10 Breathtaking Scenic Drives in Middle Tennessee
Scenic Drives in Middle Tennessee
One of my favorite ways to explore Middle Tennessee is taking the scenic route. The back roads of Tennessee have it all, from rolling hills and lush green farmland, to mountains, forests, and waterfalls. Just about every back road will take you somewhere pretty, but some of these roads are worthy of a little more attention. Check out these 10 breathtaking scenic drives in middle Tennessee to find your road! This post contains affiliate links.
Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Trace Parkway is one of the best scenic drives in middle Tennessee (I would even say all of Tennessee). It runs 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee along the “Old Natchez Trace” travel corridor that was used by Native Americans, European Settlers, Soldiers, and Slave Traders. More than just a scenic drive, the Natchez Trace Parkway is dotted with historic sites and recreational areas along with its incredible natural beauty. There are a few things you won’t find on the Natchez Trace though: commercial traffic and billboards.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a National Parkway and is maintained by the National Park Service. It has also been designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as an All-American Road. To receive that designation, “a road must possess multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant and have one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere. The road or highway must also be considered a “destination unto itself.” That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that they would make a drive along the highway a primary reason for their trip”
The Tennessee section of the Natchez Trace is definitely “a destination unto itself”. With its history, hiking trails, waterfalls, and exceptional scenery, you will not run out of things to do along the Natchez Trace.
Things to See and Do on The Natchez Trace
The Jack Trail
The Jack Trail is a Tennessee Scenic Trail that takes you from Nashville to Lynchburg, the home of Jack Daniels Distillery. Explore middle Tennessee’s musical heritage, visit some of the states finest distilleries, see some of the most incredible scenery, and visit some amazing historic sites. The official Jack Trail covers a wide swath of middle Tennessee, but we will focus on a more direct route between Music City and Lynchburg. Because of that, our route may not exactly follow the official Jack Trail.
Starting in Nashville, head southeast on Murfreesboro Pike (this is not the most scenic portion of the drive and can be bypassed by taking interstate 24 east to your next destination). This will lead you to some important historic sites on the route such as: the Sam Davis Home and Plantation, Stones River National Battlefield, and Cannonsburgh Village. From Murfreesboro take 231 south to Christiana and stop by Miller’s Grocery for a great meal! From there Highway 269 will lead you to Bell Buckle’s Historic Square, Wartrace, and Normandy. While you are in Normandy, make time to head over to Cascade Hollow and see how they make George Dickel. After you take the tour at George Dickel, your next stop is Lynchburg. Take highway 55 out of Tullahoma and enjoy the scenery of the Lynchburg Highway before you reach your final stop on this ride. Jack Daniel’s Visitor Center will be on your left shortly after you enter Lynchburg.
The Jack Trail offers views of small towns, farms, and forests. It meanders through some of my favorite parts of middle Tennessee and exposes you to some great learning opportunities. The historic sites, small towns, and natural scenery all contribute to the Jack Trail making our list of the best scenic drives in middle Tennessee.
Things to See and Do on The Jack Trail
The Promised Land Trail
The Promised Land Trail is another official Tennessee scenic trail. Starting from Nashville it takes you through Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, Watertown, and other early Tennessee cities. Retrace the footsteps of Tennessee’s earliest settlers who arrived on the Avery Trace, the first road into Tennessee, and Walton Road that ran parallel to Highway 70. Many of these early pioneers believed these roads would deliver them to “the promised land”, and if you ask me, they weren’t wrong.
Start this trip at The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. From there, take Highway 70 and enjoy the scenery as you ride thought Mt. Juliet and Lebanon. Once in Lebanon, be sure to stop at Cedars of Lebanon State Park. After Cedars of Lebanon, take Highway 265 to get back on 70 and head on to Watertown. If you are coming through on the right weekend you can stop in Watertown and find some treasures at the Mile Long Yard Sale! Other Weekends, you can still see a movie at the Stardust Drive-in and explore this amazing small town. Other stops on this trail you shouldn’t miss are: Edgar Evins State Park, Cummins Falls State Park, Cookeville Depot Museum, and so many more great places.
The scenery on this drive is amazing, especially as you move up the Cumberland Plateau. The scenery of the drive coupled with the natural beauty of the State Parks you can visit on this trail make it one of Tennessee’s most beautiful scenic drives.
Things to See and Do on The Promised Land Trail
The Antebellum Trail
The Tennessee Antebellum trail is a 90 mile loop that passes historic pre-civil war homes and plantations in middle Tennessee. These homes are open for tours daily (some require you to call ahead). If you are into history, and want to get an idea of what Tennessee was like before the Civil War, this is the trail for you.
Starting in Nashville and winding its way south to Mt. Pleasant, the Antebellum trail stops at 8 historic homes where you can learn about the early history of Tennessee. This trail passes through 5 vibrant communities, and has plenty of shopping, scenery and good food along the way. You can see the homes of two former presidents (Polk and Jackson) and important civil war sites on this trail.
Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time for this trail. Not sure how you want to go about it? Check out these sample itineraries
- Two Day Antebellum Trail Experience
- Tennessee Antebellum Trail Civil War Tour
- Tennessee Antebellum Trail Ghost Tour
Things to See and Do on The Antebellum Trail
The Upper Cumberland Wine Trail
Travel the amazing back roads of Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region. Along the way, enjoy incredible scenery, visit small historic towns, and stop by some fantastic small family owned wineries.
There are eight Wineries & Vineyards on the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail, and all of them are worth a visit. You can follow the trail for a day tour, or you can turn it into an amazing weekend of wine tasting. Get your Wine Trail Rack Card at any of the eight wineries or visitors centers and have your card stamped at each winery you visit. Once you have completed the trail and get your final stamp you receive a special gift.
The Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee is absolutely stunning. Even without the wineries this route is worth exploring. When you add the wineries to it, it becomes a can’t miss excursion.
Things to See and Do Trail
Lynchburg to Sewanee
Whether you have traveled the Jack Trail and are looking for just a little more beautiful scenery, or you take it as a stand alone trip, the scenic route between Lynchburg and Sewanee Tennessee is a great little outing.
Start in Lynchburg and head towards Winchester on Highway 50. Stop by Tims Ford State Park and then head on to Winchester’s Historic Square. Leave out of Winchester on Highway 41A heading towards Cowan and up to Sewanee. While you are there explore the campus of the University of the South or go see the Natural Bridge. You could call it a complete trip there, or you can continue down highway 41A into Monteagle and Tracy City to see some of the other gorgeous natural sites on the mountain.
For a short trip, this one is packed with scenery, from farmland to mountain overlooks, this is one of my personal favorites of Tennessee’s Scenic drives.
Things to See and Do between Lynchburg and Sewanee
Nashville to Land Between The Lakes
The Cumberland River runs through the heart Nashville. Starting in the Appalachian mountains and flowing to its confluence with the Ohio river, it is one of Tennessee’s most important waterways. This trail meanders along the Cumberland river from downtown Nashville all the way to Land Between the lakes.
Starting at the Bicentennial Mall, where you have a great view of many of the states most important governmental buildings, and heading north on Rosa L. Parks Blvd, this route takes you from the heart of Downtown Nashville to one of the states most celebrated natural areas, Land Between the Lakes. Follow highway 12 through Ashland City, along the Cumberland River, all the way to Clarksville. While you are in Clarksville, take a little side trip to Dunbar Cave. From Clarksville head west on Highway 79 to Dover and see Fort Donelson Battlefield. Continue west on 79 and you will reach Land Between the Lakes.
Land between the lakes National Recreation Area is located in Tennessee and Kentucky between Lake Barkley and Lake Kentucky. This 170,000 acre recreation area has an Elk and Bison Prairie, camping wildlife watching, hunting, hiking, fishing, camping, and even a planetarium and observatory!
Things to See and Do between Nashville and Land Between the Lakes
Middle Tennessee Waterfall Trail
With all of its rivers and creeks running through the mountains, Tennessee is home to some spectacular waterfalls. Many of them are located in state parks or natural areas and have campgrounds and hiking trails all around them to make it easier to access these natural wonders.
Traveling along the Cumberland plateau you will encounter some of Tennessee’s most beautiful scenery. Start at Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma and see Machine Falls before a short trip down the road to Rutledge Falls. From there you will continue north to Old Stone Fort State Park, a historic native american ceremonial site. After seeing the falls there it’s on to Foster Falls and Greeter Falls. After that Fall Creek Falls, Rock Island, and Burgess Falls await before you reach the end of the trail at Cummins Falls State Park. Give yourself plenty of time to explore each of these falls; you don’t want to miss the amazing scenery around them.
Middle Tennessee’s waterfalls are stunning. From the smaller ones at Old Stone Fort to the spectacular falls like the ones at Fall Creek Falls, each one has something special. The falls combined with the wonderful scenery of the Cumberland Plateau make this one of the most scenic drives in all of the southeast.
Things to See and Do on the Waterfall Trail
Fall Creek Falls to Cumberland Caverns
This 95 mile loop runs through some of middle Tennessee’s most beautiful terrain. Fall Creek Falls is the state’s most visited state park. It is home to one of the tallest waterfalls in the eastern United States, and over 26,000 acres of cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams and hardwood timber.
From Fall Creek Falls you will take highway 30 off of the higher elevation of the Cumberland Plateau to Bone Cave Natural area and Rock Island State Park. Don’t miss Rock Island’s Twin Falls and Great Falls. After exploring Rock Island State park, head south on highway 287 to Mcminnville and visit some of its attractions. Falcon Rest, the Black House, and the Birthing Tree are all interesting historic sites in McMinnville that are worth visiting. Finally you will head east on highway 8 until you reach Cumberland caverns.
Cumberland Caverns is one of Middle Tennessee’s most incredible cave systems. It has 32 miles of caves and passage ways. You can stop by for one of their daily walking tours, or make reservations for one of the more adventurous spelunking packages. No matter how you go about it you will be amazed by the amazing rock formations, underground waterfalls, and pools. If you still haven’t seen enough consider stopping by ISHA, a mountain Yoga retreat , on your return trip to Fall Creek Falls.
Things to See and Do Between Fall Creek Falls and Cumberland Caverns
Lawrenceburg to Murfreesboro
The last route on our list of 10 breathtaking scenic drives in middle Tennessee starts in Lawrenceburg and ends in Murfreesboro. It will take you through an interesting mix of old mills, historic sites, Amish country, horse farms, and nature preserves. Start out at David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg and head east on highway 64. Stop at Powdermill Hill Trading Post and shop for antiques while you learn about the history of the area.
After Powderhill Mill, you will continue east on highway 64 to Fayetteville. Check out the historic square before heading to Prichard’s Distillery just down the road in Kelso, TN. Next, it is back on the road to Shelbyville, where you will drive by gorgeous horse farms and natural scenery. Continue north on highway 231 all the way to Murfreesboro.
Once in Murfreesboro, stop in Barfield Crescent park for a quick hike or a visit to the wilderness station. After that, head on to the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, Canonsburgh Village, and Oaklands Mansion. Finally, drive to Stones River National Battlefield and learn about this key Civil War Site or just enjoy the beautiful scenery preserved here.
Things to See and Do Between Lawrenceburg and Murfreesboro
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