National Scenic Trails

Natchez Trace Trail

The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail lies within the boundaries of the Natchez Trace Parkway, extending for 450 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. The most historic in nature of the National Scenic Trails, the Parkway commemorates the historic Natchez Trace, an ancient path that began as a Native American trail.

Natchez Trace Trail at a Glance
Length: 440 miles.
Route: Historic trading route between Nashville and Natchez.
Highlights: Sunken footpaths, Indian mounds, lush Southern scenery.
Completion: 14%. This trail will probably never be serious footpath.
Hiker Purity: Roadwalkers only need apply.

The trace was later used by early explorers,"Kaintuck" boatmen, post riders, and military men, including General Andrew Jackson after his victory at the Battle of New Orleans. Farmers would float their produce down the Mississippi River, sell their flatboats for lumber, then walk home via the trace. For a time, this was the busiest trail in the "Old Southwest." Near the trace's southern terminus, thousands of footprints compacted a groove 12 feet deep in places. Portions of the trace later developed in county and postal roads.

This trail may never be a serious footpath. Only fifty percent of the original trace lay within the parkway corridor when it was created in 1938. 85% of that was destroyed by roadbuilding, leaving only 7.5% of the original trace on protected National Park Service land. However, several through-hikers have had a good time roadwalking the parkway, which is totally unlike the turnpike-like parkways of the northeast. Think mellow country road, and you're close to the truth.

In the trail's 1987 comprehensive plan, four segments near Nashville, Jackson, and Natchez totaling 110 miles were selected for development as hiking and horseback trails. There is currently 62 miles of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail open for use in four areas along the Natchez Trace Parkway. At the northern end of the Parkway there is 24 miles of trail within the Leipers Fork District, near Franklin, Tennessee, extending from the Garrison Creek Parking Area (milepost 427.6), south to Tennessee Highway 50 (milepost 408). The Tupelo District in Tupelo, Mississippi, has 7 miles of trail open for use extending from the Beech Springs parking area (milepost 266) to Chickasaw Village (milepost 261.8). The Ridgeland District, near Ridgeland, Mississippi, has 20.5 miles of trail open for use extending from the Choctaw Boundary (milepost 128.5), south to the West Florida Boundary (milepost 108). Near Port Gibson, Mississippi, the Rocky Springs section of trail, within the Port Gibson District, has 10 miles open for use extending from the Regantown road trailhead (milepost 59), south to Russell Road (milepost 50.8). The trail has been built and maintained primarily by members of the Natchez Trace Trail Conference, Vicksburg Trail Dusters, Student Conservation Association, Boy Scouts of America and other interested volunteers. Future additions of trail are planned.

Portions of the trail follow sections of the original historic Natchez Trace. Hiking and horseback riding along the trail will take you through areas of rolling hills, meadows, pine and hardwood forests, steep ravines and some creek crossings. The trail is marked with white rectangular or oblique triangle blazes. Side, spur and loop trails are blazed in blue. Sections of the trail follow along the Parkway road shoulder and also cross county and state roads. Please use extreme caution when traveling or crossing in these sections.

Be aware that the parkway right-of-way line, blazed in yellow and marked by signs, is quite narrow and the trail route often passes very close to this line which is immediately adjacent to private property. Please respect property owner's rights along the trail route. Specific trail information may be obtained from trail brochures on each of the designated sections which are open. These brochures will provide information on the general area, accommodations, and directions to the trailheads.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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