With hieroglyphs in the cave linking back to the Native American Mississippians who lived there around 1350 AD, you could say Dunbar Cave State Park is teeming with history. Just outside the small town of Clarksville, an hour northwest of Nashville, the small park is popular with families, anglers, and hikers looking for a low-key way to enjoy the outdoors while taking in some cultural education to boot. Reopened in 2015, the park’s cave is its main attraction, but the short, simple, hiking trails can extend an on-site visit into a well-rounded excursion through the area’s storied past.
What Makes It Great
This 110-acre park may be known for its many millennia of well-documented natural history, but a walk through its serene, family-friendly trails can make for time well spent, too.
Stroll around the entrance of the largest cave in Montgomery County, where live bands and radio shows used to take up residence on a weekly basis in the first half of the 20th century. Then, take a casual walk around short, 0.7-mile trail that traces the edge of the lake, keeping an eye out for one of the many bird species that make their home at the park.
The 1.1-mile Short Loop is on the more moderate side, while the 1.9-mile Recovery Trail will give you a bit of a challenge with some steep hills. Both trails start at the visitor center, go around the lake, through forests and fields, and ultimately end up back at the visitors center.
Take a ranger-led tour of the cave itself from May through July, and see the historical artifacts and natural geology up close.
Who is Going to Love It
An easy and enjoyable spot for families, Dunbar Cave State Park is a local gem with lots of historical interest and cultural value. It’s great for families and visitors in search of a light hike, or anyone looking for a quick workout that can be kept to an hour or less.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From US79 North or US41A, take Dunbar Cave Road to the park’s entrance on Old Dunbar Cave Road. Make an almost immediate left into the parking lot just beyond the visitors center and follow the trail a few short steps to the lake.