Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Touring Tuesday - Cycling the Natchez Trace Parkway


Taking a break at the south end of the Natchez Trace Parkway (Photo credit: Capital City Cyclists)
If you are  looking to do some long distance bicycle touring without a lot of vehicle traffic, the Natchez Trace Parkway might be right for you. It starts in Natchez, Mississippi and ends south of Nashville, Tennessee. Commercial traffic is banned from the parkway, and traffic is generally light, except around the towns of Tupelo and Jackson in Mississippi. There are a number of interesting things to see along the way. These include three Indian mounds, a couple waterfalls and the site of Meriwether Lewis' death and grave. You can also get off the parkway to visit other sites, like the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo. If you have any questions about Elvis' humble origins, visiting his birthplace should put those to rest. The home only had two rooms, and his parents were so financially strapped they had to give it up just a few years after Elvis was born.

The parkway roughly follows the path of the Natchez Trace. The trace was used heavily by early travelers who had taken goods down the Mississippi to sell in New Orleans. Until steamboats became powerful enough to move upstream against the river's current, they had to walk or use horses to return home. This route became the Natchez Trace.

Every twenty to thirty miles there are restrooms, and often a short hiking trail. I recommend stopping for the hiking trails. They are generally short, but interesting. At one of these I saw the only alligator I have ever seen in the wild (From a distance, fortunately). If you don't mind primitive camping, you can make this a low-cost trip. There are three free campgrounds open to RVs or tent campers, and five free campgrounds open to bicyclists only. If you prefer something more civilized, there are numerous bed and breakfasts along the parkway. The only negative thing about cycling the parkway is that sometimes you have to go a few miles away from it to find a restaurant or grocery store, so you need to plan things out pretty well. For help with that, be sure to visit NatchezTraceTravel.com.

Here's a video that shows a number of still photos from the Natchez Trace Parkway:


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