Following the Natchez Trail
Highlights of the 444-mile-long Natchez Trail.
Cutting from Natchez, Mississippi, northeast to Nashville, the 444 miles of the Natchez Trace have changed little over the centuries. First trundled by buffalo, then traced by Choctaw Indians, followed by traders, trappers and now tourists, its two-lane road wends through forest, swamp and field, undisturbed by billboards or tractor-trailers. As William Least Heat-Moon wrote in his classic Blue Highways, the Trace, as it is called locally, is “just tree, rock, water, bush and road.” For details, go to scenictrace.com.
Milepost 41.5: Outside Natchez, this section of original trail, sunken by thousands of years of use, makes for an enchanted hike.
Milepost 122: Through a swamp of bald cypresses and tupelos, this half-mile trail is accompanied by birdcalls and the occasional alligator.
Milepost 266: Take a detour off the Trace to stop by Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi, and to check out the little-changed hardware store, Tupelo Hardware Company, where the king of rock ’n’ roll bought his first guitar.
Rock Spring Nature Trail
Milepost 330.2: In late summer, this 20-minute loop is surrounded by blooming jewelweed, which attracts hundreds of ruby-throated hummingbirds with its bright orange-and-red flowers.
Milepost 404.7: Although there are waterfalls all along the Trace, these, named after Andrew Jackson, who led his army down the path in 1812, are the most stunning.
Milepost 444: Half a mile after the end, stop by the Loveless Cafe for its fried chicken and famous redeye gravy and biscuits. lovelesscafe.com.