Take your Claritin, fill up your water bottle and pack your trail mix. It’s the perfect time to go hiking in Middle Tennessee. Everyone has their favorite in-town jaunts, Radnor Lake and Warner Parks topping the list, but there are plenty of lesser-traveled options within a short drive of Nashville proper and Williamson County, and they’re just as rewarding and peaceful as the trusty standbys. So rally the troops, leash up the dog and take to one of these beautiful trails less traveled.
Best Hiking Near Nashville TN
(besides the uber popular, with reason, Radnor Lake and Percy Warner)
Montgomery Bell State Park
1020 Jackson Hill Road, Burns • (615) 797-9052
While camping, fishing, golfing, biking and much more are all options at Montgomery Bell, we’re talking about hikes here, and there are plenty of trails to explore, 19 miles’ worth to be exact! The mack-daddy Montgomery Bell option is billed as an overnight trail at 10.4 miles, but we say if you’re not up for the full monty, go as far as you like and then turn back. Seven other shorter options span .3 to 1.7 miles, all of which range in skill level from easy to moderate, and all are on natural surfaces (i.e. not paved).
Quick tips: Eight trails; easy/moderate to moderate
Long Hunter State Park
2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage • (615) 885-2422
The waters of Percy Priest Lake dance along the shores of Long Hunter State Park, which offers a wide variety of recreational activities—swimming, boating and, yes, hiking. With more than 25 miles at the ready, hikers can opt for one- to six-mile stretches among 12 different trails. Keep your eyes peeled for butterflies and active wildlife, and get ready for some beautiful views from the bluffs. For strollers and wheelchairs, take the paved Lake Trail, and dogs are allowed on all trails EXCEPT Bryant Grove Trail, Couchville Lake Trail and the Nature Loop Trail.
Quick tips: Pets welcome on all but three trails; natural and paved surfaces available; trails are easy to easy/moderate
Bledsoe Creek State Park
400 Zieglers Ford Road, Gallatin • (615) 452-3706
Bledsoe Creek State Park is great for bird-watchers and boaters, who can enjoy some water time on Old Hickory Lake. But for hiking, all levels can enjoy a quick jaunt. Not too long, but challenging in nature, the trails at Bledsoe Creek, of which there are six, range from easy to difficult and have both natural and paved paths. The longest trail maxes out at 2.1 miles, and there are two ADA-friendly routes offering an all-inclusive outing.
Quick tips: Six trails; easy to difficult levels; natural and paved paths; ADA-friendly options
Cedars of Lebanon
328 Cedar Forest Road, Lebanon • (615) 443-2769
If horseback riding, disc golf and swimming aren’t appealing, perhaps trail runs, wildflower hikes and waterfall tours are up your alley. All of these and more are up for grabs at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, one of Nashville’s more unique outdoor destinations. An impressive 900-acre property offers eight miles of hiking trails, which lead wanderers throughout the cedar forests and glades. Animals often spotted along the trails include fox, deer, rabbits, turkey and other indigenous wildlife. It’s hard to believe you’re only a short drive from home, and yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a more magical outdoor experience in Middle Tennessee!
Quick tips: Four trails; eight miles; great geocaching opportunities
Harpeth River State Park
1254 Narrows of the Harpeth Road, Kingston Springs • (615) 952-2099
Many locals head to Harpeth River State Park for the river access—it’s a great place to drop in your canoe or kayak in warm weather months. But if you’re looking to stick to land adventures, this is a great place to explore trails of varying lengths and levels, ranging from easy to difficult. For the true thrill seekers, there is a super-steep trail offering a bird’s eye view of the river, but it’s not for the faint of heart, or kids for that matter. But rest assured there are other options. And for history buffs, check out the site of Montgomery Bell’s Pattison Forge, a water diversion tunnel—the first in the United States—that was dug using slave labor through thick Tennessee limestone. The water still flows through it today, landing in a small lake-like water body, which pups love as much as the casual fisherman.
Quick tip: Varying degrees of difficulty; leashed pets welcome; historical learning opportunities
Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Park
1900 Davidson St., Nashville • (615) 862-8539
Venture over to Nashville’s east side, and you’ll enjoy a true local gem. Five-plus miles of hiking await on both paved and natural trails. Start out with a visit to the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, an adventure in itself, and then venture off the paved route to explore side trails, which offer fascinating wildlife, wildflowers and true Middle Tennessee beauty. Be warned, though: the paved path, part of Nashville’s greenway system, is always hoppin’! Be prepared for lots of bike traffic, which makes the unpaved detours all the more appealing.
Quick tips: Free educational programs at the nature center; pets welcome; lots of bike traffic on paved paths
5911 Old Hickory Blvd., Nashville • (615) 862-8580
Trails less traveled await at Beaman Park. A massive parcel of land (1,700 acres to be exact), Beaman Park is home to countless species of plants and wildlife … deer, bobcat, frogs, coyote, salamanders, woodpeckers, wrens, warblers, owls, hawks and that doesn’t even touch the water species. Speaking of water, there is plenty of trail that hugs various creek bodies, making a warm day’s hike a little more tolerable with a quick dip of the toes in the cool creek water. Make sure you visit the nature center, as well, which promotes community and outdoor education.
Quick tips: Leashed pets allowed; free educational programming at the nature center; three trails cover five miles
Cheeks Bend Bluff View Trail
3145-3199 Cheeks Bend Road, Columbia
Billed as a kid-friendly option, this hiking destination, located in Maury County, offers something that most others don’t: a cave! The hike length is shorter as well— just under two miles—but there’s plenty of beauty to take in. The bluffs overlook the Duck River, and there are ample opportunities to explore.
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.
If all this talk about hiking has you thinking that a full-on hiking vacation is needed, may we suggest The Redwood National Park? Check out this first-hand account of a 40th birthday celebration hiking with the biggest trees on the planet: Outdoor Vacation: The Redwoods.