From stunning views of the Cumberland River to peaceful trails surrounded by lush foliage, there are so many great hikes near Nashville to check out. Read on to learn where to get your outdoors fix in.
Nashville is known for its lively music and nightlife, but the city also is great for outdoor lovers. With plenty of incredible and unique hiking trails in the area, the outdoorsy type will have plenty to explore in and around Nashville.
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced hiker, there’s something in the Nashville area for everyone. Here are some of the top spots in the area.
Radnor Lake State Park is one of the top hiking spots in Nashville. Due to its proximity to the city, this is a popular hiking trail. Be sure to get there early to avoid crowds.This beautiful lake offers a wide range of trails that are suitable for all skill levels.
The Walter Criley Visitor Center is a good place to stop first, to pick up maps and brochures and learn about the area. There are also a few exhibits and a gift shop inside. It is open from 7:00AM to dark daily, including holidays. The visitor center, however, is open from 9:30AM to 5:30PM and closed for lunch 1PM-2PM. It is also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Trails range from 0.20 miles to 1.65 miles. The Dam Walkway trail is the shortest, at 0.20 miles, and gives you a nice view of the lake. It’s also ADA accessible. Other easy trails include the Spillway Trail, which starts right near the visitor center, and the Historic Valve House Trail. More difficult trails include Ganier Ridge Trail, which goes to the top of Ganier Ridge and is 1.65 miles long, and the South Cove Trail, which also goes to the top of a ridge.
If you want to hike with your best friend, Otter Creek Road is the only trail at the park that allows dogs. Bikers are also allowed on this one.
There’s even an EV charging station, so bring your electric vehicle!
Warner Parks is actually two parks – Edwin Warner Park and Percy Warner Park. Combined, their 3,100+ acres offer a wide range of activities, including hiking, horse trails, birding, fishing, and more. Best of all, the trails are pet-friendly, so you can bring your dog with you. These parks bring in over a million visitors per year, according to the City of Nashville.
Lots of people love the Harpeth Woods Trail, a moderate 2.5 mile loop inside Edwin Warner Park. It goes through a rock quarry used for WPA projects in the 1930s and 40s, and also follows along the Natchez Trace.
Another popular route is the Mossy Ridge Trail, inside Percy Warner Park. It is a 4.5 mile moderate loop that gains close to 1000 feet of elevation, so it is not for beginners. it winds through meadows, waterfalls, and springs to fully immerse you in nature.
The parks are open from dawn until 11PM daily. No hunting or trapping is allowed here, and bikes are only allowed on paved trails. Here is a full list of Park Rules, so you know before you go.
Length: 10 miles
If you’re looking for a great trail for a relaxing walk, Stones River Greenway is the perfect place to visit. You can easily access the trail from downtown Nashville, making it the perfect place to start your hike near the city. This stunning trail follows the Stones River, ending at the Percy Priest Reservoir, and has great views of surrounding landscape.
While the trail is great for all skill levels, the stunning views make it perfect for photography. If you’re interested in capturing some amazing shots, head to the trail during the fall when the leaves are changing color. Stones River Greenway is also home to a wide range of wildlife, so it’s great for nature lovers.
It also features a dog park, so it’s a top place to take the pup! Connect with other dog lovers at their beautiful new park just for your furry friend.
Difficulty: All skill levels
Length: 444 miles
The Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic trail spanning three states, offers some great hiking around Nashville. This historical path, once used by Native Americans, pioneers, and traders, is now a perfect escape for nature lovers and history buffs alike.
One of the highlights of this trail is the Double Arch Bridge. As you approach the bridge, you’ll be greeted by the breathtaking view of the valley below. The bridge, standing majestically over the landscape, is a true testament to human ingenuity and engineering.
The trail is awesome for spotting wildlife and beautiful native plants. As you walk, you’ll be surrounded by vibrant wildflowers, towering trees, and wildlife like deer, foxes, and various species of birds.
Next on the list is Beaman Park, a hidden gem located in the rural hills of northwest Nashville. With its rugged terrain and pristine creek, this park provides a serene and challenging hiking experience.
There are three different trails here. The Sedge Hill Trail is just 0.6 miles long, while the Henry Hollow Loop is about 2 miles long. By far the longest is the Laurel Woods Trail, at 12.5 miles. The Laurel Woods Trail takes about 6 hours to hike. You can shorten the hike by taking the Shortcut Connector, but this brings it down to about a 3.5-hour hike – still a pretty long way.
Difficulty: Easy *ADA Accessible
Length: 10 miles (Greenway); 6.6 miles (unpaved trails)
Friends of Shelby Park
The Shelby Bottoms Greenway, in East Nashville is one of the city’s favorite hiking and walking spots. The Greenway is relatively flat, making it ideal for beginners or those looking for a leisurely hike. It is also ADA accessible and pet friendly, so it is one of the most family-friendly hiking and walking trails in Nashville. There are also unpaved trails to get out into nature a little more.
Shelby Bottom stretches over five miles, with about 3 miles hugging the Cumberland River. Shelby Park has a nature center, with exhibits, a library with field guides, and regular events for the public. It also has a dog park, picnic areas, and several playgrounds for the kids.
Bells Bend Park is a peaceful little retreat located in the “Bells Bend” of the Cumberland River. It is a total of 808 acres and is home to migratory birds. There is also a nature center here you can stop in.
This park offers easy, flat trails that are perfect for beginners or if you’re looking for a leisurely walk. The main trail is a 2.3-mile loop, and there are also a few old farm roads you can take a walk on. The main trailhead is the Poplar Hollow Trailhead.
Length: 2 miles (1.5 mile River Trail/Service Road Loop; 0.5 mile Ridge Top Trail)
Friends of Burgess Falls
If waterfalls are your thing, then Burgess Falls State Park is a must-visit. The park is home to four waterfalls that cascade down hundreds of feet. You won’t want to miss out on this one! It is a little further from Nashville – about an hour and a half drive, or 18 miles south of Cookeville. But it’s worth it if you can make it out here.
The 1.5 mile River Trail/Service Road Loop is the park’s main trail. This moderate trail will take you through forests, along the river, and of course to all the waterfalls. There is also the 0.5-mile Ridge Top Trail, with beautiful views of Falling Water River.
Other amenities at this park include a playground, a butterfly garden, and picnic areas with grills. A lot of people also love to go fishing here, near the dam.
There is also the Window Cliffs State Natural Area, which is managed by Burgess Falls. But the two parks are over 8 miles away, so be sure you have the correct one plugged into your GPS! Window Cliffs also has some good hiking trails you may be interested in checking out.
Difficulty: All skill levels
Length: 56+ miles
Friends of Falls Creek Falls
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, Fall Creek Falls State Park should be on your list. Located about two hours away from Nashville, this park is home to one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States, at 256 feet high.
The park features over 56 miles of trails that take you through rugged terrain, past cascading waterfalls, and atop breathtaking overlooks. The Gorge Overlook Trail and the Woodland Trail are two of the most popular hiking trails, and are often combined into one hike. They can be steep and challenging, but the views are worth it.
If you’ve got an RV and want to visit Nashville, check out my post on the Best RV Spots Near Nashville.
Length: 0.9 miles (out-and-back) to the waterfall; other trails are available
Cummins Falls State Park, located an hour away from Nashville, is a hidden gem that’s worth exploring. The park’s centerpiece is the Cummins Falls, a picturesque 75-foot waterfall that’s ranked as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the United States.
The hike to the waterfall is moderately challenging, with some steep and slippery sections. You’ll also need to wade in water a bit to get there. The waterfall’s base is a popular swimming spot, perfect for cooling off after a long hike.
There are a few other trails here, including the 1.1 mile (round trip) Blackburn Fork River Trial and the John Cummins Trail.
Rock Island State Park, located on the headwaters of Center Hill Lake, features some of the most unique and challenging hiking trails in Nashville. The park itself totals 883 acres and is home to Great Falls, a 30-foot cascading waterfall, and Twin Falls. There is also the Blue Hole, popular for fishing and hiking.
The park’s highlight is the Twin Falls trail, where you can marvel at the cascading waterfalls. The trail is challenging, and it’s very important that you understand how to enjoy this park safely. The trail, especially hiking back up, is strenuous.
Conditions change rapidly here because it is downstream of Great Falls Dam and a TVA Power Plant, and so water levels can suddenly change.
Read all of the safety information on the Visit TN website first, but for your convenience I am including their main pointers:
- If sirens sound near or upstream of your location, evacuate the area immediately. Water may rise quickly. Keep children close at all times and pay attention to water levels. If they begin to rise, evacuate the area immediately.
- Swimming is not advised in the gorge due to deceptively strong currents and deep water.
- Wear sturdy shoes. Flip-flops or other slip-on style shoes are not recommended.
- Do not climb on or jump from rocks or bluffs. These activities lead to many visitor injuries each year.
- Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the park.
South Cumberland State Park, spread over close to 31,000 acres and four counties, is a haven for hikers. It offers over 90 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to strenuous hikes. The park’s trails take you through dense forests, past rushing waterfalls, and atop sandstone cliffs. It is about an hour and a half from Nashville, close to Chattanooga.
The Fiery Gizzard Trail was named by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top 25 trails in the country. This 12.5 mile trail takes you through Fiery Gizzard Creek, where you can go for a swim, and also takes you through waterfalls, gorges, and forests. This is one of the more difficult trails in the park, but worth it if you’re up for it.
There are plenty of easy hikes and leisurely walks here too, like the 1.3-mile Meadow Trail and Lone Rock Trail. You can check out more trail information here.
If you’re looking for a challenging hike, Harpeth River State Park is the perfect place to visit. Located just a short distance from downtown Nashville, this stunning state park offers a wide range of trails that are suitable for all skill levels. It is a great place for both hiking and watersports.
Harpeth River State Park runs along 40 miles of the Harpeth River, with numerous access points where you can take a kayak, SUP, etc. in and out of the water. There are quite a few sections for hiking. The Narrows of the Harpeth has three different trails to enjoy, while the Hidden Lake section offers some of the most popular hiking and walking.
There is also the 2-mile loop at Gosset Tract, as well as a one-mile section that leads you to views of the Mound Bottom Archaeological Site.
Lastly, Harpeth River is a top spot for fishing, with over 85 species calling the river home. The best guide I’ve seen to fishing this area is with the Harpeth Conservancy.
The Bottom Line
If you’re interested in exploring nature and want to see what Tennessee has to offer, the great outdoors are calling your name. Luckily, there are plenty of hiking trails near Nashville great for both beginners and experienced hikers to answer that call.