As National Parks Week shines the spotlight on some of America's greatest outdoor spaces—in addition to offering free access to the country's 400 parks through April 24—we can't help but pay homage to Tennessee's own historic byway, the Natchez Trace Parkway. The 444-mile route is a popular one for cyclists, and it winds its way up from Mississippi, through northwestern Alabama and ends right on the fringe of Davidson County, far west of Nashville.
Planning to drive the route in its entirety or at least the part that bypasses Tennessee? Here are some stops you must make along the way:
Meriwether Lewis Park and Monument | milepost 385.9 on Natchez Trace Parkway
The circumstances surrounding famed explorer Meriwether Lewis' mysterious death are still unknown some 207 years later; but in Hohenwald, where he was found with two gunshots to the head, there remains a monument to his memory.
Fall Hollow Waterfall | milepost 391.9 on Natchez Trace Parkway
It's but a short walk to the viewing platform of this series of small waterfalls, enveloped by lush greenery. If you want to go further down to the base of the falls, pack your hiking boots as the descent is rocky and steep.
The Devil's Backbone State Natural Area | milepost 394 on Natchez Trace Parkway
Adjacent to the parkway, this moderate three-mile-long hike takes you out into peaceful wilderness, along the ridges of Tennessee's Highland Rim, down beside a creek and back again.
Jackson Falls | milepost 404.7 on Natchez Trace Parkway
The 900-foot drop of this waterfall gives way to natural slides among the cascading falls and swimming opportunities in the clear, cold pools below.
Leiper's Fork | milepost 428 on Natchez Trace Parkway
This quaint country town is a breeding ground for artisans with galleries like David Arms and Leiper's Creek Gallery, boutiques and antique shops such as Serenite Maison proving popular stopovers for passersby. Leiper's Fork is also home to the original Puckett's Grocery, a restaurant, market and live music venue that first opened in the 1950s and has since spawned five additional across Tennessee.
Birdsong Hollow | milepost 438 on Natchez Trace Parkway
(Credit: Chuck Sutherland)
For the picture-perfect scene of the iconic double-arched bridge, which soars 155 feet above Highway 96 and the valley surrounding it, get off the parkway and follow signs for Birdsong Hollow.
Loveless Cafe | milepost 444 on Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace bike path comes to an end in the most convenient of spots: right beside the grounds of the Loveless Café, a former roadside motel that serves some of the best biscuits, pies and Southern cooking around. Settle in for breakfast or poke around the general store for jams, preserves, cured meats, local products like Goo Goo Clusters and more.
And if you're looking for a Made in Tennessee token to take home with you in honor of the state's natural beauty, homegrown studio Anderson Design Group has created a colorful, special edition 59 Illustrated National Parks, Celebrating 100 Years of Wilderness and Wonder Written coffee table book compiled by founder Joel Anderson and his son, Nathan, featuring their signature poster illustrations, in addition to photography, facts and stories about our wilderness parks and those tasked with preserving them.