Stretching 444 miles, the Natchez Trace Parkway has been aptly described as America’s longest and narrowest national park. The 50mph speed limit makes for a relaxing and leisurely drive, and you’re likely to see more cyclists than cars.
- Commercial traffic is prohibited. The vast majority of motorised vehicles along the Trace are cars, pickup trucks and, of course, motorcycles.
- Traffic is generally very light due to the 50mph limit and the prohibition of commercial travel. Most of the traffic is people enjoying the Natchez Trace. In fact, when the weather is nice, there are often more motorcycles on the Trace than cars.
- You could ride the entire length of the Trace without even stopping! There are no stop signs or stoplights. Access from highways and major roads is by a ramp that enters the parkway at a 90-degree angle. Cars entering must stop before turning onto the Trace.
- The parkway is clean and smooth, one rider said it was like ‘riding on a cloud’! Plus, the park service does an excellent job at maintaining the Trace.
- The scenery is amazing: the Trace is lined with forests, farmland, creeks and beautiful vistas. There’s also wildlife to be spotted too. With no electricity poles lining the road, and no billboards or advertising, it’s just beautiful scenery to enjoy as you ride along.
- There are historic and scenic attractions along the Trace offering perfect breaks and rest stops. There’s an abundance of things to see and do – you can take a break at a waterfall or find a little wooded creek. Find a section of the ‘Old Trace’ to view an Indian burial mound or read about a historical event. There are also self-guided walking trails for you to stop and stretch your legs or find a scenic overlook for great views.
- The Natchez Trace offers regular restroom facilities approximately every 30 miles.
- There are fuel stations, markets and restaurants near the Trace. It’s true that none of these services are right ‘on’ the Trace, but just beyond the woods there are markets, gas stations and restaurants within a couple of miles of the access/exit points. As advertising is forbidden on the parkway, make sure you collect a map from a visitor centre.
- Numerous side roads take you past antebellum homes, Victorian homes, Civil War battlefields and small Southern towns. You can see a slice of the modern-day South and remnants of what the South looked like before the Civil War. There are several ‘loop routes’ where you can start your ride on the Trace, exit the Trace onto a backroad, re-enter the Trace and ride back to where you started.
- Many motorcycle-friendly B&Bs, Guesthouses and Cottages are located along or near the Trace. We do recommend planning any overnight stays as accommodation will be a short ride off the Trace.
There are so many points of interest and scenic vistas along the Trace, the journey could easily become a two or three-day experience:
- Emerald Mound – near Natchez – was built between 1200 and 1650. This eight-acre ceremonial site is the second-largest mound structure in the USA. It is a testimony to the sophistication of the native Mississippians and was built entirely by hand.
- Cypress Swamp – near Canton – an eerie but inspiring landscape where the only sounds are birds, insects and the occasional ripple in the water. Was that a snapping turtle or an alligator?
- Ross Barnett Reservoir – near Jackson – is the perfect waterside picnic or wild swimming spot.
- The Parkway Visitor Center and Headquarters – near Tupelo – offers an introductory film and is an excellent 15-minute history and geography lesson on the Trace, narrated by singer/songwriter Amy Grant.
The Natchez Trace Parkway offers 95 sights to see along the length of the Trace: 26 of them are along the 102-mile long Tennessee section, 7 are along the 31-mile long Alabama section, and 62 are along the 310-mile long Mississippi section of the Trace.