UPDATED FEB 28, 2020
If you’re looking for a hiking trail near Nashville, you won’t have to search hard. Head in any direction and you’ll find woods, riverside trails, and waterfalls waiting to be explored. So, lace up and get out there!
Leaving from downtown you can get to Radnor, hit a few trails, take a quick swim, and still make it back for happy hour. Most of the trails are short—about a mile—with the full lake loop running 4.3 miles. It’s just south of Berry Hill, and super easy to get to. Trails range from easy to strenuous, so it’s definitely one of the most versatile, woodsy spots in the city limits.
Backpacker Magazine called Fiery Gizzard one of the top 25 hikes in the United States. A pretty bold claim, and we’d have to agree. If you’re into ancient forests, epic rock formations, and massive waterfalls, well, you’ll probably agree, too. The trail is a solid 25 miles, round trip. And it’s not an easy 25 miles. Starting in Tracy City it climbs to Foster Falls in Marion County, and the view of the falls, alone, is worth the strenuous hike.
While the full trail isn’t yet finished, 210 miles of it are, which is probably enough for your average hiker. 40 different trailheads along the Cumberland Plateau open up to this trail, and lead you through deep gorges and up to high ridges across eastern Tennessee—from the edge of Kentucky to the Alabama border. While accessing the trail is quite a hike (pun intended) from downtown Nashville, it’s one of Tennessee’s few multi-day trails and is well worth the drive. Note: the full trail system is set to be completed by late-2021
The 11 miles of the out and back Volunteer Trail offers spectacular views of Percy Priest Lake. The workout isn’t half bad, either. While most of the trail is pretty easy, there are spots that can literally take your breath away, so it makes for an amazing trail run. Be sure to bring healthy snacks and water, as there’s not much for options nearby in Hermitage.
If you don’t know about Percy Priest yet, you probably just moved here from L.A. or Michigan. And that’s totally fine—we don’t blame you! But let us fill you in on what you’re missing. Percy Priest is the go to summer spot in Nashville, and it’s got some great little day trails. If it’s your first time, bring a veteran so they can show you the best (and safe) cliff jumping spots.
Percy Warner Park is very different from Percy Priest. (Try not to confuse them.) Combined with the adjoining Edwin Warner Park, it spans 2,648 acres just a few miles from downtown and offers 12 total miles of trails. If you’re into cross-country, Percy Warner is Nash’s perfect spot for a pre-work run through the woods. The densely wooded trails give the impression of being much deeper in the wilderness than you actually are. There are countless equestrian trails, too, so if you have a horse this should be your mane park of choice.
Prentice Cooper is Tennessee’s trail-mecca. Just outside Chattanooga, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, it’s a hidden gem of Southern beauty. The 6,000 acres of protected forest boast more trails than you could hope to do in a weekend. So make a few sessions of it, if you want to see them all (did we mention the beautiful gorges, canyons, bluffs, etc?) Many of the trails are quite strenuous, and a few are over 30 miles with primitive campsites along the way.
If you’re after scenery over solitude, get to Fall Creek Falls. At 26,000 acres, it’s Tennessee’s largest state park, and there are trails of all sizes and difficulties. With over 200 campsites and dozens of cabins, it can get pretty populated. We all just wanna see those waterfalls, right? Oh, and we should note that there’s an inn if you’re not feeling super outdoorsy.
This state park spans 40 miles of the beautiful Harpeth River just outside Nashville, and it’s riddled with short day trails. Each of these promise a spectacular view from bluff heights or a historical site. Unfortunately, few of these trails connect—and most are little more than a mile—but they make for a perfect day-getaway. A favorite is certainly the 3-mile hike to Hidden Lake, where the tiny lake is nestled into a massive cliff face…thus the “hidden”.
Roundtrip, the Bearwaller Gap Trail is about 20 miles out and back along the beautiful Cumberland River. It’s typically pretty empty, so if solitude’s what you’re after, head out to Carthage. That said, the trail can get a bit rough and overgrown. Bring some trekking poles, if you’re into that sort of thing—and the pup too, as this trail’s dog friendly.
Don’t let the name fool you; this 10-mile moderate loop hike is easily do-able in a day. But if you want to spend the night (make it happen, guys. It’s the overnight trail), Montgomery Bell State Park is one of the most well-managed, clean, and beautiful parks just outside of Nashville. There’s wildlife abound, and its location in Burns means there’s not a ton of foot traffic.
Maybe you just want to take a walk in the woods. If you want a hike you can handle without breaking a sweat, you’ll find the Peeler Park Greenway in the farmlands of Madison. Who knew there was such beauty in Madison? The gentle and even paths run for 8 miles—half paved and half unpaved—between wide open plains and dense forest. Despite being a mere 20 minute drive from downtown, Peeler is typically deserted and makes for the perfect (and peaceful) afternoon getaway.
While Cedars of Lebanon is more equestrian-focused than the other trails, it does offer 10 miles of lovely hiking trails through wildlife-filled forest. The area has deer and foxes aplenty, and is heavily protected because of the many endangered plant species native to the area. Look, don’t touch.
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