With the cooler weather finally here, it is time to plan some fall walks and hikes with family and friends.
Middle Tennessee is rich with great choices for everything from flat stroller-friendly walks to ambitious and challenging hikes that take you deep into the Tennessee woods.
“The fall color season is very short so do not wait,” said State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath, who says the Cumberland Plateau state parks like South Cumberland and Fall Creek Falls offer spectacular trails and views.
“If you would like to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of fall, you cannot do much better than a bluff walk on the Cumberland Plateau,” he said.
“Take your backpack, daypack, car or bicycle to the plateau and soak in the beauty of the fall from above it all.”
Here are some options for October Middle Tennessee outings, some that are naturalist led and some that you can just get out and take on your own just about anytime. And all of these are free.
• There is a fall family hike in Nashville on Warner Park’s Old Roadway, which is just over 2 miles of paved road and is stroller friendly. The all-age walk, during which you can look for colors, sounds and signs of fall, will be led by a Nature Center naturalist from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 9. The parking and entrance to the Old Road is just west of the Nature Center off Highway 100. Register by calling 615-862-8555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Williamson County’s Timberland Park has a calendar full of October hikes that take off from the park’s Visitor Center at mile marker 437.2 on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Franklin. The hikes include a wildlife hike at 9 a.m. Oct. 9, a 1.5-mile guided hike at 9 a.m. Oct. 16 and a fall foliage hike at 3 p.m. Oct. 30. Register at www.wcparksandrec.com.
• Two of the October state park hikes that Hedgepath will lead are:
Friday, Oct. 15: Meet at 10 a.m. at the Pogue Creek State Natural Area in Jamestown just outside Pickett CCC Memorial State Park. This is a moderate 3-mile walk along the canyon rim and giant rock shelters. Take a picnic lunch and plenty of water. Register at 865-594-5601.
Saturday, Oct. 30: Meet at 1 p.m. at the Foster Falls Recreation Area in Sequatchie, Tennessee, within the South Cumberland State Park. This will be a 5-mile round-trip walk on the easy flat terrain of the plateau rim. Register at 931-924-2980.
• Nashville’s Beaman Park Nature Center has a “Get to Know Beaman Park” hike from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 16, during which you can hike the 2.5-mile Henry Hollow Loop trail with a naturalist. Call 615-862-8580 or email email@example.com to register. Meet at the Nature Center, 5911 Old Hickory Blvd.
• Nashville’s Bells Bend Park at 4187 Old Hickory Blvd. has two great October naturalist-led hikes:
There is a Hunter’s Moon Hike from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 20, during which you can enjoy a nearly full moon and the night sounds (owls, other night birds and the Cumberland River) of this farm-like park in a bend of the Cumberland River. The hike is rated easy and is designed for those 8 and older. Registration is required at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bells Bend also has a Children’s Fall Hike from 1 to 2 p.m. Oct. 30. This is designed as a fun afternoon for all ages to learn about fall plants, the forest, insects and changes that occur in the fall. Registration is required at email@example.com.
• Bledsoe Creek State Park in Sumner County has a guided hike along the High Ridge and Shoreline trails at 1 p.m. Oct. 23. The hike is about 3 miles and is “moderately strenuous.” Meet at the Visitor Center back porch. Register at 615-451-6337 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some anytime hikes/walks include:
• If you want to incorporate some history into your hike, try the Boundary Trail inside the Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro. This is described as an easy trail that you can combine with a park road and short trail to the Stones River National Cemetery for a 3.5-mile loop around the whole park. There are marked signs and cannons along the way. 615-893-9501.
• Percy Warner Park’s Mossy Ridge Trail is a 4.5-mile loop that is popular with hikers as well as trail runners, can be started from the Chickering Road entrance and offers wonderful forest views and a good workout. This trail is a great place to observe the transformation of the forest from summer to fall. The hike is rated moderate, but be on the lookout for tree roots and some uneven terrain that could trip you up. 615-862-8555 or check www.warnerparks.org.
• One of my go-to spots for a nice flat walk is Centennial Park. Not only does the paved walkway let you see and experience all of the recent improvements to the Nashville park (the allees that take you from the West End entrance to the Parthenon, the reengineered Great Lawn, the new lighting on the Parthenon and the Woman Suffrage monument), you can enjoy a walk around Lake Watauga, see the Cockrill Spring water feature and take in views of the Parthenon from many different vantage points. The paved walkway around the park is a good one for avid walkers or runners and particularly nice if you are pushing a stroller or wheelchair.
• The Harpeth River State Park Bluff Trail hike is another one of my favorites. It’s just about 20 miles from downtown Nashville and offers a chance to hike to the top of a 200-foot bluff overlooking the Narrows of the Harpeth River. It is rated a “moderate” hike, but for me it was a challenging 20-minute climb, but well worth it for the spectacular view and sense of hiking accomplishment. https://tnstateparks.com/parks/harpeth-river.
• Long Hunter State Park has about 25 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails that range from 1 mile to 6 miles. Some of them include cedar glades, and some have bluff overlooks, and the 2-mile paved Lake Trail around Couchville Lake is perfect for an easy walk or an outing with strollers or wheelchairs. https://tnstateparks.com/parks/activities/long-hunter.
• Montgomery Bell State Park has 16 miles of hiking/walking trails, including the most popular one (the overnight 10.5-mile Montgomery Bell Trail hike around the park’s perimeter) and the beautiful quarter-mile Spillway Trail, which follows the creek to Lake Woodhaven and showcases the historic CCC rock work on the spillway. https://tnstateparks.com/parks/activities/montgomery-bell.