When you’ve seen all the strip malls and box stores you can stand, when another billboard is more than you can take, and one more neon sign makes you want to stick a fork in your eye … you need to harken back to the old days. Imagine a time when traveling was a solitary endeavor, when you’d go for a day without seeing another person – much less an advertisement! On the Natchez Trace Parkway, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
From buffalo paths used by prehistoric hunters, to Native American trails eventually used by French and Spanish trappers, the Natchez Trace evolved into one of our country’s most famous frontier trails. Pioneers living along the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers constructed flat-boats and floated their goods down the rivers to New Orleans. After they sold their fare – including the salvageable logs of the flat-boats – part of their trip back home would follow the Trace.
Originating in the city of Natchez, on the Mississippi River in the southwest corner of Mississippi, the original route is now paralleled by a two-lane parkway administered by the National Park Service. It stretches 445 miles northeast to Nashville, Tennessee, and the 50 mile per hour speed limit and ban on commercial traffic make it one of the most enjoyable drives we’ve taken.
You’ll need to get into a more relaxed mindset, so spend a couple of hours moseying around Natchez before you hit the road. Have lunch and watch the Mississippi River idle by, or tour some of the Antebellum homes strewn throughout the town.
When you’re ready, enter the Parkway and enjoy the leisurely pace. Stop at one of the visitor centers, located at either end of the parkway, and pick up a map with descriptions of the historic sites, scenic overlooks, picnic areas, and places to walk sections of the original Trace along the way. The mile markers are clearly indicated and you’ll find plenty of interesting spots for everyone to stretch their legs.
Our luck couldn’t have been any better – an early spring painted the landscape with wildflowers and the dogwood trees were in full bloom.
Near the Nashville end of the Trace, at mile marker 438, is Birdsong Hollow – a gorgeous double arched bridge that could only be topped by the spectacular valley is spans.
Plan to spend a two to three days traveling from one end of the Trace to the other. Finding pet friendly hotels near some of the larger cities you’ll pass, like Jackson and Tupelo, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee, will be no problem. There are also pet friendly campgrounds and restaurants just off the parkway, and Nashville has plenty of pet friendly activities to check out – so making this a pet friendly road trip will be a cinch!
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