Because of the lack of hills and other topography, Memphians and those who live in other areas of West Tennessee are often deemed flatlanders. Despite the absence of elevation, however, there are several places in our area for outdoor enthusiasts to hike and engage in other activities in the great outdoors. No matter where one calls home in the MidSouth, there is a picturesque jaunt—for beginners and more experienced hikers alike—nearby.
In Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, also known as Shelby Forest, one can find elevation on Chickasaw Bluff Trail, Woodland Trail, Pioneer Springs and Horse Trails. This state park includes more than 13,000 acres bordering the Mississippi River, 13 miles north of Memphis. The longest loop on the Horse Trail route (which is open to horses and hikers) is along a bluff overlooking 100-acre Poplar Tree Lake. Trail maps are available at the visitors center. In addition to hiking, the park offers a 36-hole disc golf course, 49 campsites and six two-bedroom cabins for rent.
- Location: 910 Riddick Road in unincorporated Millington, TN
- Length of hike: Chickasaw Bluff (8 miles), Pioneer Springs and Woodland (3.5 miles), Horse (8 miles)
- Pets allowed: Dogs, horses (on Horse Trails)
- Open: Year-round. Visitors Center is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; the nature center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Horse Trail is closed during wet and inclement weather.
- Other activities: Biking, boating, camping, disc golf, fishing, horseback riding (on Horse Trail)
- Contact: (901) 876-5215
Hiking in Memphis’ only state park gives visitors a chance to experience the great outdoors, as well as a history lesson. T.O. Fuller State Park was the first state park designated for African Americans east of the Mississippi River. In 1940, park workers unearthed a prehistoric village, now known as Chucalissa Indian Village. Today, it includes the village, preserved artifacts and a museum. The four-mile Discovery Trail loop allows viewing of the village and wetlands. Besides hiking, the 1,000-acre park offers opportunities for birding and swimming in the Olympic-size pool from the Friday before Memorial Day until Labor Day.
- Location: 1500 Mitchell Road
- Length of hike: Discovery Trail (4 miles)
- Pets allowed: Dogs
- Open: Year-round
- Other activities: Birding, camping, swimming
- Contact: (901) 543-7581
Bordering Collierville and Fisherville (in Fayette County), the almost 200-acre Herb Parsons Lake provides an easy, lightly used six-mile hike around the waterway on the Herb Parsons Lake Trail. In addition to hikers taking advantage of the shady setting, the trail is also used by mountain bikers and runners. Take note, though, that people in both groups should steer clear of the Wolf River Bowhunters Pavilion north of the parking area.
- Location: 140 Herb Parsons Way near Collierville
- Length of hike: Herb Parsons Lake Trail (6 miles)
- Pets allowed: Dogs
- Open: Year-round. The lake is open from dawn until dusk daily. The Lake Store is open from March 1 to October 31 from dawn until dusk; closed on Wednesday.
- Other activities: Boating, biking, fishing, running
- Contact: (901) 861-5087
In the heart of Shelby County, 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park offers unpaved trails on Tour de Wolf Trail and the Wolf River Trails. Tour de Wolf is an almost-six-mile trail that is used by hikers, runners and bikers and ends at Patriot Lake. The Wolf River Trails, consisting of the Yellow, White and Blue Trails, wind through the Lucius Burch Jr. State Nature Area and parallel the Wolf River. Besides hiking, Shelby Farms Park offers a plethora of outdoor activity, including the Shelby Farms Greenline, Woodland Discovery Park, an off-leash park for dogs and bicycle rentals.
The Shelby Farms Conservancy has two apps. The main park app, available for Apple and Android phones, allows users to see where they are on the trails and what they can expect on each. The ShelbyFit app, only for Apple devices, allows users to track, log and share their outdoor recreation activity.
- Location: 500 N. Pine Lake
- Length of hike: Tour de Wolf (5.79 miles), Wolf River Trails (up to 8 miles, depending on loop)
- Pets allowed: Dogs (Must be on leash on trails)
- Open: Year-round, from dawn until dusk
- Other activities: Biking, running
- Contact: (901) 767-7275
Those wanting to take a guided hike should check out the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center just south of Memphis in Holly Springs, MS. On the third Saturday of each month, guided hikes begin at 9 a.m. On the center’s grounds is the Davis House, an antebellum mansion. And in September of each year, the center holds a Hummingbird Migration Celebration, which includes guided nature walks and wagon rides, guest speakers, craft vendors, and hummingbird viewing and banding.
- Location: 285 Plains Road in Holly Springs, MS
- Length of hike: 15 miles of trails (Guided hike typically lasts an hour to an hour and a half)
- Pets allowed: No pets allowed in Strawberry Plains
- Open: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday
- Admission: $3 to hike, $8 for house tour
- Other activities: House tour
- Contact: (662) 252-1155
Always remember to follow these common sense hiking tips:
- Wear sunscreen, preferably a sports, no-sweat variety.
- Use bug repellent in the summer months.
- Always carry plenty of drinking water.
- Use caution when touching plants or flowers to avoid poison ivy and such.
- Let someone know where you are hiking and what time you are going.
- Allow plenty of time to get back to your car before dark.
- Don’t look down at the trail all the time while you hike. You might miss Mother Nature winking at you.
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