The national parkway known as the Natchez Trace follows the routes of the Old Natchez Trace routes originally used by Native American tribes. The two-lane parkway runs over 400 miles between Nashville, Tennessee, and Natchez, Mississippi. The current incarnation was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and it has become a popular route for road trips, motorcycles, and cycling enthusiasts since then.
The route goes through a number of larger cities, especially when compared with the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it’s easy to stop off for attractions and dining along the way. This roadway showcases the best the region has to offer, including passage through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. There are a number of national park-affiliated sites on the route and places to camp and hike along the way. Here are just a few of the places you should stop by.
Nashville serves as the northern starting point and is a popular destination for travelers. In addition to the honky-tonks of Broadway and the museums devoted to country music, check out the Parthenon replica and Belle Meade Plantation. On your way out of town, stop by Loveless Cafe, conveniently located near the entrance to the parkway.
Stop by Franklin and Leiper’s Fork on your way south to see live music at Puckett’s Grocery, the iconic Natchez Trace bridge, and a number of Civil War landmarks.
Hohenwald is another good stopping point, where you can learn more about the area at the Meriweather Lewis Historic Cabin visitor’s center. This area follows a number of creeks and has access points for hiking.
Outside of Waynesboro, you’ll find the Shiloh National Battlefield, an important Civil War site, as well as the Sunken Trace, the remnants of the original trading routes that have been worn down over the years.
Florence is the closest city to the parkway in northern Alabama. Stop by the towns of Muscle Shoals, Florence, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia to learn about music history before wandering west towards the road. While there, stop by Tom’s Wall, a memorial to a local man’s relative who survived the Trail of Tears.
Across the Tennessee River and between the parkway and Florence is the Rattlesnake Saloon, an offbeat venue for food, drink, and live music, set in a cave.
Tupelo serves as the official headquarters of the trace and a halfway point for travelers. Here you can stop off and visit Elvis Presley’s Birth Home. Enjoy a “slug burger” in the same booth that The King sat in.
Jackson is the capital of the state and while it isn’t on the official Parkway, it’s a short drive from there. The city is a memorable filming location from The Help and has important landmarks in literary and civil rights history. Stop by the Clinton visitor’s center on your way there.
Kosciusko has its own welcome center as well as shops and small-town attractions. There’s also a photo tour company so you can get the best snaps from your trip. It’s a part of the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Natchez is a 300-year-old city on the river that marks the end of the Natchez Trace. Visit during one of their pilgrimages to tour antebellum mansions.