(8 days, 7 nights; Mon - Mon)
Assembly Point: Nashville, TN
Meeting time: 4/23 - airport 1:30 pm, hotel 2pm
Drop off time: 4/30 - 5 pm
Tour Cost: $3,000
Additional Single Occupancy Lodging Cost: $485
From animal path to Indian trail to wilderness road, the Natchez Trace once traversed hundreds of miles of unbroken virgin forests. Today, the Trace is known as the Natchez Trace Parkway National Park, 442 miles of paved roadway extending from its northern terminus just south of Nashville, TN, to Natchez, MS. The Parkway represents the culmination of decades of dedication and determination to preserve the history and heritage of this region. In so many ways, the Trace is an account of thousands of years of human habitation in the south, from the early Native American tribes to the settlers who breached the Appalachian barrier in their westward quest for new lands. It is also the Antebellum South and a chronicle of the Civil War.
Most importantly for our purposes is the nature of the Parkway itself. Seventy years in its planning and construction, the Parkway was never intended as a major avenue of commerce connecting major population centers of the south. Instead, its purpose was to offer travelers an opportunity to experience the history and heritage of the region. The Parkway is rural in character as it winds through miles of forested ridges and broad river valleys. There is no commercial traffic permitted on the Parkway---in other words, no logging trucks, 18-wheelers, billboards, strip malls. One must leave the Parkway to access lodging, restaurants and stores. Without a doubt, the Parkway is a cyclist’s fantasy---it is one of America’s premier cycling experiences.
An issue easily resolved for us was the choice of sections upon which to focus for our Natchez Trace National Park cycling tour. Anything other than the full 442-mile Parkway was never an option. And so, we’ll assemble just south of Nashville and begin our journey along the Trace near Milepost 442 at the northern terminus of the Trace. Just in case anyone thinks of the parkway as a level, effortless endeavor, forget about it!
Day 1, unquestionably one of the more challenging days, promises more than 2,000 feet of cumulative climbing along with ample rolling ridge top terrain and some spectacular scenic vistas from those ridge tops. We’ll spend our first overnight in Columbia and rejoin the Trace the following morning. Early into our ride on Day 2, we’ll visit the Meriwether Lewis Memorial, marking the grave of one of the leaders of the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804-06. We’ll cross into Alabama later in the day and spend the evening in Florence. We’re headed to Tupelo on Day 3, headquarters for the Parkway and a town that needs to be explored. The Battle of Tupelo was one of the major battles of the Civil War and we’ll visit the battlefield, but Tupelo is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Elvis---the King.
Back on the Parkway on Day 4 as we ride through the region that was home to the Chickasaw Nation before being driven from their homes by the U.S. Army. We’ll also ride past Bynum Mounds ancient Native American burial grounds, and ultimately tonight we stay in the rustic cabins at the French Camp B&B where our host will prepare a true southern meal for us this evening. We’ll ride through the heart of central Mississippi on Day 5, through the Choctaw Indian Agency and the beautiful tupelo-cypress swamp south of the Agency. We’re headed to Ridgeland on this day and we’ll spend the evening in this town that was the original Choctaw Indian Agency.
We’ll leave the Parkway on Day 6 to visit historic Vicksburg, so rich in antebellum and civil war history. We’ll arrive early enough to tour this remarkable town situated on the Mississippi River. Along the way, we’ll ride past numerous grand antebellum homes that appear to have been transported from Gone With The Wind. We’ll also visit the Vicksburg National Military Park and Battlefield and spend the evening at the grand Corners Mansion Inn. We’ll ride back to the Parkway the following day as we ride to Port Gibson. General Ulysses Grant, upon visiting Port Gibson during his march through the South, commented that the town was “too beautiful to burn.”
We’ll ride to Natchez on our final day, arriving early afternoon with time to explore another town richly steeped in antebellum history. We’ll ultimately van shuttle to the Jackson airport, where our program concludes.
|Day 1||Natchez Trace Parkway — Northern Terminus — Backbone Ridge — Tennessee Valley Divide — Columbia||55 miles|
|Day 2||Columbia— Meriwether Lewis Historic Site — Laurel Hill Lake — Collinwood — Sunken Trace — Florence, AL.||59 miles|
|Day 3||Florence — Tennessee River — Tenn/Mississippi State Line — Tishimingo State Park — Natchez Trace Hdqtrs — Tupelo, MS||62 miles|
|Day 4||Tupelo — Chickasaw Village — Mathiston — Jeff Busby — French Camp||100 miles|
|Day 5||French Camp — Choctaw Agency — Ridgeland||69 miles|
|Day 6||Ridgeway — Vicksburg — Tour Vicksburg and Vicksburg National Battlefield||36 miles|
|Day 7||Vicksburg — Port Gibson.||54 miles|
|Day 8||Port Gibson — Springfield Plantation — Emerald Mound — Natchez||37 miles|
Total cycling mileage: 472
Routes, mileage and accommodations are subject to change due to safety, road/trail conditions, weather and availability.