Ellington Agricultural Center – Nashville, TN
The main loop for walking here is the 1.6-mile Rogers’ Walk, which can be picked up from either the Hogan Rd. entrance (there’s a parking area at the Iris Garden) or the Edmondson Pike entrance. If you aren’t very familiar with the campus at Ellington Agricultural Center, I recommend that you download a map from their website. I suspect that parts of this trail become muddy after a rain.
We started our walk at the Iris Garden (a popular spot for informal weddings), heading Southeast up hill on a mulched, shady path. Once you get to the historic cabins near the TN Agriculture Museum, you’ll want to bear to your right to skirt the parking area and pick up the trail again just south of the horse barn. As you cross over the Edmondson Pike entrance road, the path becomes flatter, and the surface changes to gravel. (Not my favorite surface; nor my dog’s!)
We took a bit of a detour around the field to the north of campus so that we could admire the vegetable gardens, and were rewarded by a glimpse into the charming back gate of a neighboring back yard.
To get to Ellington Agricultural Center, follow Franklin Pike south to the traffic light at Hogan Rd. and turn left. Follow Hogan Rd. until you reach the gates of Ellington Agricultural Center.
Fort Granger/Pinkerton Park – Franklin, TN
This is a good “mixed terrain” walk that would also be popular with young children. Due to some soil erosion issues, the trails at Fort Granger (a Union army stronghold in the Civil War) are temporarily off-limits, but a very nice walking ramp has been installed that runs roughly a quarter of a mile from the parking area at the new Fort Granger entrance on Eddy Lane to the walking path that runs around and through Pinkerton Park. You’re going downhill at this point, so be prepared to negotiate some stairs. Just at the bottom of the stairs, there is a dirt-and-gravel path connecting you to Pinkerton Park.
Once you enter the path at Pinkerton Park, you’ll enjoy a one-mile paved walkway that weaves through and around picnic shelters, a marvelous playground, restrooms and several exercise stations. Be prepared to clean up after your dog in this park – several waste bag stations make this relatively convenient. As you finish the loop and head back through Fort Granger park, you’ll be going uphill. Not very far, but still enough to get your heart going before reaching the parking area.
Altogether, this is a lovely 1.5 mile walk. To reach Fort Granger, take Franklin Rd. South to The Factory, and turn left onto Liberty Pike. Eddy Lane is a little less than half a mile down Liberty Pike, on your left, and the entrance to Fort Granger Park is also less than half a mile on your left.
Narrows of the Harpeth – Short but Scenic Hike
People who canoe or kayak in the Nashville area are familiar with the Narrows of the Harpeth. But even if you don’t care to get in the river, there are some good short hikes that are relatively dog-friendly, and have both scenic beauty and local history to offer.
These trails are well-worn, and fairly short – by my calculations, if you do an out-and-back walk of all three segments, you’ll have logged just less than 1.5 miles. Dogs are welcome, but leashes are required.
Starting from the parking area at Cedar Hill Road, you can take the trail to the other side of the bridge, roughly following the Harpeth River, about a quarter mile until you come to an intersection with two other trails. I like to take the Historic Tunnel Trail first – a short distance to the historic marker that explains that in the early 1800s, using slave labor, Tennessee capitalist Montgomery Bell excavated a 200 foot tunnel allowing the Harpeth River waters to take a “shortcut” under the bluff, powering Mr. Bell’s iron forge. The forge is gone, but the tunnel is an interesting sight.
Back up to the intersection, if you don’t mind scrambling over rocks, take the scenic Bluff Overlook Trail. You can get a good sense of the elevation change from the intersection. If your dog has short legs, or is too comfortable with heights for his/her own good, you may want to save this for another time. But the effort of taking the short hike up to the end of the trail is well worth it – check out this view!
Back down to the intersection, and you now just retrace your steps to the vehicle along the Cedar Hill Bridge trail.
All in all, you may find that it takes you almost as long to get to the Narrows of the Harpeth as you will spend on the trails. It’s a lovely drive, though. Here’s how to get there from Nashville, by way of Bellevue. Take Hwy 70S through Bellevue, past the I-40 overpass to where it meets up with Hwy70/Charlotte Pike. You’ll turn left to stay on Hwy 70 for another 8.1 miles, then turn right onto Cedar Hill Rd. In 3.3 miles (just before the bridge), turn right into the parking area.
Long Hunter State Park – Day Loop Trail
This is a beautiful 4-mile walk in the woods – best saved for a weekend. It’s also best to save this for a time when it hasn’t rained in a couple of days – our first visit to Long Hunter’s Day Loop Trail had to be cut short because the trail was so muddy that we couldn’t make it 20 yards from the parking area.
As seen on the map, the Day Loop Trail skirts along the shoreline of Percy Priest Lake before heading back inland toward the trail head and parking area. The trail itself is well-marked and well-worn (it’s a popular hiking spot), but mostly otherwise unimproved. There isn’t a large amount of elevation change (even the ascent to the trail head is gradual and easily navigable), but there are plenty of felled trees, large rocks, and other obstacles that would make this trail impractical for strollers or very young children.
On the other hand, this would be a great picnic outing for families with active kids. We walked straight around at a moderate pace, only stopping for water and to snap a few pictures – and returned to the vehicle within 90 minutes. But we passed several large flat rock areas with nice lake views – that were just begging for a longer visit.
The scenery, both shaded woodland trail and lake views, is lovely to view. Unfortunately, on a summer weekend day, the sound of motorboats and their occupants on Percy Priest can be cacophonous – and, let’s face it, lakes have a certain aroma! All in all, it’s still a very nice experience.
To get to Long Hunter State Park from Nashville, take I-40 East to Exit 226A (Mt. Juliet/Providence), then continue on TN-171 (Mt. Juliet Rd. become Hobson Pike) about 6 1/2 miles. Turn right onto Bakers Grove Lane, then take your first left onto Bakers Grove Rd. The parking area is at the end of Bakers Grove Rd.
Edwin Warner Park – Little Harpeth Picnic Shelter Entrance
Edwin Warner and Percy Warner were brothers; their parks are adjacent. Both parks are absolute treasures! This walk in Edwin Warner Park is a dandy 2.5-mile walk that starts with a moderate grade, so you’ll get your heart rate up. When you have a little more time, the walk can be extended to 3 miles, or even taken off-road when the paths aren’t muddy. And, despite the paved surfaces, the walk is closed to motor vehicles. It’s a little difficult to describe the route, so for this post, I am going to include a route map. If you like this feature, I can continue to do this in the future – and even add route maps for my previous posts if you like.
Next to the parking area is a restroom facility and a small playground. I believe the restrooms are closed during the winter, and reopen around Easter weekend. As you leave the parking area, you’ll walk past a lovely, sunny meadow. Just as the grade gets steeper and the path starts winding, you’ll leave the sunshine behind and the rest of the walk will be shaded. At the top of this section, you’ll turn right onto the paved loop that connects with the Highway 100 entrance parking areas on the other side of the park. (I’ll call this the Edwin Warner Loop.)
In about 2/10ths of a mile, you’ll come to a fork in the road. If you want to do the 3-mile loop, take the road to the left and you can continue on the Edwin Warner Loop back around to where you entered. My favorite option, though, is to take the road to the right, and then at the next fork, take the road to the left. This is a pretty loop that features a scenic overlook.
Coming off of that loop, you’ll backtrack to the point where you first entered the Edwin Warner Loop, before turning left and heading back downhill toward your vehicle.
By the way, if you want to hike over the top of the hill, there is a steep but well worn hiking trail (Harpeth Woods Trail) that intersects right at the spot where you enter the Edwin Warner Loop. Hike over the top, and then take either leg of the loop back around to the intersection.
To get to the parking area for this walk, take Old Hickory Blvd. (east from Hwy. 100; west from Hillsboro Rd.) and turn (right/left) at the traffic light onto Vaughn Rd. The turn in is on the right, just past the dog park, and you’ll see the small parking area on the right just past the restrooms. Additional parking is available on the other side of the drive (along the Little Harpeth River picnic areas).
Deerwood Arboretum – Brentwood
In reference to its suburban setting, I have nicknamed this particular spot “Hausfrauen Pfad” (Housewives Path). Deerwood Arboretum is a well-manicured 27-acre park that borders the Little Harpeth River in the Belle Rive subdivision of Brentwood.
The main walking path is a paved 1-mile flat loop, starting and ending at the parking area, which wouldn’t seem very interesting, except that it is really lovely and there are markers identifying 69 different varieties of trees. Neighborhood walkers (mostly housewives) access the park by way of a couple of access paths – these can be used to extend your walk by about half a mile, if you don’t mind doubling back.
If you’re considering a quick game of Fetch with your dog after your walk – forget about it! There are signs everywhere threatening prosecution unless you keep your dog on a short leash. It’s also required that you clean up after your dog, although evidence suggests this isn’t a strict practice. There is video surveillance at this park; helpful if you worry about ne’er-do-wells interfering with your morning stroll.
To get to Deerwood Arboretum from Nashville, take I-65 to Brentwood, then take Old Hickory Blvd. west and turn left onto Granny White Pike. Follow Granny White Pike south for just over a mile, then turn right onto Belle Rive Dr. and continue for about 1.5 miles, before turning right onto Deerwood Lane. (There’s a sign, but you won’t see it until you’re almost at the turn.) The parking is at the end of Deerwood Lane, near the amphitheatre.
Percy Warner Park – Chickering Loop
This stretch of road at Percy Warner Park is open to one-way traffic
Warner Parks offer a great variety of opportunities to exercise your four-legged friend. I’ll probably write about additional routes in the future. But this particular 2-mile loop (which I’ll refer to as the Chickering Loop) is a favorite for Maggie and me. In fact, even though Radnor Lake is closer to home for us, the Chickering Loop is where we walk more than half of the time.
Here’s what we love about the Chickering Loop:
- It generally isn’t crowded
- Parking is convenient
- The paved surface is nice after wet weather
- If the ground isn’t muddy, you can do half your walk “off road” on the Tornado Road trail to get an extra workout
- Even if the ground is wet, you can add a few steps to your walk by walking through the Beech Woods Picnic Area access road (There’s a port-a-potty there, but I can’t personally vouch for it!)
If you enjoy listening to music as you walk (as I frequently do), I encourage you to walk this loop in clockwise rotation. As you walk uphill from the parking area, cross over the park drive and continue downhill. This stretch of roadway is open to 2-way traffic, so keep to the left and be prepared to step off the roadway to allow cars to pass. As you pass another “impromptu” parking area, you’ll see the access to the Tornado Road trail heading off to your right. Shortly after that, you’ll make a right turn onto the main drive, which becomes 1-way at that point. At that point, you’ll be walking uphill again, but it’s a gentle rise. You can pretty much hog the road until you see a car or bicycle approaching. (Or other walkers/runners, of course. Be polite!) Just as you reach the top of the rise, you’ll see the other end of the Tornado Road trail, just as you walk down through Shotgun Curve. The remainder of the walk is almost level, until you find yourself turning left and heading back into the parking area.
Just a few notes of caution – leash laws are enforced in this part of the park, and for good reason. There is an abundance of wildlife in Warner Park; be alert to chipmunks and squirrels that may tempt your dog to give chase, and to snakes that sometimes lurk just off-road. Also, there is a lot of poison ivy along the roadways and paths in the park, so watch your step!
To get to Percy Warner Park’s Chickering Loop from Nashville, take West End/Harding Pike to Old Hickory Blvd. and turn left. Continue on Old Hickory Blvd. past the Steeplechase and the Harpeth Hills Golf Course to the traffic light at Chickering Rd., and turn left. The park entrance and parking lot will be on your left in about 6/10ths of a mile (across the street from the unusual white house).
Maggie in her harness
Radnor Lake is one of Nashville’s great conservation/preservation success stories. The 1200-acre State Natural Area is nestled between Franklin Road and Granny White Pike, not far from the Davidson/Williamson county lines, and there are parking areas at both the West and East sides of the park, along the now-closed stretch of Otter Creek Rd. that runs along the lake.
It is on that stretch of roadway that dogs are allowed (not on the the trails), and that means that your two-mile walk will consist of walking from one parking area to the other, and then turning around and retracing your steps. There’s very little elevation change, once you walk up the rise from the West parking area, and the mostly-paved surface makes for a quick and easy stroll. What’s really special at Radnor is the spectacular scenery and abundance of wildlife.
Radnor Lake is quite popular among locals; it’s not uncommon for the parking areas to overflow when the weather is fine. Many of those folks come to the lake to hike the trails, but Otter Creek Rd. can also get congested with dog walkers, joggers, baby strollers and cyclists. It seems that most people ignore the signs advising walkers to stay to the left, facing “traffic” – so just be prepared to yield as necessary. Oh, and if your dog will try to slip collar to chase a deer (or other wildlife), plan ahead and use a harness!
To get to Radnor Lake’s West Entrance (the “main” entrance) from Nashville, take I-65 South and exit heading West on Harding Place. Take Harding Place/Battery Lane to the traffic light at Granny White Pike. Turn left onto Granny White Pike and continue South for 1.8 miles. Turn left onto Otter Creek Rd. – the parking area is on the left, less than a tenth of a mile down the road.
The Trails at Fontanel
The trails at Fontanel Mansion
This 2-mile loop of natural footpath begins at an archway just north of The Woods Amphitheater, and loops around clockwise behind the lovely Fontanel Mansion, exiting behind the VIP boxes at the Amphitheater. Mars Petcare has sponsored a few improvements to the trail, including some rest spots and information stations. The trail is well covered by trees, and should offer a nice shady walk.
The first part of the loop has a moderate incline; things level off a bit as you approach the zipline facilities, and the final part of the trail has a hairpin turn to modify the angle of the descent. You can extend your walk by parking near the Pritchard’s Distillery and taking the paved walkway to and from the trailhead.
We visited the Trails at Fontanel during a dry period, but observed evidence that this trail can get muddy. There are opportunities to bridge the muddiest parts on elevated wooden planks, but overall, I think this is a walk best planned for dry weather.
To get to Fontanel from Nashville, take I-24 to Old Hickory Blvd. Turn left (West) on OHB, go about 2 miles and then turn left (South) onto Whites Creek Pike. The Fontanel complex will be on your left – about half a mile. (Alternatively, you can approach Fontanel from the South by taking Briley Parkway and turning North onto Whites Creek Pike.)