Have you cycled the Natchez Trace Parkway?
January 26, 2016 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Last summer, my friend and I rode up a mountain in Glacier National Park. It was freaking sweet, and AskMe had some great tips. This fall, we are hopefully riding all 444 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Have you done this (in whole or part)? What advice can you offer?

We are planning to ride in early October, south-north with four riders, starting the ride in Natchez on a Sunday morning and ending it in Nashville on a Saturday morning. We've got a rough itinerary but nothing firm. We'll have the benefit of my minivan, which we'll take turns driving, as a support vehicle. So we can pack in parts, food, drinks, clothes, and whatever else we will need.

Any advice you have about the Trace - traffic, stuff to see, plans for stops or meals, great places to eat or stay, etc. - are welcome, doubly so if you've done it on a bike.
posted by AgentRocket to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Adventure Cycling makes great maps, although not for that route. You can view their description and itinerary of their van-supported Natchez Trace tour here.
posted by bradbane at 2:23 PM on January 26, 2016

Best answer: I haven't biked the Natchez Trace yet, but I read the trip journals on Crazy Guy on a Bike with great envy and I hope someday I'll make the trip. Have fun!
posted by asperity at 3:38 PM on January 26, 2016

I spent some time in Natchez, MS working on the small hiking portion of the Natchez Trace Trail and drove the Parkway in the area every day. There is little to no shoulder and the road is windy (poor visibility for drivers). Have fun out there!
posted by thewestinggame at 4:44 PM on January 26, 2016

Oh, and Adventure Cycling does have maps for the Natchez Trace. It's part of the Great Rivers South route.
posted by asperity at 9:01 AM on January 27, 2016

Best answer: Attention future Googlers and adventure-seekers: I completed this ride last week. We did six riding days, from Sunday to Friday. Here are my takeaways:

1. You can do it! The first day you'll feel great, and by the end of the week your body will be more willing to go along with you. But days 2 and 3 will be tough. Just keep your pedals moving and know it will get better.
2. I bought adventure cycling maps, and they are really nice, but the Parkway's free maps are equal or better for planning stops.
3. The site natcheztracetravel.com is indispensable. It has great suggestions for what do see, where to stay, and how to break up your week.
4. It's relatively flat until you get into Alabama and Tennessee. The last 40 miles are so are hillier than you would expect so be ready.
5. Don't miss the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall. It's right off the Trace near Florence Alabama and is a remarkable feat for one guy to have built.
6. If you like to drink beer after you ride, plan ahead. You'll encounter dry counties along the way, and those that aren't will have limited selection for crazy prices. (We paid almost $25 for a case of Coors Light cans, which was crazy but worth it at the time.)
7. We stayed at B&Bs along the way. Some are cheap, some are expensive, but each had their charms and made the ride feel more special.
8. We packed a zillion bike items (tires, tubes, even wheelsets) and didn't use any of them. Bring some, of course, but the road is pretty easy to ride on and you'll likely need less than you think.
9. We foolishly didn't pack ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve) and made a trip to Wal-Mart on day 2 to stock up. You'll need those.
10. The road itself is obscenely nice and traffic is pretty sparse. Volume picks up around Jackson and Tupelo, but drivers were almost uniformly courteous and gave us the whole lane when passing.
11. There is no commercial traffic allowed. We saw two semis cheating that rule on our 444 miles, and it made us realize how nice it was to ride without them.
12. There were several other cyclists that we encountered along the way, and enough cars that we never felt like we were alone out there. So if we needed some help, I feel confident we could have found it.
13. If you need a great bike shop, The Bike Crossing just outside of Jackson was excellent to us. We needed a chain replaced and they did it in about 10 minutes.
14. Gatorade in your water bottle and a Coke after your day's ride will make you feel good.
15. The Loveless Cafe is right off the Trace in Nashville and was the perfect post-ride celebratory lunch. I had a fried green tomato BLT, okra, hashbrown casserole, and banana pudding and it was the best. (And you feel ok about eating it because you've just burned 6,000,000,000 calories in 6 days.)

If you read this and you are riding, good luck! Have a great time.
posted by AgentRocket at 12:04 PM on October 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

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