Friday, September 12, 2014

5 Great Hikes In or Near Nashville

5 Great Hikes In or Near Nashville

Nashville has been a busy, prosperous city of late. Our municipal mascot should be a bulldozer given the ever expansive development of restaurants, condominiums, and boutiques. While I love paying ten dollars for a regular coffee because some dude with an exquisite mustache performs a ten minute slow-pour performance art piece with my mug, I sometimes long for a quick escape to the woods on short notice. Nashvillians are lucky to have a number of solid hiking spaces within the city limits or barely outside them. Below are five of my favorite spots to get a quick workout or nature respite away from the ever-increasing bustle of Music City.

Beaman Park
Reflections in Henry Creek at Beaman Park
Beaman Park is my favorite local hiking spot. I'm biased given it is only a twenty minute drive from my home in East Nashville with little traffic most hours of the day. Beaman winds around the rolling hills of Nashville's Highland Rim with enough elevation change to get one's blood moving. It's best feature is nice stretch of trail that parallels Henry Creek for those who want to splash around a bit. Hikes range from 2 to 7 miles depending on one's route.

Radnor Lake
Radnor Lake framed by trees
Radnor Lake is a beautiful park and designated state natural area right in the heart of the city. The park is structured around the picturesque lake from which it derives its name, which was built by the L&N Railroad to provide water for their steam engines. This is the only hike on the list that does not allow dogs on the trails (though you can walk your pup on a closed paved road that runs right along the lake.) Radnor is also very, very popular and frequently crowded, so be prepared for limited parking and lots of company on weekends and during peak hours. Hikes can range from a half mile or less to six miles or greater depending on routes chosen.

Percy Warner Park
Fallen bark on Mossy Ridge Trail
Percy Warner's hiking trails might be the most used in all of Nashville's city parks. Tucked in the city's tony southwest corner full of old money and new cars, Percy Warner provides some well maintained trails that wander in and out of the park's hills, roads, and meadows. Treks can range from 2.8 to several miles with self-designed routes. The longest individual loop is the 4.5 mile Mossy Ridge Trail, which is a local favorite.

Bells Bend Park
Bells Bend Park pond with crane silhouette
Bells Bend is one of the newer spaces in Nashville's park system. The park consists of river floodplains and former farmland on the western edge of the city. The trails at the park are simple mowed paths  and old farm roads cut through rolling pastures. Bells Bend is a great place to walk in cooler weather given the open sunshine that hits these meadow trails. The park sits within a U-shaped bend in the Cumberland River with a few spots to view the waterfront. The main exterior loop of the park is 2.3 miles, but several smaller side trails can be incorporated for longer treks. Be very mindful of the routes you plan to take as I find the signage a bit confusing in areas (though it is very hard to get "lost" due to the flat land allowing expansive views that help you maintain your bearings.)

Long Hunter State Park
Sunrise at Percy Priest Lake at Long Hunter
Long Hunter State Park is the furtherest designation from downtown on this list but is only about a thirty minute drive. The ride takes you east to Mt. Juliet before dipping back into Hermitage where Percy Priest Lake is a dominate feature of the park. My favorite day hike is the 4 mile Day Loop, which shares part of its path with the overnight backpacking Volunteer Trail (what a luxury to have a backcountry camping site only 30 minutes from the city.)  The Day Loop takes you through gently sloping woods of hardwood and limestone before tracing the edge of the lake for at least a third of its length. The hike is very easy and provides the opportunity to slip off for improvised hikes along the lake's shore.

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