Motorcycling the Natchez Trace Parkway
The 444 mile long route stretches from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee.
Our Top 10 Reasons to Motorcycle the Natchez Trace Parkway
1 - Commercial traffic is prohibited.
The National Park Service prohibits commercial traffic on the Natchez Trace Parkway. This means motorcyclists 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, of course, motorcycles.
The absence of large trucks makes the Natchez Trace Parkway an enjoyable motorcycle route. The only "large" vehicles you will encounter on the Trace are RVs and park service mowing and maintenance equipment.
2 - 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 traffic is done by people enjoying the Trace. The Natchez Trace Parkway is meant for recreational traffic. When the weather is nice there are often more motorcycles on the Trace than cars.
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.
3 - 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 ride 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. Motorcyclists don't have to watch for cars driving across the Trace at high speeds. The picture here 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).
4 - The parkway is clean and smooth. One motorcyclist said it was "like riding on a cloud".
The asphalt pavement on the Natchez Trace Parkway creates a very smooth ride.
The prohibition of commercial traffic on the Trace eliminates almost all heavy vehicle use. Heavy trucks tear up roads. Commercial hauling is also prohibited which means dump trucks and other vehicles that might throw trash/rocks/debris on the Trace are not allowed.
The park service does an excellent job of keeping the Trace clean of any trash, debris or tree limbs that fall on the Trace.
5 - 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.
6 - All along the Trace historical and nature attractions offer interesting breaks and rest stops.
As you ride 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.
7 - Restroom facilities on the Trace are available about every 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.
8 - Contrary to popular belief, there are gas stations, markets and restaurants near the Trace.
It is true that none of these services are right "on" the Trace - it is a national park. Just beyond the woods there are often markets, gas stations and restaurants within a couple miles or less of dozens of the Trace access/exit points.
But, you need to know where they are. Advertising is forbidden on the parkway so there are no signs pointing you to the nearest gas station. We have a quick list of markets that you can print on the front and back of one sheet of paper at NatchezTraceTravel.com and take with you on your Natchez Trace trip (See the "gas, water and markets" link below.).
9 - Numerous side roads take you past antebellum and victorian homes, sunken roads, civil war battlefields and southern towns.
Motorcyclists can exit 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".
There are several "loop routes" where you can start your ride on the Trace, ride on the Trace, exit the Trace onto a back road, ride past interesting sites and attractions, re-enter the Trace, and ride back to where you started.
10 - There are many "motorcycle 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 a few miles of the Trace.
Fortunately, there are bed and breakfasts, cottages and guest houses located up and down the Trace that are a short ride away. The bed and breakfasts are very "motorcycle friendly".