Natchez Trace Parkway photos by Brett Gover
The Natchez Trace Parkway runs from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee—a distance of 440 miles. It parallels the historic wilderness trail known as the Natchez Trace.
Today I drove the 90-mile stretch from Mississippi’s capital, Jackson, to Natchez. It’s the first leg of a road trip that will next take me north to Vicksburg and then up through the Delta.
The Parkway is a pleasure to drive. You find yourself wishing that there were more roads like it. It winds through a gently rolling landscape of lush forests, meandering streams, and sleepy farms. Hawks and turkey vultures float overhead, wild turkeys waddle through the grass, deer look up to watch you pass, and armadillos can occasionally be spotted plodding along the edge of the road.
The speed limit is a civilized 50 miles per hour, which encourages you to savor the drive. And traffic is very light—or at least it was today. Cars share the two-lane road with bicyclists, of which there are surprisingly many. (Biking the Parkway is not just allowed, it’s encouraged.)
Every few miles there’s a place to stop: a picnic area, a hiking trail, a historic site, a section of the old Trace, or an area of particular natural interest. Here are a few of the spots that I liked best:
- The Sunken Trace (mile 41.5): Here you can take a five-minute walk through a deeply eroded section of the Trace.
- Mount Locust Inn (mile 15.5): During the heyday of the Trace, there were more than 50 inns scattered along its length. Mount Locust is the only one that remains. The rustic structure has been restored and furnished to look much as it might have in the late 1700s.
- Emerald Mound (mile 10.3): Ancestors of the Natchez Indians built this massive ceremonial mound around 1400. It covers nearly 8 acres. A walkway and steps take you to the top for a good view of the entire mound.— Brett Gover