This sun-dappled blacktop artery runs clean and pure for 444 miles, despite winding through the land of fatback and deep-fried catfish. The Natchez Trace leisurely teases its way from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, allowing travelers on this historic swath to smell the magnolia, redbud and dogwood trees, much the way conquistadors, pioneers and fur trappers did along this ancient Native American trading route.
Visitors to the Natchez Trace today will find its lush natural beauty almost entirely unspoiled, since not a single stop light or convenience store tarnishes this passage through the wilderness, thanks to the National Park Service, which maintains the Trace. Once RVers have bolstered their music collections with the works of old Mississippi bluesmen like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Robert Johnson, they’re ready to tap their toes for the length of the Trace.
In Natchez, Old Man River rumbles on majestically below the bluffs. A picnic above the bank, perhaps enhanced by some local sweet wine from the Old South Winery, would set the tone nicely.
Once travelers have indulged in the Trace’s culinary abundance, they may elect to pursue some calorie-burning activities. Hikers can scoot up and around the six-mile loop that begins near Mile Marker 233, where the Witch Dance trailhead leads to a forest of loblolly pines. Cyclists should explore the area around Rocky Springs rest stop, at Mile Marker 55, about 30 miles south of Clinton. Canoeists can slip into the molasses-slow Pearl River at Mile Marker 122, at the River Bend rest stop. And Davis Lake, four miles west of the Trace at Mile Marker 244, allows anglers to ply the waters for catfish. And everyone can cool off there, since it makes for a fine swimming hole.
Go to nps.gov/nat for camping information, or contact the National Park Service at (800) 305-7417.