Monday, August 18, 2014

Trail Review: Bells Bend Park - Nashville, TN

Bells Bend Park in Nashville, TN at sunset

Trails: Bells Bend Park Hiking Trails
Location: 4187 Old Hickory Blvd., Nashville, TN
Trail Length: 2.3 mile loop (with at least a few more combined miles of other farm roads and side trails)
Difficulty: Easy
Solitude: Very good given it is part of an urban park system (more crowded on weekends)

Map of Bells Bend Park in Nashville, TN
Click for larger image.
Bells Bend Park is an 808-acre land preserve comprised of former farmland located within a U-shaped bend in the Cumberland River in western Davidson Country. It is one of the newer spaces in the Metro Park system having opened in 2007. The agricultural history of the area is immediately obvious upon first visit. Time spent walking through Bells Bend feels more like a stroll through farmland than it does a traditional “hike.” Old farm ponds are found on the site, and part of the trails are made up of former gravel farm roads. The main trail is a 2.3 mile loop and is basically just a bush-hogged trail though country meadows and very gently rolling hills. Other short trails (the park does not list their mileage) have been cut through the land and the former farm roads already mentioned intersect the loop for those who want to get more mileage from a visit. Because the land is basically rolling meadows and flat land with an always visible horizon line, it is hard to get “lost” on these trails. I have found, however, it is very easy to get confused by a few of the less-than-clear, hand-painted trail markers if you veer from the main loop. Be sure to study the map at the trailhead (or grab a paper copy) to get a better lay of the land. The western edge of the loop runs alongside the Cumberland River, and much of this land functions as a floodplain (so expect soggy trails during rainy seasons.)

Bells Bend Park in Nashville, TN; a crane relaxes in pond
A crane enjoys one of the old farm ponds at Bells Bend
Despite my recent visit during the high heat and humidity of a Tennessee August, I think Bells Bend - with its sunny, open meadows - makes an especially nice nature respite during the cold winter months. It seems to be a great place for bird-watching, and I almost always see deer on the property if not on the trails. My last visit involved a good sized snake leisurely sunning on one of the gravel roads that runs alongside the river (I’m not sure the specific species, perhaps readers can identify from the photo below.) Wildflowers are abundant, especially in the spring when the meadows offer large vibrant clusters of yellow and purple dotting the landscape.

For more information about Bells Bend Park, including contact info, high resolution maps, and programming information, you can visit the Bells Bend Outdoor Center website.

A view of the Cumberland River at Bells Bend Park in Nashville, TN
The western edge of the main loop trail runs along the Cumberland River
A good-sized snake (species unknown to me) was docile along the trail by the river. 

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