Bicycling the Natchez Trace Parkway
The 444 mile long route stretches from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Top 10 reasons why the Natchez Trace Parkway is an excellent bicycle route:
Alert: there is a parkway closure/detour in Tennessee between mileposts 385.9 and 391.1 For more info and a map, please click here.
Our Top 10 Reasons to Bicycle the Natchez Trace Parkway
1 - National Park Service designates the entire parkway as a bike route. Numerous signs instruct cars to share the road with bicycles.
The park service has "bike route" signs posted at regular intervals along the entire length of the parkway. These signs encourage motorists to "share the road" with cyclists.
Park service rangers patrol the parkway to provide safety for cyclists. Rangers can also assist cyclists when problems occur (accidents, bike damage, severe weather, etc.). Emergency call number signs are also posted periodically on the Trace: 1-800-300-PARK (7275).
2 - Commercial traffic is prohibited.
The National Park Service prohibits commercial traffic on the Natchez Trace Parkway. This means cyclists don't have to worry about semi-trucks, dump trucks, delivery trucks, buses, etc.
For the most part the vast majority of motorized vehicles on the Trace are cars, pickup trucks and motorcycles.
The absence of large trucks makes the Natchez Trace Parkway an enjoyable bike route. The only "large" vehicles that bicyclists will encounter on the Trace are RVs and park service mowing and maintenance equipment. RVs are allowed on the Trace because they are "recreational" vehicles.
3 - Maximum speed limit for cars is 50 mph.
The northernmost 14 miles of the Trace from milepost 428 (intersection with TN Hwy 46) to the northern terminus at milepost 442 (intersection with TN Hwy 100) vehicle speed is limited to 40 mph due to the abundant curves. The remaining 428 miles have a speed limit of 50 mph. Vehicles traveling faster than the posted speed limit risk being issued a heavy fine if caught by a park ranger.
4 - Motorized traffic is generally very light except around Tupelo and Jackson.
Most of the parkway passes through sparsely and lightly populated areas. Because of this, combined with the 50 mph speed limit and the prohibition of commercial traffic, most of the motorized traffic is done by people enjoying the Trace. The Natchez Trace Parkway is meant for recreational traffic - enjoyed and shared by drivers and cyclists.
However, people do use the parkway to "commute" to work. Commute traffic is minimal through rural areas and very light near small towns located along the Trace. But, commute traffic is very heavy in the Tupelo and Jackson areas. Fortunately, in the Jackson/Ridgeland area there is a Multi-Use Trail/Path that parallels the parkway to avoid some of the high traffic area.
5 - No stop signs or stop lights. Access on and off the Trace is via on/off ramps which means no need to worry about cross traffic.
You could bike the entire length of the Trace without ever stopping! What is most important about the absence of stop signs and stop lights is there is no cross traffic. Cyclists don't have to watch for cars driving across the Trace at high speeds. The picture above shows a typical off ramp.
Access to the Trace from highways and major roads is provided by an on ramp that intersects with the Trace at a 90 degree angle. Cars entering the Trace must stop before turning onto the Trace (i.e. no merging ramps where the car enters the Trace at a high rate of speed).
There are some very lightly traveled back roads that don't have on/off ramps onto the Trace. The back road has a stop sign at the Trace intersection.
6 - Scenery is awesome. Instead of utility poles and buildings, the Trace is lined with forests, farmland, creeks and beautiful vistas.
The parkway is a long and narrow national park all the way from Natchez to Nashville. The width of the parkway land varies but is usually around 3-400 yards. For the most part (95+%) the parkway goes through rural areas passing through forests, farmland and state parks.
The park service prohibits advertising on the Trace. Even the on/off ramps are void of advertising.
No utility poles lining the road, no billboards or adverting signs - just beautiful scenery to enjoy as you bike along.
7 - All along the Trace historical and nature attractions offer interesting breaks and rest stops.
As cyclists bike the Natchez Trace there are an abundance of things to see and do. Take a short rest break at a waterfall, skip rocks on a wooded creek, see a section of the "Old Trace", view an Indian burial mound, read about an historical event, take a short walk along a self-guided trail, take in the view of a scenic overlook, see rivers that frontier travelers either forded across or paid to ferry across, visit a once thriving town that no longer exists, visit a 200 year-old inn, see some pivotal Civil War battlefields...
The parkway offers 95 "sights to see" along the length of the Trace. 26 are along the 102 mile-long Tennessee section of the Trace, 7 are along the 31 mile-long Alabama section of the Trace and 62 are along the 310 mile-long Mississippi section of the Trace.
To help you optimize your time and make your trip more enjoyable we have created our Top 30 Favorite Sites.
8 - Restroom facilities on the Trace are available about every twenty to thirty miles.
The national park service maintains restroom facilities at 16 of their 95 attractions along the Trace. When you are biking on the Trace there will usually be a park service restroom within twenty miles or less. There are a few stretches where they are spaced further apart.
Most of the stops on the Trace that have restroom facilities also have a picnic area located in a nearby, shaded area. For cyclists packing a lunch or snack these are great places to stop.
Just off the Trace cyclists can find markets where they can purchase beverages, snack foods and in some cases sandwiches and other cooked foods.
9 - Numerous side trails take you past antebellum and victorian homes, sunken roads, civil war battlefields and southern towns.
Cyclists can bike off the Natchez Trace onto numerous country back roads where you will see a slice of the modern day south and remnants of what the south looked like before the Civil War when the area was known as the "Old Southwest".
As we have pointed out in a couple of our other "Ten reasons why the Natchez Trace Parkway is an excellent bike route" the Trace for the most part travels through rural areas of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. It is easy to bike off the Trace onto lightly traveled back roads.
There are several "loop routes" where you can start your ride on the Trace, bike on the Trace, exit the Trace onto a back road, bike past interesting sites and attractions, re-enter the Trace, and bike back to where you started.
10 - There are many "cycling friendly" bed and breakfasts located along and near the Trace.
Taking an overnight trip on the Natchez Trace without advance planning can be somewhat difficult, as the Park Service does not permit any advertising, either in the form of signs or in literature at their visitor's centers. Also, through the rural areas where the Trace passes there are very few hotels located within several miles bike ride of the Trace.
Fortunately, there are bed and breakfasts, cottages and guest houses located up and down the Trace that are a short bike ride away.
The bed and breakfasts are very "cyclist friendly". The innkeepers have been known to go out on the Trace during bad weather to pick up cyclists. They will often let cyclists use their laundry facilities. And, they provide a safe place to store your bicycles overnight.
Click on the itinerary planner link below to get started.
For more information about Biking the Natchez Trace, click on these links:
- Bikes Routes and Elevation Maps: Tennessee | Alabama | Mississippi
- Bike shops near the Natchez Trace Parkway
- Biking the Natchez Trace Instagram Photos
- Biking the Natchez Trace Parkway Photo Galleries
- Cyclist Reviews and Comments
- Biking the Natchez Trace Parkway YouTube Videos
- Drinking Water and Markets
- Safety Rules and Recommendations
(including the heavy vehicle traffic areas in Tupelo and Jackson)
- Out and Back Natchez Trace Bike Trips
- Trace/off-Trace loop routes:
Tennessee | Mississippi
- Weather on the Natchez Trace Parkway
- Natchez Trace Parkway Biking Tips
- Public Transportation near the Natchez Trace Parkway
- Biking the Natchez Trace Itinerary Planner
- Camping along the Parkway
Enjoy all this great info and advice?
Stay at a Bed and Breakfast along the way!
All of the B&Bs are "cyclist friendly" and have a secure place to store your bike overnight. Most are located a couple of miles or less from the Trace.