While the most popular way to see the Trace is by car, there are plenty of cyclists who take advantage of this beautiful route. The two-lane byway is a recreational road closed to commercial vehicles, leaving space for explorers to do their thing. And you can bid traffic lights and advertising farewell when you enter the park: there’s not a stoplight, or billboard in sight. It’s this unhurried journey that makes the Natchez Trace so special.
We’ve handpicked seven sites you can’t miss along the way, all within one hour’s drive of Downtown Tupelo. Best of all, the Parkway headquarters is in Tupelo making it an accessible day trip!
Before you set off
There are limited entry and exit points to the park, and cell signal isn’t always available, so a bit of extra prep will be helpful. There’s no lodging, gas stations, or dining options on the Trace itself, meaning that if you’re planning an overnight stay, you’ll need to know the nearest exit point. For more information on accommodation options close to Tupelo, check out our handy list of lodging options. We suggest fueling up at one of our many coffee shops before you set off, and bring some snacks with you. There are some great takeout options from Butterbean, Strange Brew Coffeehouse, or Crave.
Getting there: Parkway Visitor Center | Natchez Trace Milepost 266
Start your day at the Parkway Visitor Center at Milepost 266, located near the intersection of Highway 145 and the Natchez Trace Parkway. It’s the only official visitor’s center on the Parkway, and it’s located right here in Tupelo. The rangers will tell you everything you need to know about planning your Natchez Trace trip and will point you in the direction of trails within walking distance of the Center.
Tupelo Trail | Natchez Trace Milepost 266
This trailhead is located across the Parkway from the Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center and is a six-mile walk along the outskirts of Tupelo (a 12-mile round trip). At Milepost 261.8, you’ll find the Chickasaw Village Site, the area once occupied by the Chickasaw Nation. Hikers can follow a short trail with information about the area’s original inhabitants, their dwellings, and their interactions with native plants and flora. The Chickasaw Village Site provides access to the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, as well as a 0.5-mile interpretive trail. Visitors can then continue north to the Old Town Overlook at Milepost 263.9. This section of Scenic Trail is open to hikers only, and requires walking on the Parkway for road and creek crossings.
Dogwood Valley | Natchez Trace Milepost 275.2
About 20 minutes from Downtown Tupelo, you’ll find Dogwood Valley. While there are plenty of Dogwood Trees to be found on the East Coast, there aren’t all that many on the Natchez Trace, which makes this spot all the more special. Explorers can take in the trees with an easy 15-minute self-guided walk, with some informative tidbits to be found along the way.
Twentymile Bottom Overlook | Natchez Trace Milepost 278.4
Hungry yet? Around 25 miles from Tupelo, you’ll find the Twentymile Bottom Overlook, where there are picnic tables waiting for you. This viewpoint looks over Twenty mile Bottom, once a low area along the streams through which the Natchez Trace passed. Today, the land has been cultivated and it’s a great stop to stretch your legs.
Witch Dance | Natchez Trace Milepost 233.2
It’s Halloween year-round at Witch Dance! Keep an eye out for patches of scorched-looking earth; legend has it that it was here where witches gathered to dance, and wherever their feet touched the ground, grass withered and died. Today, the spot is a campground, but an eerie one at that. It’s also a starting point for an 18-mile hiking or equestrian trail. You’ll also find 17 picnic tables and 5 grills.
Pharr Mounds Milepost | Natchez Trace Milepost 286.7
About 40 minutes out of Tupelo, Pharr Mounds is a 90-acre archeological site, dating back to 1 and 200 CE – long before Europeans arrived. Located at the headwaters of the Tombigbee River, the site features several dome-shaped mounds. Archeological excavations indicate it may have been a trading hub, uncovering ancient fire pits, clay platforms, and burial sites for Native Americans.
Tishomingo State Park
Continue your archeological adventures at Tishomingo State Park. Intersecting with the Natchez Trace, the park sits at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, about 45 miles out of town. Named for the chief of the Chickasaw Nation, the park is steeped in history. Archeological excavations indicate the presence of Paleo Indians as early as 7000 B.C. As well as plenty of learning opportunities, visitors can also check out the hiking trails, rock formations, and a swinging bridge.
Best time of year to visit
Expect to see a different side of the Trace any time of the year. In fall, there are plenty of opportunities for leaf peeping, and in spring, expect to see fields upon fields of wildflowers. If you’re planning a summer trip, longer days mean more time to explore, but make sure you carry enough water as the temperature can climb.