Summertime is a great time to experience the great outdoors and there’s plenty of adventure to be had in the area. Choose a favorite from the list below or, if you’re really adventurous, do them all!
1. HARPETH RIVER
Image: Sarah Sharp
Just 30 minutes west of Nashville, this Class 1 river (appropriate for beginners) is a great option for mildly adventurous day-trippers and thrill-seekers alike. Bring your own watercraft or rent one in Kingston Springs. River trips range from about one to 4.5 hours. Don’t forget to pack snacks and drinks! Prefer to stay on dry land? There’s fishing and hiking to be had, including the Narrows of the Harpeth Trail. Just 1.1 miles out and back, the trail offers stunning views of the Harpeth Valley from the top of the limestone bluff. Bonus: a waterfall and access to the tunnel trail for shadier explorations.
2. OLD STONE FORT STATE PARK
Image: Only in Your State
When was the last time you visited something that was built 1,500-2,000 years ago? Here’s your chance. Stop by the welcome center/museum for the orientation film and displays, then head out to explore. The main hiking trail follows the wall of Old Stone Fort and offers views of the area’s waterfalls. Birders, take note: a 50-acre grass-covered hilltop is maintained as grassland, making it the perfect place sit on one of the benches that line the hilltop and listen to the songs of eastern meadowlarks, northern parula, red-eyed vireo and the occasional wood duck. Learn more here.
3. TIMBERLAND PARK
Image: Timberland Park
It’s just off the Natchez Trace Parkway at milepost 437.2, less than a mile south of the Tennessee Highway 96 (Double Arch Bridge) entrance to the parkway. Enjoy the 2,000 square foot interpretive center, stroll through the butterfly garden, and hike on old logging roads that have been turned into trails—there are nine to choose from, including ADA-accessible and “dog walk” trails, so the whole family can spend time outdoors together. Bring a picnic and enjoy the beauty of nature while keeping an eye out for the park’s residents (deer, raccoon, fox, wild turkey and squirrel). Additional info here.
4. LINDEN, TN
Image: Say It Ain’t So
If all that paddling and hiking sounds like too much effort for a sunny summer day, how about flopping in an inner tube and floating your cares away? Buffalo River Resorts on the Buffalo River can set you up; they even offer moonlight floats if you want to stay over. If you’re into mountain bikes, head to Mousetail Landing State Park—we hear their system of trails is a “must ride”—then cool off in the cold, clear water of the Spring Creek embayment, a branch of the Tennessee River.
5. JESSE JAMES RIDING STABLES & OUTLAW CAVE
Image by Isabel Tenbrink from Pixabay
Granted, this is not in Tennessee, but it’s only 1.5 hours north of Nashville and worth making a run for the Kentucky border. Take an hour-long trail ride through the area where Jesse James once roamed robbing banks and stagecoaches. After your ride, gather your gang and test your skills on the 18-hole Western-themed mini golf course, the largest in the area. Be sure to check out the wheelchair-accessible Outlaw Cave for a 30-minute, non-strenuous (and cool!) cave tour. Learn more here.
However you choose to enjoy being outside this summer, be sure to drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and—most of all—have fun!