Looking for a change from the suburbs of Murfreesboro or the hustle and bustle of downtown Nashville? In Middle Tennessee, outdoor adventures are never far away. The region has dozens of state parks, natural areas and hiking trails, meaning that residents are always just a short drive away from beautiful fall foliage or summer fun on the trail.
Here are some of our favorite spots for outdoor adventures. In most cases, the address we’ve provided will take you to a park office or nature center. Check online for driving directions to specific trailheads.
Beaman Park Nature Center entrance in Nashville, TN on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.
Located less than half an hour north of downtown Nashville across the Cumberland River, Beaman Park is one of Middle Tennessee’s best spots for year-round day hiking. The 1,700 acre park is far enough outside downtown Nashville that hikers will find real peace in quiet as they move deeper in the park, but it’s also well maintained and has amenities such as a nature center and ample restrooms.
5911 Old Hickory Blvd., Ashland City, TN 37015; 615-862-8580
One of Tennessee’s most impressive waterfalls is about 90 minutes east of Nashville toward Cookeville. Burgess Falls, a 135-foot-wide cascade, wraps around the corner of a cliff and is accessible via a 1.6 mile out-and-back trail. The waterfall is impressive all year long, particularly during the winter when it’s cold enough to freeze.
4000 Burgess Falls Dr. Sparta, TN 38583; 931-432-5312; tnstateparks.com/parks/burgess-falls
Long Hunter State Park and J. Percy Priest Lake
Percy Priest Lake is an epicenter for waterfront fun in Nashville and has several recreation areas with beaches, waterslides and even BMX riding. Several spots have hiking trails, but we particularly love Long Hunter State Park on the eastern shore. At 2,600 acres, the park has enough room for swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and camping (reservations are required).
2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage, TN 37076; 615-885-2422; tnstateparks.com/parks/long-hunter
People walk along the waterfront at Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.
Radnor Lake State Park
Wildlife and nature hikes are the highlights at Radnor Lake State Park, located at the border of Davidson and Williamson Counties. The 1,400 acre day-use park has eight miles of trails and plenty of opportunities to see animals from bobcats and beavers to warblers and waterfowl. Park rangers lead educational canoe floats along the lake during the summer, adding to the long list of family-friendly activities at the park.
1160 Otter Creek Road; 615-373-3467; tnstateparks.com/parks/radnor-lake
South Cumberland State Park
South Cumberland State Park offers incredible variety for outdoor adventures an hour southeast of Murfreesboro. Looking for an easy jaunt your whole family can handle? Greeter Falls is a cool, swimmable spot in the summer accessible by a short hike and then a steep but manageable spiral staircase. Looking to challenge your hiking and rock scrambling skills? The Fiery Gizzard Trail pushes hikers with very rocky trails and technical sections but rewards them with gorgeous views and overlooks. (Check reviews on your specific trail for advice on which way to tackle them — we hiked Fiery Gizzard Trail to Raven’s Point and went counterclockwise, which knocked the rockiest sections out early.) Want to camp, but not looking to spend a weekend at Bonnaroo just up the road? The park offers several bookable campsites for small and large groups.
7608, 11745 US-41, Monteagle, TN 37356; 931-924-2980
Cole Villena covers business at The Tennessean, part of the USA Today Network — Tennessee. Reach Cole at [email protected] or 615-925-0493. Follow Cole on Twitter at @ColeVillena and on Instagram at @CVinTennessee.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Best parks to hike in Middle Tennessee this fall