Within minutes of downtown Nashville, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether your outdoor sport of choice is biking, hiking or horseback riding, the rolling hills, long trails and majestic lakes of the Nashville area will not disappoint. Fish in a calm, beautiful lake, canoe on a lazy river, or get your thrills in a state-of-the-art wave action pool. Check out our picks for the Nashville area’s top outdoor attractions.
Just 9 miles from downtown Nashville, you’ll find Tennessee’s largest municipal park. Edwin and Percy Warner Parks, known as “The Warner Parks,” span 2,684 acres. Get your bearings at the Warner Park Nature Center, which offers public nature programs tailored for all ages. Then explore away. The parks offer hiking trails with abundant wildlife and natural conservation areas, as well as equestrian trails, 2 golf courses, a dog park and an 11-mile winding road that’s popular with cyclists. Another popular attraction is the “Full Moon Pickin’ Parties.” Held from May to October, these family-friendly fundraisers feature bluegrass music under the light of the moon.
Only 15 minutes from downtown Nashville is the area’s largest lake. Percy Priest spans 14,400 square acres, with 265 miles of shoreline. Visitors can choose from a variety of activities including boating, camping and picnicking on this pristine lake. Fishing opportunities also abound; the most popular fish are largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, striped bass and catfish. After all that outdoor activity, you’ll have ample ways to relax. The lake has 4 marinas that provide visitors with floating restaurants and snack bars. And on the lake’s western shore the Hamilton Creek Park provides a recreation area and a nice sandy beach for swimmers.
Paddle, swim or float the day away on the historic Harpeth River, a class-1 river just 15 miles from Nashville. From March to October, you can rent a canoe and float the Harpeth. If you didn’t come with paddle gear, don’t fret. Canoe outfitters are located on Highway 70, near Kingston Springs, and equip you with the canoes and gear. They also shuttle you back to your car.
While you’re in Nashville, get in a day of horseback riding. About 40 minutes from downtown Nashville is the Cedars of Lebanon State Park’s riding stables. Enjoy a 2.5-mile guided trail ride through this state park on a gentle horse. On your trail ride, you may spot deer, turkeys and even an occasional fox. If you would like to stay the night and camp out under the stars, the 1,000-acre park has cabins and campsites.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile path known for its beauty, history and dramatic landscapes. If you are looking for a fairly short, but picturesque ride, enter Natchez Trace at Highway 100 (Bellevue), then head north and exit at Highway 96 (Franklin). This route is a little over 5 miles one way, and the bridge over Highway 96 is an awesome sight. For the super-hearty, enjoy a longer ride of 25 miles on the Trace.
Since Nashville doesn’t have an ocean, the folks at Wave Country decided to bring some wave motion to Music City. The popular water park generates waves that can be ridden, courtesy of 3 water flumes and 2 speed slides. The speed slides drop the victims (I mean, visitors) from a 40-foot tower and travel 80 feet! Floats are included in your admission price. If you have children, or if you’re a child at heart, you will enjoy the waves while getting some rays! Wave Country is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
About the Author
Nanette Noffsinger has traveled to all 50 states and extensively overseas. She worked for NBC News in New York for 16 years before returning to her hometown of Nashville. Noffsinger continues to work with the network on special projects (such as political conventions/election coverage, Matt Lauer's "Where in the World" and Al Roker's "Lend a Hand") and as a producer for news coverage. Noffsinger recently traveled to 16 countries and over 50 cities while working on a 10-part documentary. She owns Burke Hollow Media, a public relations firm.