Nashville is unquestionably a jewel of the South. Known for its prominent place in the history of country music, Nashville is steeped in art and culture. What gets remarked on less often, though, are all the outdoor activities there are to do here. Although Nashville may be the biggest city in Tennessee and the state capital, there are no shortage of hikes near Nashville, making Music City a fantastic place for a walking holiday.
Located almost in the center of the state along the banks of the Cumberland River, Nashville is close to many areas of natural beauty that are ideal for a walk. Whether you're looking for a short stroll or a long hike, you'll be able to find it on one of the many hiking trails near the city. And if you're wondering how to access the best hiking trails in Nashville, check out our guide on how to get around Nashville.
In this city, you're going to need your hiking boots. But don't forget to drop off your luggage at a Bounce luggage storage in Nashville. Traveling light will make it far easier to get around the city and explore the hiking trails both in Nashville's city center and beyond the city limits.
Our Top Hiking Trail Pics in Nashville
Harpeth River State Park
There's so much to see and do in Nashville that you may feel you want to stay close to the city on your trip. Luckily, that doesn't mean you have to give up on seeing the wilder side of Tennessee. Harpeth River State Park is only a 30 minute drive from downtown Nashville, but thanks to its stunning scenery, it will feel much further.
Check out the Narrows of the Harpeth. This just over a mile out-and-back trail will bring you past stunning rock formations and a small but beautiful waterfall. The site also connects many historic sites, including a tunnel built in the 1800s. The river is also a great place for water sports such as canoeing and kayaking, and you can pick up a trail map from the park office to explore more of the park's many hiking trails and outdoor adventures. For example, the park is also home to Hidden Lake, a former quarry that has now been made into a beautiful lake with a 1.9 mile loop trail that offers you incredible views over the water. Check out the ruins of the early 20th-century swimming resort along the way to Hidden Lake. Thanks to its proximity to the city, Harpeth River State Park easily ranks as one of the best free things to do in Nashville.
Mossy Ridge Trail
This is another encounter with nature that you won't have to stray far from the bright lights of Broadway to experience. Mossy Ridge Trail is located within Percy Warner Park, which is an urban recreation area right on the edge of the city that forms a kind of gateway to more backcountry adventures beyond. Mossy Ridge Trail itself is a very popular trail, due in part to how close to the city it is. Still, the gorgeous woodlands along the four-and-a-half-mile loop let you explore creeks and waterfalls that will make you feel like Music City is much further away than it really is. With an elevation gain of 882 feet along its length, this trail is challenging enough to test moderate hikers, making it a great option not far from the city. Chances are you'll work up a healthy appetite on this trail, so it's good to know it's easy to get back into Nashville and some of the best brunch spots in the city.
Fall Creek Falls
As you'll see, the area around Nashville has an abundance of waterfalls that make for excellent places to cool off in the heat of a Tennessee summer. Fall Creek Falls is the tallest freefall cataract east of the Mississippi, and the 256 foot plunge from the top is a stunning sight to see. The trail to the waterfall is only 2.4 miles long with an elevation gain of 561 feet, so is suitable for beginner to moderate hikers, and the waterfall is a worthy reward for your efforts.
Fall Creek Falls State Park is around two hours from Nashville, and it has plenty of other trails to explore, such as Cane Creek Falls and Piney Falls. If you can time your visit after heavy rain, the waterfalls will be at their spectacular best, making this park a fantastic day trip from the city.
Burgess Falls State Park
The trails in this impressive state park offer a range of difficulty levels from moderate to advanced, making this an excellent place to visit for experienced hikers. At only an hour and 20 minutes from Nashville by car, it's a great option for those who don't want to travel too far from the city but still want trails that can challenge them. This day use park is known for its four waterfalls located along the Falling Water River, and you can explore them all on the Burgess Falls Trail. At just over a mile in length, this short trail is still something of a challenge due to its uneven terrain, so you'll need a decent level of fitness. Still, there's lots to see on the way, and the waterfalls are sure to impress. If you'd prefer something longer, you can combine the Burgess Falls Trail with some of the other trails in the area, such as the Ridge Top Trail, to make a day of it.
Rock Island State Park
Another of Tennessee's fantastic state parks lies around an hour and a half drive from Nashville. Rock Island State Park lies at the junction of the Collins River and Caney Fork, and this small park punches well above its weight in terms of outdoor activities. One of most popular trails here is the Blue Hole trail. With plentiful small waterfalls and stream crossings, this wet trail is the perfect place to explore and beat the heat, but be prepared for your shoes to get wet as you navigate the metal grids above the rushing water. Don't be fooled by the trail's puny half-mile length; the terrain makes this surprisingly challenging. Alternatively, the Twin Falls and Down River trail covers 1.6 miles but is easier to navigate and will bring you to some breathtaking waterfalls.
Long Hunter State Park is home to the Volunteer Trail, which is only half an hour from Nashville city center. The park runs alongside Percy Priest Lake, and the Day Loop is a perfect short trail through the woods along the lake that gives you a good break from the city without having to go too far. However, the Volunteer Trail provides more of a challenge, with an out-and-back length of over 10 miles, making it a good choice for moderate hikers who want to see more of Tennessee. There's even a primitive camp site at the end, so you can make it an overnight trip if you want.
Cummins Falls State Park
Cummins Falls State Park, located an hour and 20 minutes by car from Nashville, was once an industrial site, like many other parts of this region of Tennessee. However, it's the area's natural beauty that brings visitors here now. Of particular interest is the Cummins Falls trail, which offers three miles of rugged terrain and some challenging stream crossings, making it a moderate hike best attempted by those with some hiking experience. You'll need to obtain a permit to enter the gorge where the waterfall is, so make sure you check in at the park office before heading out.
South Cumberland State Park
Another great state park within an hour and a half of Nashville, South Cumberland is home to the Savage Gulf trail system, and like so many of the state parks in the region, is also home to some spectacular waterfalls. Visit Greeter Falls on a 1.6 mile loop trail that provides an easy and dog-friendly hike, though you will need to keep your furry friend on a leash while you visit.
Fiery Gizzard Trail
This popular trail runs next to South Cumberland State Park, and is well worth the drive from Nashville to explore. The trail connects Grundy Forest to Foster Falls, and is a historic trail once explored by legendary outdoorsman Daniel Boone. You'll see stunning rock formations, canyons, gorges, mountain views, and of course, the customary Tennessee waterfalls. At over 12 miles long each way, this trail provides a significant challenge that experienced hikers will love. Plus, if you hike in the summer, don't forget to bring your swimsuit so you can take advantage of the many swimming holes along the trail.
Montgomery Bell Trail
If you really want to get away from it all, the Montgomery Bell trail could be the perfect option. This overnight trail covers more than 10 miles over moderate terrain that encompasses woods and creeks, and you can camp along the trail for that true wilderness experience. The trail circles the entire park that shares its name, so you'll get to see plenty of the Tennessee scenery on your hike.
At only 20 minutes from downtown Nashville, Radnor Lake State Natural Area covers 1300 acres and is home to some interesting wildlife such as beavers, coyotes, river otters, and bobcats. As such, it's a natural oasis that is far closer to the city than it feels. There are nine trails in the park, including the one and a half mile Granier Ridge Trail, which has terrain that makes the short distance more challenging than you would expect. This trail will take you up and down a ridge overlooking the lake, offering incredible views while giving your legs a workout. For something a little easier, try the Radnor Lake Loop, which is a scenic and fairly flat two and a half mile trail around the lake that offers beautiful views and is suitable for the whole family.
Natchez Trace Parkway
Nashville is blessed with some great hikes and wilderness areas that are impressively close to the city. But if you really want to get away from it all, you can't beat the Natchez Trace Parkway. This stunning 444 mile trail runs through three states including Tennessee, and offers just about every type of terrain you could want to encounter. You can access this historic trail just half an hour from downtown Nashville, and there are virtually limitless places of both historic and natural interest to explore along the way. How much of the trail you walk is up to you, but if you're an experienced hiker, this is definitely the trail that will put you through your paces.
Easy Hikes in Nashville
Nashville is blessed with some easy hikes that are great for those who just want an easy walk and some beautiful scenery. The trail around Radnor Lake is suitable for just about anyone, and Harpeth River trail lets you get away from it all without pushing yourself too hard.
Intermediate Hikes in Nashville
In this area of Tennessee, most of the hikes fit into the moderate to strenuous category. If you're looking for something that will challenge you without being too exhausting, you're in the right place. Fall Creek Falls, Blue Hole Trail, Montgomery Bell, and others are all ideal for hikers who like a challenge.
Difficult Hikes in Nashville
Don't let its short length fool you. The 4 1/2 miles of Mossy Ridge Trail is a test even for experienced hikers. And of course, if you need even more of a challenge, you could set out on a multi-day adventure along Natchez Trace Parkway that will let you see parts of Tennessee most visitors never get to explore.