By CLIFF HIGHTOWER
The winding scenic Natchez Trace Parkway ends (or begins) at Hwy. 100 in Nashville, the 444 mile linear National Park has lots of scenic and historic spots for summer getaways … especially for a picnic.
Natchez Trace Ranger Jane Farmer said there are definitely some nice picnic spots to go to within a 50-mile drive.
Some of the spots offer limited picnic tables and no grills. But Farmer said some of the places you could definitely lay down a blanket and be in a very scenic area.
“As long as you clean up after yourself, we wouldn’t mind you putting down a blanket,” she said.
The Trace is a 444-mile long National Park, roughly following a historic route from Natchez, Miss. to Nashville.
The top 5 locations to go picnicking along the Natchez Trace and a bonus are:
1. Jackson Falls (Mile Marker 404.7): “Jackson Falls is definitely one of them,” Farmer said. It is a bit of a drive from Williamson County, but Jackson Falls is one of the most popular destinations on the Parkway in the area. Picnic tables sit at the trailhead. The trail to the falls is strenuous, but short. The visitor drops 900 feet down into a gorge and gets a nice view of the waterfall named after President Andrew Jackson.
2. Meriweather Lewis Monument (Mile Marker 385.9): The longest drive on the list. “It’s worth the trip there,” Farmer said. There is a cabin on site with interpretive displays talking about the famous explorer. The location also has hiking trails, a campground, a picnic area and a stream you can dip your toes in, Farmer said.
3. Gordon House (Mile Marker 407.7): The house built in 1818 by John Gordon still stands. Captain Gordon served with Andrew Jackson and ran the property as a safe haven for travelers. Close by the Duck River, there are picnic tables at the location.
4. The War of 1812 Memorial (Mile Marker 426): A small memorial on the side of the road marks that it is dedicated to those soldiers buried in unmarked graves along the Natchez Trace. It is a small pulloff, but scenic with a nice green pasture to picnic in under the trees in a field.
5. Garrison Creek (Mile Marker 427.6): A large park that has a pavilion and picnic tables, it also offers hiking trails and horse trails. Just a mile down from the War of 182 Memorial, it offers a better picnic spot for larger groups.
Timberland Park (Mile Marker 437): The Williamson County Park opened in 2014 is a gem of its own with hiking trails and picnic tables. The park has a visitors center and even a porch swing to sit and rest. It offers handicap accessible trails and a great outdoor nature experience. The 70-acre park also allows pets on the trails.
Cliff Hightower can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CliffHightower.