Located just a few miles southwest of Franklin, TN, the Garrison Creek trail offers hikers a secluded loop that runs around and alongside the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. This parkway is a 444-mile drive that runs from Natchez, Mississippi through to Nashville. The parkway largely follows the route oft eh "Old Natchez Trace", a footpath that was made and traveled by Native Americans in centuries past; early explorers, traders and migrants also used this forest footpath that laid the route for the Natchez Parkway of today.
What Makes It Great
The Garrison Creek trail has a little bit of everything, with wooded dells, panoramic views over the surrounding valley, and multiple water crossings to cool off or let dogs and horses hydrate. The trail is barely used by hikers during the week, so if it's isolation and relaxation you're looking for, this is a great choice of trail. The trail is maintained without being overly manicured -- you can have a wilderness experience in diverse landscapes without ever being too far from the road. The hike is not particularly challenging in terms of elevation -- the inclines are quite mellow. The loop trail takes you through wooded cove, and through several crossings of the Garrison Creek itself. The creek is often shallow and ideal for summer splashing, or for dogs and horses to re-hydrate. For those tired of paved trails in the city parks, Garrison Creek offers a genuine woodsy experience and a loop of reasonable length that won't take your entire day. The historical Natchez Trace Parkway makes for an interesting approach to the trail, and you can add on a detour up or down the parkway to experience more of this interesting and relaxing drive.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers who find Nashville's major city parks too crowded will love the Garrison Creek loop. In the summertime, the shallow creek provides water for kids to take a mid-hike dip. Those with knee or joint issues who find steep hills uncomfortable may appreciate the trail's soft -- sometimes muddy! -- surface and the gentle inclines and descents. Hikers who don't mind getting a little muddy after rain will enjoy the trail. When considering your footwear bear in mind there are multiple water crossings during the loop, and how wet you get depends on the creek level and recent rainfall or snowmelt in the area. Some areas of the trail are wild and overgrown in the spring and summer, so hikers should consider wearing long sleeves and pants to avoid scratches and ticks.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Route 46 south of Nashville, take the exit to the Natchez Trace Parkway. Drive south on the parkway; Garrison Creek trailhead is the first pull-off signed on the left. There is plentiful paved parking by the restrooms building.
Dogs must be kept under control, and on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
Campfires are not permitted on the trail, and hikers must pack out all trash.