The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail has been designated 444 miles from Natchez to Nashville. About 70 miles of the NTNST have been completed. The national scenic trail is not the parkway highway. It is a separate trail that parallels the parkway. Portions of the trail are the old Natchez Trace.
Currently, completed sections of NTNST have been given their own designations. Each has its own unique scenery and physical environment, from the soft soil and Spanish Moss near Natchez to the scenic hillside views in Tennessee.
427 to 407 Highland Rim Section.
The north trailhead is located at Garrison Creek, where the old Natchez Trace military highway dropped from the ridgetop to the valley below. The first section rises 200 feet to produce one of the most strenuous climbs of the NTNST. At the top, an overlook gives a view of the valley, where the old Natchez Trace Indian trail led by the late 1700’s fortification that gave Garrison Creek its name. The next 1.5 miles is a well-preserved section of the old Natchez Trace military highway. The trail leads to the War of 1812 monument, memorializing soldiers who marched and died on the Natchez Trace during the War of 1812. From there the trail leads to Burns Branch and on to the Tennessee Valley Divide, that once formed the border with the Chickasaw Nation and where President Jefferson’s soldiers camped when building the military highway. The trail then heads south through the forest, giving the sense of being away from civilization, but in reality, the trail is rarely more than 25 yards from the parkway motor road. The trail leads to a spectacular overlook at Water Valley and then to the section trail head at Duck River, near the Gordon House.
The parkway contains about 65 miles of trails that are part of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. Hiking opportunities vary from a short trail of a few hundred feet along a generally level, paved path to several miles of rustic trails through rugged terrain. Horse back riding is available at specially designated trails. Mountain bike riding is not permitted on hiking trails. Additional hiking and primitive camping are available at Devil’s Backbone State Natural Area, where the terrain is comparable to the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
DESIGNATED SCENIC TRAILS
Highland Rim- milepost 407.9-427.4. Garrison Creek at 427.4 is the north trailhead of a 28 mile trail that includes one and one-half miles of the old Natchez Trace. The trail begins just behind the comfort station. A map and trail information is located on the rear of the bulletin board at the site. The trail rises in elevation about 200 feet and then runs along the top of the ridge to Burn’s Branch in 3.7 miles and then to the Duck River. A shorter trail begins to the left of the parking lot, runs across Garrison Creek and then loops to the top of the ridge to join the National Scenic Trail.
A trail head north of TN Hwy. 7 can be accessed by exiting the parkway at mile post 416, turning left onto Hwy. 7 and then the left on the Old Natchez Trace Road, which is the old Natchez Trace military road.To download a map from NPS, CLICK HERE. Or CLICK HERE for more detailed information about hiking the trail and to find out how to use the trail for wellness and fitness.
Blackland Prairie- milepost 260.8-266. This trail runs through what was once a large Chickasaw village. Today, the prairie landscape is being restored. The Visitor Center can provide an orientation. At two road crossings, the trail follows the shoulder of the parkway motor road at the creek crossing at mile post 264.5 and the U.S. 178 crossing. Be careful to watch for oncoming traffic at al crossing. To download a map from NPS CLICK HERE.
Yockanookany – milepost 108-131. This trail just north of Jackson is the longest trail section on the parkway. Eight miles run along the Ross Barnett Reservoir, and the other 16 run through dense forests, seasonal streams and open pasture land. There are short side trails that also provide access. At bridge crossings, hikers must use the parkway road bed. Be careful to watch for oncoming traffic at all points where the trail joins the motor road. This section of parkway has some of the heaviest automobile traffic. To reach the Mississippi 43 trail head, exit the parkway at milepost 115, go west on Highway 43 a short distance to Yandell Road, turn left (south) for 100 feet, then turn left into the parking area. To download a map from NPS, CLICK HERE.
The Rocky Springs church is all that remains in the old Natchez Trace town.
Rocky Springs- milepost 52.4-59 This trail leads by the ruins of the old town RockySprings. A church and cemetery are all that remain of this early Natchez Trace town. The trail crosses gently rolling, forested land. South of Rocky Spring, the trail is moderately strenuous in places, and runs up and down steep ravines. Near the south end of the trail, hikers will find the Owens Creek waterfall, a good place to rest and take in the sounds of nature. To access the north trail head, exit the parkway at milepost 59.2. Turn right at the stop sign onto Fisher Ferry Road, cross over the parkway, and take the first right to the parking area. To download a map from NPS, CLICK HERE.
Potkopinu milepost 17-20. Potkopinu means “little valley” in the Natchez Indian language. This trail runs along the longest continuous section of sunken trace, developed over years from the traffic of Natchez Trace travelers on the soft loess soil of the Natchez area. The soil was carried by wind to the area from the banks of the Mississippi River. Because the land surrounding the trail is private, please stay on the trail. The southern trail head at mile post 17 is not recommended for RV’s because of the narrow access road and lack of turnaround space. Hikers will walk through water at stream crossings. Depending on rainfall, the trail may be muddy or covered in knee-deep water. To download a map from NPS, CLICK HERE.
The Natchez Trace Parkway Association is a member of the Partnership for National Trails Systems, working with National Scenic Trails groups across the nation.