Tucked in the humble hills of Middle Tennessee along the lethargic Cumberland River, Nashville might not immediately spring to mind as a world-class hiking city, but it actually has a surprising amount of quality options. And you don’t even need to drive to the Smokies to find them. Whether you’re seeking a short and sweet loop around a scenic lake or a more demanding climb up a wooded ridge, there are plenty of diverse options to choose from. Here are 10 of our favorite hikes in The Music City.
1. Radnor Lake
Radnor Lake is Nashville’s go-to. As a designated conservation area, the wildlife here is plentiful and the plant life rich and abundant. The trails are in immaculate shape, and as such this place becomes very popular on weekends. Granier Ridge Trail is a nice 1.7 hike up and down the ridge, and the South Lake and South Cove Trails have some good, narrow, rocky climbs. If you’re feeling a challenge, the South Trails and Granier Ridge make one large loop around the lake. There is a paved trail for walking your pup, riding your bike, or running, none of which is permitted on the unpaved trails.
2. Beaman Park – Ridge Top Trail
Tucked in the hilly neighborhood of Bells Bend, the drive up to the Beaman Park is almost as fun as the hike itself. Considerably less crowded than Percy Warner Park and high above the city on a 1,700-acre parcel of land, what makes Beaman Park great is the seclusion and the peace and quiet. And the trail system isn’t half bad either, with a trail design that allows you to string together loops or out-and-back trails for an interesting and varied hike. If you want a ridge walk, the 1.5-mile Ridge Top Trail provides just that, with excellent views for a relatively short-distance hike. It winds up and down, on and off the ridge, and has a few steep climbs, and as you go, you’ll run into beautiful views of the valley and Little Marrowbone Creek. It’s a quick one, perfect for a short morning hike.
3. Natchez Trace – Highland Rim Trail
The northern trailhead of the Highland Rim Trail is just south of Leiper’s Fork and located near the Garrison Creek stop. This popular trail, for both hikers and horseback riders alike, runs along the Natchez Trace Parkway and in its entirety stretches about 20 miles south. There are great stops along the way like the War of 1812 Memorial and the Tennessee Valley Divide which also double as entrances to the trail. The hike is moderate and at times can be a bit unkept. However, it holds some of the best views close to the city and is perfect for both an all day hike or an historic, sightseeing stroll.
4. Percy Warner – Mossy Ridge
A remnant of the Highland Rim, the 868-acres of Percy Warner have exposed limestone and some of the best (and closest) trails. The Mossy Ridge Trail is a 4.5 mile loop and provides the most eclectic day hike in town. Winding over creeks and near waterfalls, the trail leaves you feeling like you’re much further from the city than you are. Pack a lunch, bring that coffee (and water!), and make it a nice, long day in the hills of Middle Tennessee.
5. Edwin Warner
A sister park (or brother I should say) to Percy, Edwin Warner sits across the Vaughn road intersection. It’s a smaller park with less trails but the 2.5 mile Harpeth Woods Trail that wraps neatly around the entire park, offers short but powerful climbs and beautiful views. It’s a perfect hike for a morning before work or a quick pre-brunch workout in nature.
6. Bells Bend Park
Taking the name from its surrounding neighborhood, Bells Bend is a sprawling 800-acre park with 6-miles of hiking trails. Like nearby Beaman Park, Bells Bend is relatively undiscovered, and sees less use than Nashville’s popular Warner Park system. It’s named for the bend in the Cumberland River that hugs this area, and it’s hard to believe this pastoral setting is the same Cumberland River that snakes between Nashville’s skyscrapers just a few miles to the east. A simple, 2.5-mile loop runs all the way around the park. At times, the trail is paved with gravel, and others it feels as if you’re walking through someone’s farmland. It’s a great place for a simpler stroll or trail run.
7. Harpeth River State Park
Harpeth River State Park is a great place for a quick, easy hike or a full day of exploration. There are several, short trails that offer some beautiful views but one that stands out among them is The Narrows. The bluff offers one of the best views of the Harpeth and a gorgeous end to the short climb. The hike is narrow, hence the name, and can be a bit crowded on warm weekend days, but it is more than worth it.
8. Montgomery Bell State Park – Overnight Trail
The Montgomery Bell Trail is a 10.35 mile circle around the entire park. It’s a moderate trail that offers many connections to the other trails in the park. At times there can be fun, fallen-tree creek-crossings in lieu of a footbridge and if you’re out in the fall, the leaves might hide the trail from you. But with the option to set up camp and stay in the park overnight, there’s some good exploration to be had. Just make sure and park at the Park Office and register before you head out.
9. Long Hunter State Park – Volunteer Trail
Another trail that can be made into an overnight venture, or even a weekend getaway, the Volunteer Trail is a 5.5 mile hike alongside Percy Priest Lake that ends at a primitive campsite. It’s a fairly flat, moderate hike with good views of the lake. It’s the perfect place to pack in a couple of fishing poles and post up on the rocky lakefront after a good, long hike. If you’re looking for just a day hike, the Day Loop Trail is a similar 4-mile loop that shares the first mile with the Volunteer Trail. Because of boaters and general lake use, there can at times be some litter along the shore, so be sure to pack out what you pack in and maybe even pick up a few things along your way.
10. Hidden Lake – Double Loop
The hike to Hidden Lake is a quick 2-mile double balloon loop that is speckled with some awesome views of the small lake and some fascinating history. Sprinkled along the trail are remnants of a house, an old swimming resort from the early 1900’s, a train car, and another burned down old building, so be sure to take your time and explore this hidden gem. You’ll feel worlds away from the bustle of Nashville as soon as you step foot on the trail.
Written by Leah Gray for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Leah Gray
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