5 Great Day Hikes in Middle Tennessee

5 Great Day Hikes in Middle Tennessee

It’s that time of year again, when the weather is cooling off, the leaves are changing, and the local trails could not be more beautiful! Take some time over the next several weeks to get out and enjoy a few great hikes before winter sets in. Middle Tennessee is one of the best places in the country to enjoy a scenic day hike, so take advantage of the abundant nearby park land and hit the trails! Here are a few of our favorite day hikes that won’t require you to go far from home:

1. Radnor Lake – Ganier Ride Loop + Lake Trail (4.5 miles, Easy-Moderate)

By now, I’m sure just about everyone in Nashville has hiked Radnor Lake, or is at least familiar with this gorgeous park located just 20 minutes south of downtown. Known for its wildlife, Radnor Lake is a fantastic place to see all kinds of feathered friends, including a wide variety of songbirds, and even a handful of bald eagles in the fall/winter. The park is in the process of installing an aviary to cater to some of the larger birds of prey, which should make this local park that much more attractive in years to come. While on the Ganier Ridge Trail, take a few minutes to stop at some of the higher elevation points, as you can get a great view of downtown on a clear day. Note that the park is a state natural area, meaning you can’t bring your pup on the hike with you, but we promise the hike won’t disappoint! The peace and quiet makes this one a great solo hike anyways.

Radnor Fall
Radnor Lake from the Lake Trail

2. Warner Parks – Mossy Ridge Trail (4.5 miles, Moderate)

Surrounded by Tennessee hardwoods and located in one of the largest and urban parks in the country, the Mossy Ridge Trail is a fantastic hike to try out in the fall, as you’ll be surrounded by beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow throughout. The longest (and often least-used) trail in the Warner Parks system, Mossy Ridge makes for a convenient local training hike and is a popular trail running destination, especially given the moderate nature of the elevation changes. Along the way, you’ll pass several opportunities to stop for a picnic, and will also encounter a spring-fed waterfall that runs best after a good rain.  It’s also a great place to take the dogs for a walk – just keep your furry friends on a leash! While at the park, drop by the nature center to learn a little more about the park’s history and wildlife.

3. Old Natchez Trace – Garrison Creek Loop (6.3 miles, Moderate)

Though Nashville marks the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace, it seems like the amenities provided by this historic and scenic roadway are often under-used by Nashvillians as a whole. Starting at Highway 100 in West Nashville (near Loveless Cafe – if you haven’t tried their biscuits, you’re missing out), the Trace winds 444 miles south to Natchez, Mississippi, making for one of the best interstate drives in the nation (the Trace is designated as a National Scenic Roadway and is managed by the National Park Service). 17 miles south on the Trace is where you’ll find the Garrison Creek trailhead, featuring picnic tables and restrooms. This hike makes for a great day trip, especially in the fall, as you can take in not only the vibrant colors, but travel back in time to relive some of the experiences of the original Trace travelers, as there are tons of historical markers along the way.

4. Long Hunter State Park – Volunteer Day Loop (4 miles, Moderate)

Like the Natchez Trace, Long Hunter State Park is an often under-used local outdoors amenity that deserves a little extra attention. On the east banks of Percy Priest Lake, Long Hunter has more than 20 miles of hiking trail, including the Volunteer Day Loop, a moderate, 4-mile hike. The trail runs along the lake for roughly half its length, making for great views of the water. There are minimal elevation changes and rock features on this trail, making it an accessible one for hikers of all skill levels. Feeling up for a challenge? Start on the Day Loop and stay along the lake to continue to follow the full out-and-back Volunteer Trail. You’ll find a backcountry campsite roughly 6 miles in, offering a great opportunity to try your hand at an easy overnight backpacking trip! Besides offering great, beginner-friendly hiking trails, the park also offers a host of other activities, including canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals, sand volleyball courts, swimming, fishing, and mountain biking, making it a great place to spend a full day!

LongHunterMap
The Volunteer Day Loop offers consistently great views of Percy Priest Lake.

5. Short Springs State Natural Area – Multiple Trails (~5 miles, Moderate)

If it’s wildflowers you’re looking for, then search no further! Short Springs is our go-to destination for wildflowers in the spring, as the preserved green space here is home to dozens of varieties of flowering plants, reaching their peak in early-mid April, depending on the weather. Though a little further from Nashville than the other four hikes mentioned here, this one is most definitely worth it! The park not only features a ton of gorgeous flowering plants, but also plays host to multiple waterfalls (spring is also a great time to catch these flowing strongly). Roughly five miles of moderate hiking takes you past abundant wildflowers, Machine Falls, and Upper and Lower Busby Falls, making for a great place to spend a leisurely spring day taking in some of the best scenery in Middle Tennessee!

short springs_full
Machine Falls at Short Springs State Natural Area

Ready to get out and do some hiking? Join us next Saturday, November 1st for our New Faces Day Hike at Radnor Lake, and keep your eyes on the calendar as we post more hikes in the coming weeks!

– Matt (Team Green’s Events Coordinator)

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