Cure Your Cabin Fever on the Natchez Trace Parkway
After cold, drizzling rain and inertia kept us inside for a couple of days, a trip to the historic Natchez Trace Parkway near our Leiper’s Fork home seemed like a good choice to get outside and walk off some Christmas cookies.
Ground zero is at Natchez, Mississippi and the parkway ends at mile post 444 on Highway 100 west of downtown Nashville. We started our trek about a mile from the Leiper’s Fork Historic District at mile post 428.
The national parkway has a wealth of natural scenery, hiking trails and historic sites but there are no commercial improvements offering fuel or food so the village is a good stop for gas, maps and provisions.
Our first stop was at mile post 427.6 at Garrison Creek. This is the northernmost trailhead for the Highland Rim section of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, a series of five developed sections that make up 60 miles of combined horse and hiking trails between Leiper’s Fork, Tenn. and Natchez, Miss.
Our next stop was about three miles south at Burns Branch. We were traveling by car, but hikers and riders on horseback enjoy this stop along the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail too. So did Jake, our golden retriever, who had a fine time exploring the clear, cool creek.
The Highland Rim section of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail ends near the historic Gordon house, a brick home built in 1818 at a ferry crossing on the Duck River. An easy trail leads a half-mile from the house to the banks of the Duck where we spotted a couple of areas that would provide good access for bank fishing for another day.
The sign from the northern approach to Devil’s Backbone State Natural Area at mile post 394 was down so we initially missed our turn into the parking area. Once parked, we began our three-mile hike through second and third growth upland oak-hickory forest along the ridges of Tennessee’s Highland Rim, down along a creek and back again.
A component of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the 900-acre Meriwether Lewis Park at mile post 385.9 is where famed explorer Meriwether Lewis died in 1809, only three years after the conclusion of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
The park has restrooms and a campground with 31 shady sites that are free of charge. There’s no bath house but water is available year round.
Three miles of hiking trails lead from the Lewis monument to the Old Trace and Little Swan Creek before returning to a small museum with exhibits commemorating Lewis’ career and the history of the Natchez Trace. In several areas split rail fences mark walks along the sunken remains of the old Natchez Trace, once the most important highway connecting Nashville and Natchez.
As I had anticipated, the Natchez Trace Parkway was the perfect antidote for our cabin fever and burned some of those excess cookie calories off too.