The Natchez Trace Parkway is is a 444 mile-long, scenic road that generally follows the path of the Old Natchez Trace from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. This All-American Road and National Scenic Byway takes you through history with Native American burial mounds, Civil Wars sites, and well worn boatman trails. The Natchez Trace makes for a perfect USA, 2-day road trip!
Watch our 3-minute Natchez Trace video!
History of Natchez Trace
The path originated in prehistory, when mastodons and bison tramped down parts of the forest floor. Then came the Native Americans followed by Spanish conquistadors. My favorite part of the history of the Trace is when trappers and boatman traveled with their goods down the Mississippi River to sell in New Orleans. Then they would use the Trace trail to make the long hike back home. So many travelers walked this path that parts became “sunken.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, construction of a modern road began. Parts of this original road have been preserved and is designated as Old Trace. In 1937, the Natchez Trace Parkway was created to preserve the vast elements of history and natural beauty all along this old trail.
Natchez Trace Road Trip Tips
The maximum speed limit on the parkway is 50 mph (80 kph). Commercial vehicles aren’t allowed, so you won’t have to worry about sharing the road with any semi-trucks. The Natchez Trace is a haven for cyclists and motorbikes so keep an eye out for them. Cars must give cyclists at least a 3 feet clearance when passing them, and cyclists must maintain single-file riding. Cyclists must also have front and rear lights.
No commercial businesses are allowed on the Natchez Trace Parkway so you won’t have access to fuel or food unless you exit at neighboring towns. However, restrooms are located throughout for those of us who need frequent potty breaks (old lady syndrome)! There are also several campgrounds along the Trace.
Natchez Trace Parkway Road Trip
2 Days – 444 Miles
Starting Point- Natchez, Mississippi
The Natchez Trace Parkway begins in Natchez, Mississippi which is a small town on the Mississippi River. You can easily spend several days in this city rich with antebellum architecture and history. Natchez prospered in the 1800s as a center for cotton trading. You can tour many of the mansions from this era that survived the civil war.
- Lodging- We started out our road trip with a night in the historic Natchez Pearl. The Natchez Pearl has a main house and carriage house that are nestled in an equally historic residential area. The location is close to downtown Natchez. We slept like babies so we highly recommend staying here! Address: 309 N Pearl Street
- Natchez Visitor Center- This really needs to be your first stop if you plan on spending any time in Natchez or before hitting the Natchez Trace Parkway. For a visitor’s center, it’s pretty nice. There’s an entertaining movie about the history of Natchez, maps of the parkway, and you can buy tickets for various tours of the city. The staff is super nice, even if you ask them way too many questions (like a certain Joe Baguio)! Address: 640 South Canal Street Hours: 8:30am – 5:30pm
- Steampunk Espresso Bar- Just a short drive away from the Natchez Pearl, is the top-rated espresso/breakfast cafe. They serve espresso, cappuccino, cafe lattes, pour overs, french press, siphon vacuum coffee and Turkish. The cafe is located in an old brick cabin that dates back to 1868 and is located just a block from the Mississippi River. Grabbing a cup of coffee and enjoying it while watching the barge traffic on the river is a great way to start your road trip. Address: 114 High Street Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 8am-5pm
- Bluff Park- Take your morning coffee and sit and watch the barge traffic on one of the numerous benches at Bluff Park. Pictures we’ve seen at sunset are spectacular and many proposals take place here. Parking is easy beside the greenway. It is a very safe place to walk! Address: 101 S Broadway Street
- Natchez City Cemetery- This historic cemetery was established in 1822 on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The setting is eerily beautiful, especially in the early morning and at sunset. It can be a little confusing with one-way turns and lanes, but that just gives you second chances to see the gorgeous memorials! Address: 1 Cemetery Road Hours: 7am-dusk
Natchez Trace Parkway- Day 1 (220 miles/418 km)
From the Natchez Visitor’s Center, take Highway 84 east to the Liberty Road/Natchez Trace Parkway Exit. There are signs to the start of the parkway, so it is easy to find. All along the parkway are mile markers with signs for historical and natural sites. Mile Marker 0 is also called the Southern Terminus.
- Emerald Mound (Mile Marker 10.3)- Built by the Natchez Indians, this ceremonial mound is the second-largest temple mound in the United States.
- Mount Locust (Mile Marker 15.5)- This home is one of the oldest structures in Mississippi. It functioned as a plantation and also an inn. Of the 50 inns that lined the Trace, this is the only one that has survived. Restrooms Available
- Windsor Ruins (Mile Marker 30)- Located 10 miles northwest of the Trace, take Highway 552 west and follow the signs. The ruins of this plantation are all that is left of this once prosperous plantation. The remaining columns and ironwork make for an somber sight! In 1890, a guest left a cigar burning on an upper balcony, and it burned the entire mansion down. Don’t smoke! You could burn down your plantation!
- Sunken Trace (Mile Marker 41.5)- This is one of the most photographed spots on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Here the landscape has been shaped by the thousands of travelers that walked along this spot. A short trail allows you to add your footsteps to history!
- Rocky Springs (Mile Marker 54.8)- This was the last point of civilization before travelers continued north into thicker forest. Yellow fever and bad crop management pretty much wiped out the town. A church and cemetery all all that remains. Campground and restrooms available
- Jackson, Mississippi (Mile Marker 90-100)- Jackson is the capital of Mississippi and is a great spot to grab some lunch (or dinner). Depending on how much you are stretching out this trip, Jackson also has a large variety of lodging choices.
- Parkway Information Cabin (Mile Marker 102.4)- Exhibits are located here with staff rangers to help you plan the remainder of your road trip. Restrooms Available
- Reservoir Overlook (Mile Marker 105.6)- Here you will find a beautiful scenic view of the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir. Cyclists and hikers can access the Natchez Trace Multi-Use Trail from this point.
- Cypress Swamp (Mile Marker 122)- This is a quiet, 1/2 mild trail through a water tupelo/bald cypress swamp. Boardwalks keep you from getting muddy and safe from the occasional alligator.
- Jeff Busby (Mile Marker 193.1)- This short drive is one of the highest points in Mississippi. For those of you outside the southern delta, that’s not saying much, but the view is terrific! Restrooms and campgrounds available
- Tupelo, Mississippi (Mile Marker 260-265)- If you stop at all the places we did on Day 1, you’ll arrive at Tupelo around dinner time. There are plenty of lodging choices here.
Natchez Trace Parkway- Day 2 (184 miles/296 km)
- Tupelo, Mississippi (Mile Marker 260-265)- Before leaving Tupelo, spend some time touring the historic town. This was the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Tupelo also has a HUGE automobile museum with over 100 antique and collectible cars.
- Parkway Visitor Center and Headquarters (Mile Marker 266)- Here is a great little stop to gather more information about sites along the parkway. It is staffed with rangers, has a great informative film about the parkway, and little gift shop. Restrooms available
- Twentymile Bottom Overlook (Mile Marker 278.4)- There’s not much here, but a lone picnic table, but it’s pretty, so I always make Joe stop!
- Pharr Mounds (Mile Marker 286.7)- This site has eight Native American burial mounds built about 2,000 years ago. Restrooms available
- Colbert Ferry (Mile Marker 327.3- In the early 1800s, George Colbert operated a ferry here to take travelers (even Andrew Jackson and his army) across the Tennessee River. Today, you’ll take the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge. This is a great place to picnic! Restrooms available
- Old Trace Drive (Mile Marker 375.8)- This is a one-way, 2.5-mile drive along a portion of the Old Trace road. Driving on this old road will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. No RVs or travel trailers allowed.
- Meriwether Lewis (Mile Marker 285.9)- At this stop, you’ll find the gravesite of Meriwether Lewis. Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) was traveling here in 1809, on his way to Philadelphia to edit his accounts of the great Lewis & Clark expedition when he unexpectedly died. Campground and restrooms available
- Fall Hallow Trail (Mile Marker 391.9)- Here you can take a short walk to view a small waterfall from an observation platform. If you want to proceed closer, the trail is pretty rocky and steep.
- Tobacco Barn (Mile Marker 401.4)- Cool old barn from the early 1900s. You can also drive another 2-mile portion of Old Trace from this stop.
- Jackson Falls (Mile Marker 404.7)- This is one of the Trace’s most popular sites. A steep, but concreted path takes you down 900 feet to a beautiful small waterfall. There is also a sign to hike to the Baker Bluff Overlook. Don’t take the hike from here unless you are just looking for more feet time. It’s the next stop on the parkway, so why not just drive there! Restrooms available
- Baker Bluff Overlook (Mile Marker 405.1)- Even though you just stretched your legs at Jackson Falls, take the time to stop here, too! In the valley below, you’ll see barns and cattle grazing. Moo!
- Water Valley Overlook (Mile Marker 411.8)- Another scenic overlook that will make you glad you pulled over.
- Leiper’s Fork/Franklin, Tennessee (Mile Marker 428.8 & 428)- Take a step back in time in these historic towns. Both are worth some shopping/eating time! Have a few days to spend in Franklin? Check out How to Spend 2 Days in Franklin, Tennessee!
- Birdsong Hollow (Mile Marker 438)- This stop is a double-arch bridge that passes over Highway 96. The bridge was completed in 1994 and has won the Presidential Award for Design Excellence. It rises 155 feet from the valley and crosses 1,648 feet. Take the exit, just south of the bridge to view it from the bottom. Then cross the bridge and park (large parking area) to view the bridge from the top.
- Northern Terminus (Mile Marker 444)- You’ve made it to the end!
If you don’t catch a bite to eat in Leiper’s Fork or downtown Franklin, you MUST stop at the Loveless Cafe! It got its start giving weary highway travelers a meal and place to sleep. It still feeds travelers from all across the globe! Address: 8400 Hwy 100 Nashville, TN, Hours: 7am-9pm
A great way to end your Natchez Trace Parkway road trip is to explore Nashville, Tennessee! Since we live only a couple of hours away, we love visiting Music City USA! Read details in How to Spend 4 Days in Nashville, Tennessee.
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