The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile (715-km) parkway and one of America’s 150 National Scenic Byways. It follows the route of the original Natchez Trace, a transportation corridor used from 1800-1820. A trip along the parkway showcases the beauty of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. There are a lot of historical sites along the route, too.
But the Natchez Trace is also one of America’s 11 National Scenic Trails. It’s a bit of an outlier in the trail system, along with the Potomac Heritage Trail, in that it isn’t a point-to-point trail. Instead, there are 62 miles (100 km) of hiking trails in bits and snatches along the parkway. And trail officials have no plans to ever connect those parcels into one 444-mile (715-km) trail.
My Natchez Trace Parkway Experience
In 2013, after thru-hiking the Ice Age Trail, I fell in love with long-distance hiking. And I decided I wanted to try and hike all 11 of America’s National Scenic Trails before I die. A lofty goal, to be sure. Since I was heading to a travel writers’ conference in Mississippi in a few weeks, I looked into hiking the Natchez Trace.
Back then, I couldn’t find any information about a hiking trail. All I came up with was information on the Natchez Trace Parkway. So I assumed this National Scenic Trail was meant to be biked. For in addition to driving on the parkway, you’re allowed to bike it. Thus, my husband and I ended up biking the parkway. The story above tells you what that was like.
I Find the Trail
As we biked along, I suddenly saw a few hiking signs. Uh-oh! There is a trail after all! Eventually I discovered information about the 62-mile (100-km) trail. And I decided that even though I’d thru-biked it, to be official I will have to thru-hike it.
I spoke with some Parkway officials. They said while very few people have ever hiked it, a few have. I got information on where to camp – anywhere off the Parkway and within100 feet of the road, which is Parkway property. Now, I hope to thru-hike it in fall 2020. Stay tuned!
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