The Natchez Trace Parkway is an amazing road. Stretching 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee this road takes you somewhere else. Sure there are other scenic roads in the US, but none like the Natchez Trace. My family tries to make a trek down the trace at least once a year (usually in mid to late October). If you ever get a chance you should Drive the Natchez Trace.
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5 Reasons You Should Drive the Natchez Trace
Quite simply, the Natchez Trace Parkway is one of the most beautiful roads in America. The scenery from Nashville to Natchez is unreal, and the road takes you right through the heart of it. One of the big things I like about Driving the Natchez Trace though is what you don’t see. There is a notable absence of overhead power lines, utility poles, billboards and other roadside distractions. When you are driving the road the only thing you have to focus on is the road the natural beauty around it.
There are definitely some scenic points you can’t miss when driving the Trace. The Natchez Trace double arch bridge in Franklin is one of the most iconic. Be sure to see it from the pull off on Natchez trace and from Birdsong Hollow below to get the best views. Swan View Overlook at mile 392.5 and Water Valley Overlook at mile 411.8 are two more scenic spots you shouldn’t miss.
When you drive the Natchez Trace, it is important to understand that it isn’t the interstate. You aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. In fact the maximum speed limit on the trace is only 50 mph with much of it limited to 40 mph. The slower speed limit is a good thing for me, I enjoy that it makes the drive very deliberate and makes it easy to pull off on the side of the road if I see something interesting. It is kind of hard to do that if you are rushing along at 70 or 80 mph. This slower pace is almost meditative to me. I am forced to be in the moment (remember there aren’t billboards and such to distract you). Don’t let the slow pace frustrate you, it is key to enjoying the ride.
Safety Note: You are going to get stuck behind people on bicycles on occasion since this is a huge destination for them. Remember that the cyclist has the right to the entire lane and you should change lanes to pass them.
All along the Natchez Trace, there are hiking trails that lead to amazing destinations. These are usually short (half mile or less) and have a huge pay off! Fall hollow and Jackson Falls are two of my favorites because I’m a sucker for water falls, but be sure to check out any that seem interesting to you. You never know what you will find. I have been down the trace many times and I find something new every time.
Every little pull off holds some new view to discover. You might just encounter some wildlife on your hike too. I have walked up on wild turkeys, chipmunks, deer and all kinds of pretty birds. So pull over at that nice looking spot, get out and go for a hike, you might find something remarkable (i think you will).
Traveling the Natchez Trace takes you through some wonderful communities. Hohenwald, Lawrenceburg, Columbia, Franklin, Leipers Fork, and Nashville are all just off of the Parkway and definitely worth visiting. Each of these places has its own charm and reasons to visit. Leipers Fork has recently opened a distillery and there are a few wineries in these areas. You could make a full day out of visiting and tasting their offerings.
These communities are also home to some unreal places to eat! I recommend the Loveless Cafe and Puckett’s. Both of these restaurants feature traditional Southern fare that takes me back to my Great Grandma’s house on Sunday afternoons. We eat at one of these places every time we drive the Natchez Trace.
Finally, the Natchez Trace Parkway is rich with history. Originally it was used by Native Americans as a footpath, then by the “Kaintucks”, farmers and boatmen from the Ohio River regions of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky floating supplies down to ports in Natchez and New Orleans at the beginning of the 1800s. One of them, Merriweather Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was also killed on the Trace while returning to Washington D.C. Shortly after, The Natchez served as a major route for Soldiers during the war of 1812.
The Natchez Trace has historic sites all along it. The Gordon House, The Tobacco Farm, Merriweather Lewis Park, and many more. These sites provide a connection with our shared history that we can touch, walk on, and see. What better way to learn about the events that shaped our Country than to visit the locations where they occurred.
No matter what brings you to the Natchez Trace, you will enjoy it. There is something timeless about driving down a road with almost no traffic, no billboards, and amazing scenery. Roll down you windows and enjoy the ride! What are your favorite spots to visit when you drive the Natchez Trace? What other roads should we check out? Tell us in the comments. Consider subscribing to our updates so you don’t miss anything.