Top Sites along the Natchez Trace Parkway
Above photo: A boardwalk takes visitors into a cypress swamp along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Story and photos by Tom Uhlenbrock
Tom is an award-winning travel writer and journalist based in St. Louis.
Visit the ruins of a 19th-century mansion or venture to a swamp filled with cypress trees.
There are 90-plus historic and scenic sites on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile drive that runs from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. Here are my picks of the top six:
Mount Locust (milepost 15.5)
Between 1785 and 1830, more than 50 inns were located on the Trace. The Mount Locust Inn is the last one standing, although it’s not open for overnight stays. Built in the late 1700s, the cost of a stay was 25 cents until the inn eventually became the family living quarters on a cotton plantation. Today, the inn sits in a parklike setting and visitors are invited to climb the front walkway and see where early travelers ate and spent the night.
Windsor Ruins (milepost 30)
Visiting the ruins requires a detour off the Trace onto Highway 552, but it’s worth the 11-mile trip. A cotton planter built a magnificent mansion in 1861 that was destroyed by fire 30 years later. An architectural drawing shows how it looked. All that’s left today is a group of 45-foot, free-standing columns with iron capitals. Standing alone in the forest, it is America’s version of ancient Roman ruins.
Cypress Swamp (milepost 121)
Located just beyond the north end of the giant Ross R. Barnett Reservoir, there is a 20-minute walk on boardwalks and pathways along the perimeter of a patch of swamp filled with large cypress trees and their knobby knees. Signs say alligators sometimes visit this primordial setting, but all I saw was a delicate ribbon snake with neon-yellow stripes and a blooming Jack-in-the-pulpit.
Rock Spring Trail (milepost 330)
After the Rock Spring Road turnoff, a short walk through the woods leads to stepping stones that take you across Colbert Creek. Follow the creek to an active beaver dam that creates a small pond from the flow of Rock Spring. With wild sweet William and Virginia bluebells blooming in the woods, and songbirds, peeping frogs and the gurgling stream providing the soundtrack, it was a great start to a spring day.
Wichahpi Stone Wall (milepost 338)
This is absolutely the weirdest stop on the Trace. A short drive on County Road 8 takes you outside the parkway’s boundaries to a spot in the woods where the late Tom Hendrix spent 30 years building a winding stone wall. The 5-foot-high and 5-foot-thick wall runs more than a mile like a maze through the trees. The site is open and free to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hendrix undertook the prodigious project as a tribute to his great-great-grandmother, a Yuchi Indian who was relocated to a reservation and made the long journey back home. Hendrix quotes a tribal elder as saying: “All things shall pass. Only the stones will remain.”
Fall Hollow (milepost 392)
An overlook gives a nice view of a lovely waterfall that cascades down the hillside of Fall Hollow. Drive another 13 miles north, and you get a more spectacular version at Jackson Falls. A steep, paved walkway leads to the base of the double-decker waterfall, which on the day I drove through was thundering with sheets of water coming over two rock shelves. Children were playing on the boulders of the mossy grotto below. It’s an awesome sight when the water is right.
RelatedView all articles
Read more stories about road trips.
The Sea Islands of South Carolina offer exciting coastal cuisine, including Gullah soul food.
This scenic region runs north from San Francisco through Redwoods National and State Parks along Highway 101.
A pie lover eats her way through the Hoosier state.
Traveler’s long-awaited road trip starts in Seattle and winds through the Northwest.
Canada’s smallest province has the largest concentration of lighthouses.
Rich culture, great seafood and lively music distinguish this Nova Scotia journey from all others.
Don’t just talk about going the long way; take it.
Cozy beach town is a short drive — and a world away — from San Francisco.
A couple soaks up Oahu’s charm on a romantic getaway.
Even if you don’t catch a thing, you can still savor the experience.
Relax, dine and play in the area’s charming coastal towns.
All the destinations are beautiful and within a day’s drive.
A world traveler reconnects with her California roots.
The 409-mile drive across Nevada features sand dunes, hot springs and plenty of social distancing.
A national park and nearby parkway offer stunning views of the ancient Appalachians.
New Brunswick’s coastal communities live with the pulse of the ocean, which provides an unforgettable experience.
Explore the trails of Southwest Virginia with easy day hikes.
The route through the Medicine Bow Mountains features fly-fishing, camping and more.
Geological wonders offer clues to Wyoming’s distant past.
Native American land inspired an iconic art form.
Mom-and-pop lodges offer affordability and community.
The secret is out at this hidden cave system near Cancun.
A road trip from Cabo San Lucas is worth your time.
The Northeast features memorable destinations for your next vacation.
Riding waves renews joy and restores confidence after a bad mountain fall.
Challenging drive leads to beautiful vistas and simple food.
Legendary resorts ensure a relaxing journey.
During a road trip up the coast, five residents share their passion for the Pacific.
A photographic journey along an iconic mountain range on the West Coast brings healing and much more.
Once stricken by grief, a world traveler returns the gift of kindness on the way to Big Sur.
A world traveler explores southern Vancouver Island and looks for a place to call home.
Parents and grandparents help nurture children’s interests on their family vacation.
The Hawaiian island’s tropical embrace offers a memorable vacation in paradise.
On the “Mother Road,” you’ll find welcoming smiles and the guardian angel of the trail.
This road trip takes you on a musical journey through southwest Virginia.
The All-American road traverses slickrock and features a petrified forest, a beautiful waterfall and gourmet dining.
Pack your shorts, T-shirts and sandals and head for somewhere warm that you can cruise with the top down.
A road trip on the Overseas Highway brings visitors to the homes of sea turtles, endangered deer and Ernest Hemingway.
If you’re willing to stop and take some time, you’ll find gems along this infamous highway.
A weekend road trip through Illinois farmland leads to classic diners, drive-ins and big city splendor.
Drive beyond the Old City walls to discover the joys of rural Quebec.
Road trip continues through the northern California redwoods and on to sunny SoCal beaches.
Take a scenic drive from Quebec City to see whales.
The most underrated state in the U.S. deserves our attention.
Town embraces its connection to UFOs and little green people.
Choosing the “old road” opens up a world of appealing characters and beauty along the “Main Street of America.”
A dozen spas pamper guests with mud baths, massages and mineral pools.
The leisurely road trip takes drivers through America’s South.
Visit the Southwest’s most otherworldly natural attraction.
From A (Acadia) to Z (Zion), national parks offer ideal destinations for a weekend trip or longer vacation.
Hike, swim or just enjoy the views on this rural road trip.
An easy road trip takes you from a world-class city to a top national park.
A trip from Denver to Montana shows off the vast and varied scenery in the U.S.
See more of the island’s natural beauty at Rincón, Culebra and Vieques.
Soak in the hot springs, ride the narrow-gauge railroad or stay in a cozy lodge during this road trip.
Fans of “liquid gold” can set up tasting tours at wineries and shops.
From roaring waterfalls to colorful trees, the park is a year-round spectacle.
You’ll feel like royalty at this unique winery in Napa Valley.
The drive from Olympic National Park to San Francisco features spectacular views of towering forests.
A road trip through the Badger State reveals culinary gems for everyday folks.
From po’boys and jazz to barbecue and blues, take a food-driven road trip between America’s Southern sister cities.
People are discovering the origins of their food.
From New Orleans to the Northeast, one foodie sets out to explore the sweet beyond.
Maine’s inlets, bays and islands hold countless wonders and mysteries.
There’s plenty to see and do in Madison, but if you have an extra day or two you might want to explore the surrounding area by car.
Rocketeers should drive to these space-related destinations.