Natchez Trace Parkway, along with the adjacent Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, is a 444-mile long road maintained by the National Park Service that cuts through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. It follows the ancient Native American trail that later became an important route used by settlers, traders and armies to link the areas of the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers.
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ILNP Park Review
Our Visit My family drove a portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee on a beautiful day in early October
Our Weather 80 degrees and sunny
Overall Impression Driving Natchez Trace Parkway is a surprisingly beautiful and peaceful experience. While it will get you from Tennessee to Mississippi, this is a road you take when the journey is more important than the destination and you’d like to learn something about history along the way.
Visiting the vast majority of visitors to Natchez Trace do so by car, though it’s also a biking route, and the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail that interweaves with the parkway is a great place for a short or even a very long hike. The parkway is 444 miles long, so pick a section to drive that corresponds with the amount of time you have. No matter which section you take, there are plenty of historic sites and points of interest along the route, including no shortage of areas where you can hike the original Natchez Trace. The road is well-maintained, uncrowded and feels very separate from the roads around it making it one of the most relaxing drives we’ve taken in a long time.
We drove the section between the Meriwether Lewis Site and Gordon House Site, about 25 miles. The Meriwether Lewis Site is one of the major spots along the parkway, and it marks the site where Lewis died mysteriously of a gunshot in 1809. There is a monument to Lewis along with a section of the original trace. We spent about 45 minutes in the Lewis Site including a visit to the memorial and a short hike along the trace.
The parkway is secluded from other roads and can only be accessed at certain spots–this gives it a remote feel as you roll through rural hills and farmlands. Every few miles is a well-marked pull-off explaining some facet of the history of the trace and surrounding areas, many complete with interactive exhibits. One of our favorites was Tobacco Farm where the NPS had a small field of tobacco growing along with a reconstructed barn. This was also one of the few areas you could detour onto the original trace and drive it for a couple of miles–a bumpy experience but worth it. There are also many waterfalls along the way, but these can be seasonal with more water in spring and early summer and only a trickle in late summer or fall.
Suggestions To get the most out of a drive, you’ll need a park map. These can be hard to come by on the parkway itself, but you can find them in the visitor information centers of nearby towns. The brochure map explains each pull-out along the route allowing you to easily decide which points to hit. No matter where you stop, spend at least a few minutes on the original trace (marked “old trace” along the parkway) to contemplate the historical figures who’ve walked this road and the important place the trace had in American history.
One thing that’s hard to find in the park is bathrooms. These are marked on the map (another good reason to have one).
Nearby Towns Nashville (TN), Tupelo, Jackson, Natchez (MS)
Other Nearby Attractions Stones River NB, Shiloh NMP, Brices Cross Roads NBP, Tupelo NB, Vicksburg NMP, Natchez NHS
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