The parkway runs for 444 miles through three states, from Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee. There is no rush-hour or traffic jam on the Trace; plan on spending two or three days to soak up the relaxing experience.
I rented a car and drove it for three days in early spring, when the wildflowers, redbuds and dogwoods were awakening. Fall is another prime time, when the mixed forest of pines and hardwoods shows its autumn colors.
The parkway roughly follows the tracks of the first travelers. Their presence on the route is marked by Native American mounds, pioneer taverns, battlefields, monuments, plantations and other stops along the way. Entrance to the parkway and to its attractions is free.
The drive is especially good for families with antsy children as it is loaded with short nature walks — most of them to springs, creeks and waterfalls —with picnic tables in the shade and restrooms with flush toilets at many stops.
Established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1938 and completed in 1995, the Trace dates back centuries as a natural corridor first trampled by bison and Native Americans, who were followed by settlers, soldiers and traders.
The park service operates campgrounds and RV sites along the route, and travelers also can detour off on nearby highways to seek lodging, food and gasoline.
A map of the route with all the attractions and mile markers is available through the park service. NatchezTraceTravel.com offers that map as well as its own map listing the Top 30 sites and nearby lodging.