trees and cliff

Middle Tennessee Leaf Peeping

Put these destinations at the top of your list.

The season for walks through freshly fallen leaves and scenic drives accented by trees showcasing their autumn best has arrived. It's finally fall and I couldn't be more excited as it's one of my favorite seasons. From looking cute in a pumpkin patch to making an Instagram post every time I buy a pumpkin spice latte, I'm eagerly making my fall to-do list and leaf peeping in Middle Tennessee is at the tippy top. Here are a few locales I'll be scouting out this season:

Hermitage, Tenn.

Roughly a 30-minute drive from downtown Nashville, Long Hunter State Park, a very popular spot on J. Percy Priest Lake, is an immediate escape to the great outdoors. With lots of picnic location options, it's an ideal date spot. Hike one of the several trails like the Lake Trail around Couchville Lake or the 4-mile Day Loop Trail which is described as being a fairly easy to moderate hike. You'll find me on the Volunteer Trail. Six miles of moderate hiking, it's the longest trail at Long Hunter where, if you're quiet, you may just stumble upon a red fox or a deer; climb up the bluffs to get a spectacular view of the lake, too.

Fall Color8

Other activities at Long Hunter include fishing along the 14,000 acre lake where catfish abound, biking, and canoeing.

Manchester, Tenn.

Old Stone Fort State Park is an hour and 30 min. from downtown Nashville but is so worth the drive. The Old Stone Fort was built 1,500-2,000 years ago by Native Americans and was used for approx. 500 years before it was abandoned. Today, it's preserved and open to history buffs or the traveler with an unquenchable curiosity like me. Displays of prehistoric Native American replicas, photos, and information on the archaeological excavations are available for perusal. The main hiking trail follows the Old Stone Fort wall which was used as a ceremonial place, built to face the exact spot where the summer sun would crest over the horizon.Old Stone Fort

Easy and moderate hiking trails will take you through the park to enjoy the waterfalls and other abundant wildlife. Head to the Little Duck River Trail for just a bit of moderate hiking as it is 1.5 miles of natural surface. Grab a pole for some bass and catfish fishing along the Duck River.

Palmer, Tenn.

A full two-hour drive south from downtown Nashville will get you to Savage Gulf State Natural Area, Tennessee's most scenic area with 15,590 acres of exploration. The cliffs and canyons are cool, especially Stone Door, a 10-by-100 foot crack that looks like a giant door left open. Native Americans used Savage Gulf as a passageway years ago. It must have been a gorgeous trip as Savage Gulf is home to waterfalls, gorges, limestone ledges, streams and creeks, and, of course, stop off points to see miles of fall foliage.

Savage Gulf, Grundy County

With more than 50 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas and backcountry camping, Savage Gulf will quickly become a favorite destination year-round.

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