The Natchez Trace Parkway is one of the most scenic parkways in the US. However, you may need to schedule more than a whole day if you want to sample all the attractions you expect to come across here. This is a 444-mile drive that extends from Natchez to Tennessee.
Protected by the National Park Service, this parkway has a lot of historical significance, having been the main route used by Native Americans and explorers seeking to strike a fortune trading or mining in the region. As a result, the route is dotted with breathtaking views, gorgeous waterfalls, wildlife, historical centers, historical sites, and beautiful forest cover. Take time to snap several stunning photographs as you explore this parkway.
This article will highlight some of the places we think you should visit when you decide to explore the Natchez Trace Parkway.
When you begin your journey from Natchez, at milepost 10.3, you will come across the Emerald Mound. This is one of the many mounds along this route, and it has been designated as a national historic landmark. At 35 feet high and spanning over 8 acres, this is the second-largest mound in the US (the largest is the Monks Mound in Cahokia, Illinois). The native Indians (ancestors of the Natchez Indians) were the ones who built this mound as grounds for ceremonies, religion, and burial sites for their civic and religious leaders.
Take a short break and rest at Mount Locust while still diving deeper into the history of the South. Mount Locust Inn has over 300 years of history packed within its walls, having served as an inn, a family home (later reverted to an inn), and a historic landmark. Take time to walk the grounds around the inn to admire what used to be a thriving cotton plantation after the arrival of steamboats reduced the number of weary travelers seeking refuge at the inn.
The Windsor mansion was one of the largest mansions in the South. Smith Daniell built it in the 1850s, and he only lived here briefly before he died. After the Civil War, the house was accidentally burned to the ground during a party, with only the magnificent columns and balustrades remaining in place. Before that, the house had been converted into a union hospital and an observation post. Although the Wilson grounds today occupy significantly less than the 2,600 acres they once had, you can still enjoy beautiful views and learn a lot of history here.
The Sunken Trace
At Milepost 41.5, there is a beautiful walking trail called the Sunken Trace. This is a deeply eroded section of the Old Trace. A walk through this trail will take you back to the 1800s to experience almost the same kind of conditions the weary travelers experienced then.
Rocky Springs was once a small but thriving town along the Natchez Trail that grew from a small, watering place surrounded by cotton farms. Unfortunately, misfortunes (Civil War, Yellow Fever, and others) befell the town, leading to its demise. Today, the Rocky Springs is a campground that acts as a vantage point to rest and gives you the chance to explore other sections of the Natchez Parkway, including the Owens Creek Waterfall.
The Reservoir Overlook
Further up, at milepost 105.6, you will come across the Reservoir Overlook, a 50-square-mile facility that offers you a magnificent view of Ross Barnett Lake. This lake is the largest source of drinking water for the state of Mississippi. At the Overlook, be wary of alligators. Boating, kayaking, canoeing, and other forms of water sports are popular at this overlook. If you care to spend more time here, explore the nearby Chisha Foka trail, where wild birds and wildflowers are in abundance.
French Camp Historic Village
The French Camp Village was home to a unique (and possibly weird) combination of characters passing via the Natchez Trail. We are talking about the soldiers, the Native Americans, the merchants, and possibly bandits who used this route frequently. A Frenchman, Louis Lefleur, established this town in 1810 as an inn and resting ground for weary travelers. The natives named the town the “Frenchman’s camp.”
Today, you can pop into the town for a delicious meal and possibly lodging if you are on the Natchez trail. Make sure to visit the museum, the gift shop, the cafe, and other attractions that will pull you back into history and showcase how significant this location was to the people who resided or passed by here.
Camping at Jeff Busby Park
Camping lovers can take a break at the Jeff Busby Park along the Natchez Parkway, at milepost 193.1. This is an 18-site campground that is located on one of the highest elevations in the area. Each campsite contains various amenities, including restrooms and picnic tables. In addition, there are numerous hiking trails to explore from this location, with scenic routes wherever you go. The park was named after Congressman Jeff Busby to honor his contribution to the establishment of the park.
Bynum Indian Mound and Village Site
This is the oldest mound site along the Natchez Trace Parkway, and the native Indians created them. Initially, there were six mounds (ranging from 5 feet to 14 feet), but five of them were excavated as archeologists tried to learn more about the lives of the native Indians here. The Bynum Indian Mounds still stand today as a sign of the spiritual connection between these Indians and their ancestors. When you visit this location, you will walk along paved access roads, within robust forest vegetation, and among grounds that are considered to be historically holy among the Native Americans.
Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor center
At the Natchez Trace headquarters in Tupelo, take time to absorb a wealth of information about the Parkway. There are a ton of interactive exhibits, information centers, movie theaters, and bookstores. If you have time, explore the hiking trails at the Chickasaw Village site to the south or visit the Old Town Overlook. In addition, the headquarters holds several attractions and entertainment events specifically for kids.
Confederate Gravesites and Old Trace
Along the historic old road is a spot where several unknown Confederate soldiers were buried. No one knows who these soldiers were or how they died, and their names have been erased from the headstones. Nevertheless, these graves offer a brief glimpse into how life may have been cruel for soldiers during the Civil War.
At milepost 286.7, you come across the Pharr Mounds, a collection of eight large burial mounds spread over 90 acres of land. Native Americans built these mounds as burial sites for their people. Today, they are said to be the most important archaeological sites in Northern Mississippi.
Tishomingo State Park
Tishomingo Park was named after Chief Tishomingo, and this is one of the most scenic parks in the state. Unique rock formations, canyons, crevices, boulders, wildflowers, and lush landscapes are what you can expect to find at this spot. There is lots of ground and space for recreational activities, including hiking, picnicking, rock climbing, and camping.
And the Natchez Trace Parkway goes on…
From Mississippi, the Natchez Trace Parkway stretches north into Alabama and Tennessee. Each state has unique attractions along the way, and if you have enough time to explore the whole stretch, you will have an amazing experience by the time you finish your adventure.