an afternoon by the swimming pool or on one of the gigantic screened-in porches.
The Generals’ Quarters. Near Corinth, Mississippi, this spot offers two restored Victorian homes (circa 1872 and 1909) complete with sweeping verandas and colorful gardens.
Photo by Marc Muench