Music City is known for honky tonks, cowboy boots and barbecue joints.
So surely, outdoor lovers won’t find a quiet spot to commune with nature, listen to the gentle rustle of the wind through the trees and sit with their thoughts as the ducks float across a mirrored lake.
Au contraire! The Nashville area offers some of the best hiking opportunities in Middle Tennessee.
Edwin Warner Park
Under the protection of the Metro Nashville government, this massive green space is probably the jewel of their entire park system. It’s rarely crowded, very safe and filled with all the tranquil sights, sounds and smells that nature can offer. There are some nice inclines that can get hearts racing but it’s not a difficult walk. Bikers, rollerbladers and walkers who want to keep their boots mud-free can opt for the paved trails. But the dirt trails are well maintained and available for those who want more seclusion.
Mileage: About six miles if you want to cover all of the paved surfaces in Warner Parks, which used to be an old roadway that is now permanently closed to motorized traffic. The six unpaved trails range from a 2½-mile loop to the 200-yard, one-way Amphitheater Trail.
Where to park: Ample parking may be found off the main entrance between the two grey stone columns at Highway 100 and along the fields leading to the nature center. There is a back way off Vaughn Road. Trailheads can be found at the back of picnic shelter #4 and across the street from shelters # 5 and #6.
Amenities: A really nice nature center with outdoor playground, flush toilets and running, hot water make for a comfortable experience.
Mossy Ridge Trail in Percy Warner Park
Probably the most challenging hike in the Nashville area. The walk takes visitors through the woods, along a mossy ridge (hence the name), and past a small, drippy waterfall and an old home site. It’s rated moderate but can be a real workout for some because of the steep inclines.
Mileage: 4½-mile loop, pretty much all dirt.
Where to park: Take Highway 100 to the paved road at the Deep Well Picnic Area. Parking is available at the end of the road.
Amenities: Bring hand sanitizer if you have a weak bladder. A portable potty sans running water at the beginning of the trailhead is your only recourse.
Radnor Lake State Park
There is a reason why this park has gotten so crowded in recent years. Word has gotten out about the well-manicured trails and wooded hillsides around a huge water-filled lake. Super-tame deer are everywhere. Turtles are also quite plentiful along the lake shoreline. Birders can spot herons, ducks and even a Bald Eagle. Because of the plentiful number of people that pass through their habitat everyday, the creatures are pretty accepting of human company.
Mileage: Six miles of trails ranging from paved, mulched and dirt. Most have loop access.
Where to park: The west parking area is at the end of Otter Creek Road just off Granny White Pike. A smaller east parking area is also on the other end of Otter Creek Road off Franklin Road. Because the road is closed to traffic in the middle, you can’t drive from one end of Otter Creek to the other.
Amenities: Flush toilets can be found in the visitor center on the west side and also at the east parking lot.
Fantastic wooded hikes await the adventures on the north side of town. Spring-time is when the wild flowers are in bloom but a nice stream in the gully provides a little air conditioned feel for summer hikers. There’s also a nice hilly climb for those who need to get some cardio into their workouts.
Mileage: Three hiking trails – one at 4 miles round trip, a 2-mile loop and one a short ½ mile jaunt.
Where to park: Two trailheads share one road off Little Marrowbone Road.
Amenities: Restrooms are available at both trailheads and the nature center.
Hidden Lake State Park
A part of Harpeth River State Park, this little, secret gem still doesn’t get a lot of hiker traffic although more people are discovering its wonders. But it really packs a punch of interest for its small size. You’ll feel like Indiana Jones exploring the ruins of a house and shed while you unearth artifacts from a time when this was a popular resort. Decades ago, a former rock quarry was turned into a gigantic swimming pool where people splashed around in the pumped-in, purified, filtered water. High on a ridge overlooking the lake, revelers danced the night away on a beautiful, marble, ballroom floor. All of that is gone now. But hikers can still find physical reminders of this bygone era.
Mileage: With the Ridge Loop, Hidden Lake, Blue Bird Loop and Lower Field Loop trails combined, you’re looking at walking a little over two miles. There is a bit of a short incline up to the ballroom floor and the trail gets narrower at the back of the lake. The crumbly stone steps from top of the bluff down to the edge of the lake are for the sure footed. But overall, the trail is pretty easy.
Where to park: Located in Pegram, a dirt parking lot for Hidden Lake is next to the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery off of McCrory Lane, a mile or two north of the Interstate 40 ramps. The park backs up to Charlotte Pike. Be warned that the park is only open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., after which the gates to the lot are shut and locked until the next morning, regardless if your car is still there or not.
Amenities: No restrooms, not even an outhouse, so plan accordingly. There is a canoe/kayak launch near the parking lot for those who seek Harpeth River access.