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Insider Tips - Before You Visit the Natchez Trace Parkway

A view of a long bridge over a river lined with trees.
The Natchez Trace Parkway over the Tennessee River.

NPS/Marc Muench

The Natchez Trace Parkway is more than a scenic drive. There are many recreational opportunities along the way. If you prefer, you can just sit back and relax while you cruise a beautiful drive through the rural southeast. The Natchez Trace has so many different things to see, it's a great idea to plan your trip ahead of time. The best planning tool is the free National Park Service APP. Look up Natchez Trace Parkway (not our hiking trail, the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail)

Below are 10 tips that will help you prepare for and enjoy your journey and avoid the crowds. The Parkway is one of the 10 most visited park units, but because everyone is spread out over 444 miles, you can almost always find solitude, and enjoy a relaxing drive.

The busiest places on the Parkway are Meriwether Lewis Campground, Garrison Creek, and Jackson Falls, if you are looking for solitude, check out other places on the Parkway. #Summer, #Top10

Screen shot of the front page of Natchez Trace Parkway app
Select the Natchez Trace Parkway on the National Park Service free APP

Screen shot

Tip #1: Look at a map. Pick your travel distance. The Parkway is 444 miles long with an end-to-end driving time of about 10 hours (speed is 50 MPH, and lower in congested areas). It travels near major and smaller cities, and near many small towns. If you plan to stop and enjoy the sites, nature trails add about 30 minutes each, historic sites add about an hour each. You can find some highlights of the Parkway experience at Places to Go.




Tip #2: Download the Natchez Trace Parkway section of the free National Park Service app to your phone. There are places on the Parkway where there is weak or no cell coverage. If you download the Natchez Trace Parkway section of the app, you will have the maps and the information always available.
About 100 cards parked along a side road loop surrounded by grass and green trees.
The restrooms at the Jackson Falls trailhead failed.

NPS Photo/ J Brewer

Tip #3: Things change. To find the most recent information about hours, and what is open and what is closed, go to our Current Conditions page. Or you can use the app to see the hours a if place is open.

While driving the 444-mile long Parkway, you may need to make a pit stop or two. Established in the 1930s, sometimes our plumbing is not always cooperative and restrooms may be closed. Restrooms can be many miles apart so take advantage of functional facilities when you have a chance. If you have a personal urge emergency, this is what to do.
A field of yellow flowers edged with trees
The Natchez Trace Parkway has plenty of places to get away from it all.

NPS photo / Marc Muench

Tip #4: Along your journey, you may want to get out of your car and stretch your legs on one of our short, or long trails. The climate here is sub-tropical, so remember to bring water, use sun screen, insect repellent, stay on the trail, and pace yourself.

Sub-tropical means it rains a lot, and it can be hot eight months out of the year. Be prepared. Keep track of the weather because we occasionally get strong and dangerous storms. Winter weather is usually mild, but snow or ice is not that unusual.

Your pup is welcome everywhere except buidings. Don't forget parked cars can overheat very quickly, so don't leave your dog in the car. When outside, your dog always needs to be on a leash 6' or shorter.

Don't forget to bring a mask, you may need to wear it inside.
Several cars along a tree lined road
Traffic near Tupelo, Mississippi.

NPS Photo/J Farmer

Tip #5: Our neighbors love to travel the Parkway. Traffic can be heavy around cities during rush hour, as local folks like to use the Parkway to commute. If you are seeking a peaceful drive, stay away from the cities when people are heading to or from work.

Bicylists should make note of this and plan to avoid conjested areas during rush hours.
Bicyclists hidden in the shade of the trees.
Four bicyclists hidden in the shadows.

Photo Sherwood Photography

Tip # 6: The Natchez Trace Parkway is also a bicycle route. Bicyclists may use the entire lane and unfortunately if they are not wearing high visibility clothing, they can be difficult to see. Keep in mind a bicycle might be around the next corner.

The Parkway should be considered for experienced bicyclists because of traffic. Bicyclists are encouraged to wear high-visible clothing, helmets, use lights at all times, and avoid citiy areas at rush hour. Learn more about riding the Parkway by going to our bicycling web page.

We suggest families and inexperienced riders stick to campgrounds and picnic areas or on the Rails to Trails, Tanglefoot Trail, near Tupelo, MS.
A doe at the edge of a forest.
A deer on the Natchez Trace Parkway

NPS Photo

Tip #7: Oh, deer, you turkey. There are a lot of animals that hang out on the roadside and have no qualms about jumping or flying out in front of your car. Hint: If you see a deer or a turkey cross the road, don't focus on it after it has gone across. Immediately slow down and look for its buddy who may be following and the next to cross the road.

Please remember that all wildlife is protected. This includes snakes which are a vital to help keeping the natural world balanced.
An unoccupied campsite under green trees with brown leaves on the ground.
A vacant campsite at Rocky Springs Campground.

NPS Photo/ Brian Powers

Tip #8: If you are planning on camping, our three campgrounds are first come first serve, with no reservations, so have a back-up plan. Our campgrounds accommodate RVs and tents, but there are no hookups or showers. Please leave accessible site open for those that require an accessible spot. If all other sites are occupied the accessible site may be the last site to be occupied.


Tip #9: If you don't want to rough it, there are accomodations at small towns and large cities spaced out along the length of the Parkway. Make your reservations in advance especially during the fall football season. The folks in the south love their college football.
A brown post with white number 424, a tree lined road, blue sky.
Milepost 424 heading south.

NPS Photo/ Daniel Shawl

Tip #10: Mile markers are your friend! Starting at mile 0 on the Natchez, Mississippi end of the Parkway, you will see 3' high, high brown posts emblazoned white numbers on the east side of the road. These numbers tell you how far you are from the beginning of the Parkway, and if you are good at math, subtract the number from 444 and you will know how far you are from the northern terminus near Nashville, TN.

Please do not ask a ranger why there are only 442 mileposts. We all have therories but the real answer has long been forgotten.

Last updated: June 2, 2021