In the early years of settlement, it was very difficult for the people of Middle Tennessee to get their goods to eastern markets over the mountains separating Tennessee from the Atlantic coastal states. As an alternative, goods were shipped down the various rivers to markets at Natchez and New Orleans in what are now Mississippi and Louisiana. Since it was almost impossible to return upriver in the flatboats of the day, the boatmen returned over a long trail through a sparsely settled wilderness to the settlements around Nashville. Today’s Natchez Trace Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service, follows the general route of the historic road.
Length of Byway or Route444 miles
This 444-mile National Scenic Byway and All-American Road officially begins in Pasquo, the location of the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The community was originally settled in the late 1700s by a group from Pasquotank County, North Carolina, who named it after their previous home. The Trace is motorcoach accessible, unless noted. A permit is required for commercial vehicles.
Highlights and Key Points Along the Route
Birdsong Hollow (milepost 438) - From here, catch a view of the Double Arch Bridge rising 155 feet above the valley below. This 1,648-foot-long structure won the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1995, and its image is synonymous with the Trace in Tennessee. Whether you take the short walking path or park at the Highway 96 exit, bring your camera for spectacular shots.
Garrison Creek (milepost 427.6) - In the late 1700s, a garrison here protected Nashville from Native American attacks. The fort was used again as Army headquarters during construction of the federal road to Natchez in 1801. Today, it's a popular trailhead. Public restrooms are available.
War of 1812 Memorial / Old Trace (milepost 426.3) - The U.S. Army cleared this section of the "Natchez Road" in 1801 to be used as a postal route.
Tennessee Valley Divide (milepost 423.9) - When Tennessee joined the Union in 1796, this watershed was the boundary between the United States to the north and the Chickasaw Nation to the south. Streams on the north flow to the Cumberland River; streams to the south flow to the Duck River.
Water Valley Overlook (milepost 411.8) - Stop and take in this bird's eye view of the countryside and see it much as it was when the first settlers entered the area. The Water Valley community gets its name from the devastating flood of 1874, when Leiper's Creek swelled over its banks and caused widespread damage. Water Valley is one of Maury County's early settlements, and the earliest marked grave (Sarah Fly, 1808) in the county lies just north of here.
Gordon House (milepost 407.7) - Early Trace travelers paid Captain John Gordon to ride his ferry across the Duck River and for lodging at his 1817 home, preserved today by the National Park Service. Gordon was Nashville's first postmaster and fought under Andrew Jackson in early battles for the Southern Territory. Public restrooms available.
Baker Bluff Overlook (milepost 405.1) - Learn about area conservation and farming while enjoying the beautiful views of a family farm. The Jackson Falls trail may be accessed from here to the next mile marker.
Jackson Falls (milepost 404.7) - The short (900 feet) but steep, paved trail takes visitors to a clear pool at the base of the falls, making it one of the most popular walks along the Parkway. Be sure to bring your camera along to this beautiful site. There are picnic tables at the trailhead, as well as a short trail (0.25 mile) to Baker Bluff Overlook with a viewpoint 30 stories above the Duck River. Public restrooms available. The return trip will be a bit more strenuous, but worth the effort.
Old Trace Walk (milepost 403.7) - This is a pleasant walk on a 2,000-foot section of the original Old Trace.
Old Trace Drive & Tobacco Farm (milepost 401.4) - This is a great place to get off the main road and get on the Old Trace without walking. The one-way, 2-mile drive has striking views of the forest and passes by the Tobacco Farm, where you can learn about growing and drying tobacco. Please note, this one-way drive is not suitable for RVs.
Sheboss Place (milepost 400.2) - An inn, or "stand," once stood here serving travelers in the early 1800s. It was operated by Widow Cranfield and her second husband, a Native American who spoke little English. The story goes that when travelers approached with questions about accommodations, he would only point to his wife and say, "She boss."
Old Trace ( milepost 397.4) - The Trace not only served as a road and footpath for many travelers, but it was also known as the Tennessee Valley Divide because it marked the boundaries of the Chickasaw lands ceded to the U.S. in 1805 and 1816.
Devil's Backbone State Natural Area (milepost 394.1) - These 300 acres of protected woodland are available to visitors for hiking and primitive camping. Trails are in development, with a moderately strenuous, 3-mile loop trail with 200 feet of elevation change already completed.
Swan Valley Overlook (milepost 392.5) - From here, see the water tower in Hohenwald, the highest town in a straight line between New Orleans and Chicago.
Fall Hollow Trail (milepost 391.9) - A short, five-minute walk on the trail leads to a deck overlooking a small waterfall. From here, a steeper trail leads to the bottom of the falls.
Phosphate Mine (milepost 390.7) - Only remnants remain of the late 1800 phosphate mining town of Gordonsburg. A short walk takes you to an abandoned mine shaft, along with a long-forgotten railroad bend.
Meriwether Lewis Monument (milepost 385.9) - Learn more about the life and mysterious death of one of America's great explorers in this 300-acre park. Inside a cabin constructed in 1935, you will find interpretive displays that tell about the life of Lewis. In addition to the monument and cabin, the Meriwether Lewis area has a campground, picnic area, hiking trails and Accessible restrooms. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Metal Ford / McLish Stand (milepost 381.8) - This stop offers a beautiful view of the Buffalo River and Metal Ford. John McLish, part Chickasaw Indian, also operated a stand here and received Andrew Jackson as a guest. President Jackson used his relationship with McLish to convince the tribe to give up their lands peacefully and move to Oklahoma.
Napier Mine (milepost 383.8) - This nearby open-pit mine was used in the 19th century to supply ironworks.
Jacks Branch (milepost 377.8) - This is a great place for a picnic with accessible restrooms.
Old Trace Drive (milepost 375.8) - This 2.5-mile road follows the route of the Old Trace and offers several overlooks of the beautiful Tennessee countryside. Please note, this one-way drive is not suitable for RVs.
Dogwood Mudhole (milepost 367.3) - This depression, created by heavy rains, lies nearly a mile to the south of the Parkway.
Glenrock Branch (milepost 364.5) - Park here and take a short walk down the trail to a natural limestone amphitheater. The area offers a shaded picnic area and accessible restrooms.
Sweetwater Branch (milepost 363.0) - Enjoy a peaceful walk along this 20-minute trail following a quiet stream that's named for its clean water.
Wayne County Visitor Center (milepost 355) - People come from all over the country to explore the Natchez Trace Parkway and learn about the history of the area.
McGlamery Stand (milepost 352.9) - John McGlamery operated a stand on the Old Trace here in 1849.
Sunken Trace ( milepost 350.5) - When the Old Trace became too soggy and flooded to pass through with wagons, travelers cut new paths through the forest. From here, you can see three detours made by travelers to avoid the deep mud.
Holly and Cypress Creek Picnic Areas (milepost 346.2/343.5) - This area offers shady picnic areas with creek access.
Pet Friendly Notes
Pets are allowed along trails and viewpoints of the Natchez Trace Parkway under the following conditions:
- Pets must always be on a leash six feet or shorter
- Please clean up after your pet
- Only service animals are allowed inside Parkway buildings