Bird watchers, trail runners, and hikers looking for an easy stroll will be enthralled with the trails at Old Forest State Natural Area. Shrouded in old growth trees and an ecosystem that is at least 10,000 years old, it’s truly surprising that this beautiful park exists inside Memphis’s city limits. Those that live in Memphis frequent the area for all kinds of activities from family picnics to solo excursions through a natural wonderland—it’s a quick and easy place to get to and delivers a dose of nature that any outdoors enthusiast would appreciate.
What Makes It Great
What makes the Old Forest State Natural Area great is its location in Memphis and its communion with nature—you don’t have to leave the city to get a good dose of an old growth forest. There are three trailheads, all of which are mix of dirt, gravel, and pavement. The Gold Clubhouse Entrance is walk-in access only, but they all have parking options (albeit limited) as well as restrooms. The Overton Park Old Forest East Parkway Entrance has drinking water and is dotted with picnic tables.
People who are bird watching fanatics will love hiking around these parts, as will trail runners. In this immaculately maintained park you won’t have to worry about stray sticks or rocks getting in your way on the trail, even on the unpaved sections. Spring and summer are certainly the best times to see birds fluttering around the skies, but in the winter the wrens are out—adorable tiny birds with teeny tails that stand straight up and make it look like the bird is a perfectly round, fluffy ball. You can also expect to encounter Carolina wrens as well as golden-crowned kinglets.
Who is Going to Love It
Those in Memphis who are itching for a break from city life and looking for a quick escape into nature within the city limits will be pleasantly surprised by Old Forest State Natural Area. Casual hikers and those who like nature walks will be most enamored with the place—all routes are well-maintained, and total four miles in all, so there’s nothing too strenuous to be had even if you’re visiting with someone who likes to go hard.
Families will especially enjoy hiking around here—the whole park is full of amenities for outdoor lunches and plenty of bathroom options for the little ones. After you go for a hike, the Memphis Zoo is right there. This spot is perfect for a family outing.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking is one of the biggest challenges at the park, so the best way to enter is by bike (although not all entrances are well suited for this). Parking is most available along North Parkway.