Extending 444 miles and stretching across three states (Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi), the Natchez Trace Parkway is full of beautiful landscapes that seem to transcend time.
The present-day route closely follows the original footpath once used by the Native Americans following the traces of bison and other game. By the time of European Exploration, the route had established itself as a well-known connector between the Cumberland Plateau, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. Improved communications and development of ports along the rivers later made the route obsolete as a means of passenger and freight commerce. In 1930, the National Park Service began constructing a thruway following the course of the original trail and it has since been designated an All-American Road because of its intrinsic qualities.
What Makes It Great
The early sections are hilly, filled with plenty of scenic overlooks and passing by numerous waterfalls. Just beyond Leiper’s Fork, the Trace starts to flatten out to long slow grades, perfect for time trial drills.
The Natchez Trace is great for a day ride or a multi-day excursion. Should you choose to ride the entire route all the way down to Mississippi, there are plenty of bicycle-only campgrounds, convenient places for service and maintenance stops, clear directions, and restrooms every 15 to 20 miles.
Who is Going to Love It
Today this route is one of the best cycling treks in the United States attracting people from across the country. The Trace has only 50 access points and designated as a federal park. As a result, cyclists have miles of smooth pavement on a road that's closed to commercial traffic under a strictly-enforced speed limit. These restrictions apply along the entire route, which makes the Natchez Trace ideal for any level cyclist.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Just 25 minutes from downtown Nashville, the Natchez Trace's northern starting point is at the intersection of Highway 100 and Natchez Trace Parkway right near the famous Loveless Café.
If you are weak on maps and cue sheets, then you will love the fact that you can't get lost. It's very easy to use the Natchez Trace Parkway as a spine and branch off of it for long loops in the country, rejoining the route when you need to check your bearings. The mile markers are numbered so you can always get a feel for where you are.