Natchez Trace Parkway
Mississippi, Alabama & Tennessee

The Natchez Trace is for those who enjoy a relaxed pace, sight seeing, history and getting away from it all. Don’t hurry when traveling on the Natchez Trace Parkway. This is a lazy road. Speed limit is 50 mph but there is so much to see, and if you don't stop and see the sights it will be a wasted trip. Plan on 2-3 days to take it all in, with side trips. The Trace has abundant points of interest, and rest areas and there are 3 free camping areas along the route. If you don't like camping there are plenty of towns with lodging. It's a good trip for a new rider. The road is not challening and traffic is light. No commercial traffic is allowed, meaning no semis or large trucks,but a 50 MPH speed limit is enforced. The road is relatively straight, with gradual hills and is predominately lined with trees, the road gets a bit curveyer in the Tennessee section. There are historical monuments that tell stories of the trail’s past along the way.

When to ride? Spring or Fall. Summer is to hot and humid to enjoy it. In Spring Dogwoods & wisteria are in Bloom. October you get the fall colors.  Natchez Trace Parkway sees pretty high levels of rainfall; the wettest month of the year is usually March, October is the driest month. Beware of the wildlife, deer and turkey are often spotted in very large groups along the roadside and crossing the road. Be on the alert for them, as they can necessitate a sudden stop on the roadway.  The Natchez Trace Parkway is a "definite must ride at least once." It holds stories about famous heroes, leaders and outlaws. It invites you to stop and visit many interest sites along its 444-mile length from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.

 

You can start your ride at either end.  The Natchez Trace Parkway map is an excellent starting place when planning your trip.  When using the map, you will notice that every place along the Parkway can be referenced by milepost.  The milepost system starts in the south, at Natchez, being Milepost 0, and the north end of the Parkway, near Nashville is Milepost 444.  For example, the Parkway Visitor Center in Tupelo is near the midway point at Milepost 266. Here is a map that you can print out http://natchez-trace.thefuntimesguide.com/images/blogs/natchez-trace-parkway-map.pdf  you can also pick-up a map at stops along the Parkway. 

Whether you are interested in nature, history, or recreation, knowing how to get food, gas, and lodging can make your trip much more enjoyable.  You will not see many of these services from the Parkway, so planning is advisable.  There is no food, gas, and lodging services "on" the Parkway.  However, just behind the trees, in communities throughout the Parkway's 444-mile length, you can find everything that you need, plus many places worth exploring. 

Natchez
The  Mississippi River town that lent its name to both the old trail and the modern parkway is one of the loveliest and most historic towns in the South. Established in 1716, Natchez  was at that time the only port on the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and the mouth of the Ohio River.  Back then steamboats ran goods up and down the river and  the town's strategic location enriched so many of its citizens that more than half the millionaires in America lived here. Many of their lavish homes, like Natchez itself, went virtually untouched by the Civil War and are among the town's 500 carefully preserved antebellum structures. Some of these magnificent mansions are open to visitors year-round, including such favorites as
Stanton Hall, a structure that covers an entire city block; Magnolia Hall, which was shelled by a Union gunboat in 1862; Longwood, the largest octagonal house in America; Rosalie, perched on a bluff beside the Mississippi; and Melrose, known for its unique Greek Revival style and distinctive outbuildings. Other homes may be visited only in the spring and fall, when the famed Natchez Pilgrimage Tours attract thousands of visitors, who stroll beneath live oaks draped with Spanish moss to relive the glory of a bygone era.   You can take a carriage ride along narrow streets that take you back a hundred years or more , watch towboats move huge loads of cargo down the mighty Mississippi River,  try your luck at a floating casino, and visit an ancient Indian village.

Heading northeast from Natchez, the drive follows Rte. 61, which joins the beginning of the parkway a few miles outside the city. Once on the Natchez Trace, the route winds through rolling hill country  dense with oaks, pines, beeches, and magnolias.  The first travelers along the original trace were wild buffalo seeking the easiest path south. Tracking their hoofprints, Indians blazed the trail farther, connecting villages with an intersecting series of game trails through the unbroken woodland.

Just about every mile along the Trace brings a new opportunity to pull  over and experience history for yourself. Check out some of these roadside attractions:

Mile Post 10 - The Emerald Mound, it is a 35-foot tall earth structure that spans  an incredible eight acres and is the second largest mound in all of America. This is an ancient Indian ceremonial site, built about 700 years ago.  Nearby is the entrance to Natchez State Park, a good spot for camping and fishing. 

Mile 15.5 - Mount Locust - This restored historic Inn offers tours and a glimpse into local Mississippi history.  This used to be a stop on the trail for travelers and the riverboat men known as Kaintucks. These rough-and-ready entrepreneurs guided their flatboats and rafts down the Mississippi to deliver goods at Natchez or New Orleans. Once their business had been completed, they sold their boats for lumber and trekked home on foot rather than push upstream against the current. By 1810 as many as 10,000 Kaintucks a year were trudging northward toward Nashville on the trace. Before long, such heavy traffic had turned a crude, narrow wilderness trail into a clearly defined route. (In 1806 the trace was broadened to 12 feet by order of Thomas Jefferson to make it passable for wagons.) To serve the boatless boatmen who faced a long journey home, a series of inns, called stands, sprang up along the route, spaced about one day's walk apart. Of the 50 original stands, only Mt. Locust remains. Restored to its 1820 appearance, the simple wooden house is built on pilings to keep the interior cool during summer. It  provided little more than a plate of cornmeal mush and a spot to sleep on a wooden floor, but to weary travelers making their way on a journey of nearly 500 miles, they must have seemed as inviting as any posh hotel.

Mile 30 - SIDE TRIP   Windsor Ruins - About 10 miles west of the parkway, exit at milepost 30 onto Hwy 552. The road leads along a quiet back-country road to Windsor Ruins, the haunting skeleton of what was once the largest and most impressive antebellum home in Mississippi. Completed in 1861 at the then-staggering cost of $175,000, Windsor served as an observation post for Confederate troops and, later, as a hospital for the Union Army. Ironically, the building survived the Civil War intact, only to be destroyed in 1890 by a fire ignited by a careless smoker. Today, all that remains of the once-magnificent mansion is 23 weathered Corinthian columns.

Close by is the ghost town of Rodney. In the days of steamboating, cotton and slavery, it was the busiest river port between New Orleans and St. Louis.  Other places in the area you might want to consider stopping at are Port Gibson and Grand Gulf Military Monument Park.
From Windsor Ruins the drive curves northeastward to rejoin the parkway, via Rte. 18, near milepost 40. Just before the junction, you pass through historic Port Gibson, the town General Ulysses S. Grant reportedly said was "too beautiful to burn" during his march to Vicksburg in 1863. Among the antebellum structures that inspired him are
Oak Square, a 30-room Greek Revival mansion (now a bed-and-breakfast inn) and the 1859 First Presbyterian Church. Its soaring steeple is topped with a gilded 10-foot-tall metal hand pointing skyward, and its interior features chandeliers from the steamboat Robert E. Lee. The steamboat era, around 1812, marked the beginning of the end for the Natchez Trace: river travel was so much easier and safer than the overland journey that, by the 1820s, the pathway was virtually abandoned and forgotten. Not until the early 20th century were efforts made to locate and mark the historic route. 

Mile 41.5 - Sunken Trace  The Sunken Trace is one of the few remaining sections of the original path. It is just a short walk from the roadway and only about 200 yards long. As its name suggests, it's deeply eroded into the ground, like a giant ditch or channel. Its earthen walls and the canopy of trees overhead give it a feeling of isolation, and it's surprisingly easy to lose yourself in experience as you walk along its length, imagining what it must have been like to traverse the Trace's entire length in the days before European settlers arrived

 Mile 54.8 - Rocky Springs    This is the southernmost free campground on the parkway. There are 22 campsites, picnic tables, and restrooms. A short trail from the parking area leads to the old townsite. There is a portion of the original trace you can walk to get a taste of what early travelers must have experienced.

Mile 60 - SIDE TRIP Vicksburg National Military Park   Exit onto Hwy 27. The park commemorates the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg. Surrender on July 4, 1863, coupled with the fall of Port Hudson, LA, split the South, giving control of the Mississippi River to the North. Over 1,340 monuments, a restored Union gunboat, and National Cemetery mark the 16-mile tour road.  

 

Mile 102.4 -  SIDE TRIP  Mississippi Crafts Center    The Mississippi Crafts center at offers demonstrations of traditional crafts and makes a good place to shop for souvenirs of your trip. All of the objects on display here were created by members of the Mississippi Craftsmen's Guild. On weekends from March through October, artisans demonstrate their homespun skills in pottery, quilting, basket weaving, and many other crafts, both traditional and contemporary.

Mile 105.6 - Ross Barnett Reservoir Overlook  Great place to stop for a rest. You will ride along the Pearl River for 8 miles.

 

Mile 122 - Cypress Swamp
Near the reservoir's north end lies Cypress Swamp, an abandoned river channel that abounds with two types of water-loving trees, tupelos and bald cypresses. A 20-minute nature trail begins on an elevated boardwalk, which leads through a wetland full of natural wonders. See Turtles sunning themselves on logs, lazy alligators drift by like floating logs, and great blue herons. 

Mile 160 -  SIDE TRIP   Kosciusko  distinguished as one of "America's 100 Best Small Towns", one of the "Top Sixty Prettiest Painted places in America" and the birthplace of Oprah Winfrey, offers much to do and see.
 

Mile 180 - French Camp  Louis LeFleur, a French Canadian married to a Choctaw woman, established a stand serving Natchez Trace travelers here in 1812. Today visitors can browse over French and Indian artifacts in a restored 1840 log cabin and inspect a sorghum mill, where a favorite Southern treat, molasses, is made on weekends from late September through October.
 

Mile 193.1 -  Jeff Busby Campground   Picnic area, and campground also Little Mountain overlook.

Mile  259.7 - SIDE TRIP  Tupelo exit for travelers who want to visit the Elvis Presley Birthplace, Tupelo National Battlefield, and other attractions in the city. 

Mile  261.8 - Chickasaw Village Site, exhibits describe the daily life of these Native Americans at the former site of one of their villages. A self-guided trail has signs identifying plants used by the Chickasaw.


Mile 266 - The Tupelo Visitor Center  is the Parkway headquarters, with exhibits, a 20 minute hike along a self-guided trail, information on the Parkway, and an orientation program. From here, you can take a side trip to Brices Crossroads National Battlefield.   


Mile 269.4 - Confederate Gravesite - Follow a short trail down the to the final resting place of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers.         

Mile 283 - Donivan Slough  Nice picnic stop and 20 minute hike in the Spring to see  the blooming tulip trees. Also enjoy the water oaks, sycamores, sweetgums, bald cypresses, beeches, and river birches. 

Mile 304.5 - Tishomingo State Park  Just beyond Donivan Slough, the parkway crosses the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, a shortcut for commercial shipping between the Tennessee River and the Gulf of Mexico. Farther ahead, the route bisects 1,500-acre Tishomingo State Park, one of the loveliest spots in Mississippi. The park's steep hills, which are the westernmost extension of the Appalachian Mountains, provide many bluffs, waterfalls, and rocky ridges that takes you away  from the flatlands of the Mississippi River Delta. Enjoy camping, picnicking, swimming and fishing. The park has a 13-mile long trail system ranging from short and scenic loops to a six-mile long trek that follows Bear Creek as it wanders through the park. The 3.5-mile Bear Creek Outcropping Trail is probably the most spectacular trek you can take. The trail starts at another distinctive feature of Tishomingo, a 200 foot long swinging bridge that passes over Bear Creek.

Mile 317 - Freedom Hills Overlook  After spending three-quarters of its journey in Mississippi, the drive crosses into Alabama for a brief visit of just 33 miles. At Freedom Hills Overlook, a short but steep 1/4 mile trail leads to Alabama's highest point on the parkway, 800 feet.  See a view of tree-covered highlands along the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau.      

Mile 320 - SIDE TRIP  Shiloh National Military Park - At milepost 320 take Alabama Hwy 72.  Visit the site of a bloody Civil War battle in 1862. Historical reenactments take place from April to October, with a major living-history demonstration each April to commemorate the event.

Mile 320 - SIDE TRIP The historic City of Tuscumbia, Alabama, offers visitors a glimpse into the early life of Helen Keller. The site includes Keller's birthplace, a museum and original structures including the main house, as well as the original famous well pump.

Mile 327.3 - Colbert Ferry - At Colbert Ferry the parkway crosses Pickwick Lake via the mile-long John Coffee Memorial Bridge. Well over a century before the bridge was built, the site's namesake, a mixed-blood Chickasaw chief named George Colbert, operated an inn and ferry here for Natchez Trace travelers. A shrewd businessman, Colbert reportedly charged Major General Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his troops across the Tennessee River on their return from the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. A section of the old trace leads past the site of Colbert's house. At the north end of the bridge, near milepost 329, is a picnic area and a boat ramp. 


Mile 341.8 - The Trace enters Tennessee     

Mile 370 - SIDE TRIP  David Crockett State Park  Just past milepost 370, Rte. 64 leads eastward from the Natchez Trace to David Crockett State Park, named for the legendary Tennessee pioneer who died at the siege of the Alamo in 1836. (Despite the words of a popular song about the "king of the wild frontier," he was known in his time as David, not Davy.) Crockett established a powder mill, gristmill, and distillery here on the bank of Shoal Creek in 1817; all were washed away by a flood in 1821. Today campers can catch a bass for supper on Lindsey Lake, and hikers on the park nature trail can pause to enjoy the delightful scene at Crockett Falls, a series of cascades on Shoal Creek.

Mile 375.8 - Old Trace Drive  A 2.5 mile unpaved road follows the original trace route. It climbs a high ridgeline with overlooks of the surrounding hills and valleys.

 

Mile 386 - Meriweather Lewis Memorial - The final resting place of one half of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The Meriwether Lewis Site, at the junction with Rte. 20, is one of the region's most popular recreation areas, with camping, hiking trails, and a section of the old trace leading down to Little Swan Creek. Lewis, co-leader of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Northwest, was only 35 when he died of gunshot wounds at an inn here in 1809. Though believed to have been a suicide from the outset, murder and conspiracy theories have circulated since soon after his death. His gravesite is marked with a broken stone column, symbolic of a life cut short by tragedy. 
 

Mile 404.7 -  Jackson Falls   The short but steep trail takes visitors to views of Jackson Falls, making it one of the most popular walks along the parkway. After dropping down 900 feet in elevation on a paved trail, you will find yourself in a small gorge. Your return trip will be a bit more strenuous, but well worth the effort. There are picnic tables at the trailhead, as well as a short trail to Baker Bluff Overlook.  The falls are named for Andrew Jackson, the renowned general who became the seventh president of the United States. At the parkway's northern terminus in Nashville, you'll find the Hermitage, Jackson's white-columned home and the site of his tomb.  About 20 miles past the falls, the Natchez Trace reaches its highest point -- 1,100 feet above sea level. This long ridge, the Tennessee Valley Divide, once marked the boundary between the United States and the Chickasaw Nation, its neighbor to the south.

Mile 427.6 - Garrison Creek Named for an army garrison that was established nearby in 1801, the parkway's northernmost picnic site is the trailhead for hiking and horse path that meanders across the Tennessee highlands. The old trace was designated an official postal route at the beginning of the 19th century. The post rider was adopted by the National Park Service as the official symbol of the Natchez Trace Parkway, and today you'll find the silhouette of a horse and rider adorns the signposts along the entire route, a recurring reminder of the roadway's frontier heritage.

 

Toward the end of the Natchez Trace Parkway there is a shell station where you can gas up. There is a BBQ restaurant at this location and the famous Loveless Cafe is also nearby,that has great food, also.

Highway 100 / McCrory Lane / Natchez Trace Parkway is the site of what is probably the second most-photographed bridge on the Natchez Trace.This bridge supports the northernmost tip of the Natchez Trace itself.

 

The Natchez Parkway bridge is a double arch bridge located over Highway 96, between Highway 100 and Franklin, Tennessee. It is located about four and half miles from the terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway on highway 100 in Nashville, Tennesse. This is the most photographed bridge on the Parkway.  The picture was taken from an observation point, located on the north end of the bridge

 

Camping Along The Parkway

There are 3 Parkway campgrounds which are free, primitive, and available on a first come, first serve basis.  They do not offer electricity, or showers.  They are spread out along the Parkway: Rocky Springs (Milepost 54),  Jeff Busby (Milepost 193.1) and Meriwether Lewis (Milepost 385).  

The State Parks along the Parkway are:  Natchez State Park  (in Mississippi) - located 1 mile east of the parkway on US 61.   Grand Gulf State Park  (in Mississippi) - located north of Port Gibson on US 61.   Trace State Park  (in Mississippi) - 7 miles from the parkway on Hwy 6, then 2 miles north.   Tombigbee State Park (in Mississippi) -  US Hwy 78 east towards Tupelo, second exit, follow signs.   Tishomingo State Park (in Mississippi) - Adjacent to the Parkway    David Crockett State Park (in Tennessee)- 14 miles east on US 64

 

Not into camping and looking for a bed and breakfast along the Parkway? Check out this site http://www.natcheztracetravel.com/

Resources

http://www.nps.gov/natr/

http://gorp.away.com/gorp/activity/byway/ms_natch.htm

http://travel.nostalgiaville.com/Mississippi/natchez%20trace/trace%201/trace%201.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natchez_Trace_Parkway

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCQ/is_5_19/ai_114005601/

 

Rider Stories, Routes & Trips on the Natchez Trace Parkway

http://www.billkeese.com/pdf/natchez.pdf

http://www.motorcycletravelonline.com/natchez_trace_parkway.htm

http://www.hilliard.ws/dealsgap/dealsgap.htm

http://www.cycleconnections.com/articledetail.asp?TypeID=3&ID=591

http://www.geocities.com/southernxrds/Trace_2.html