Where are good places to run?
As one of the largest municipal parks in the nation at 2,665 acres, Nashville’s Warner Parks are fantastic for both trail and road runners. The Percy Warner Park entrance at the end of Belle Meade Boulevard is a popular place to start, where you have the option of taking several wooded trails or the canopied road to Edwin Warner. If you enjoy something to look at while running, the route down Belle Meade Boulevard and back affords glances at some of the city’s most expensive and expansive real estate. For a good run near the Vanderbilt area, consider taking West End Avenue away from downtown, past Elmington Park to Montgomery Bell Academy. Across from MBA, hang a right onto Cherokee Avenue and you can wind around the pleasant Sylvan Park and Richland neighborhoods and back onto West End. And don’t skip East Nashville’s Shelby Bottoms Greenway, a beautiful park by the Cumberland River that includes 5.2 miles of paved multi-use trail.
Where can we camp?
Savage Gulf State Natural Area in the South Cumberland Recreation Area is made up of gorges formed by three rivers and the surrounding plateau. The highlight of the formation is the great Stone Door, which is a large crevice through which the gorge is accessed. Forty-three miles of established trails provide ample hiking opportunities with sprawling views of the Tennessee countryside and numerous waterfalls. To camp overnight, take the Stone Door/Big Creek Gulf route to the campground from the ranger station, where campers are asked to fill out a registration card. From town, take I-24E to the Monteagle/Sewanee exit (134). In Monteagle, take Highway 41 toward Tracy City. At Highway 56, go toward Beersheba Springs for 21 miles until you see a sign for the ranger station on the right. For more information, contact the South Cumberland State Recreation Area at (931) 924-2980.
What are the best outdoor stores in town?
Lord knows you can’t get through a Nashville winter without a North Face down jacket. Sure the season is mild here, but the classrooms can get pretty chilly. Luckily, Cumberland Transit on West End Avenue carries plenty of down, fleece and long underwear to help students brave extreme campus climates. After over 30 years at its West End location, CT is now bigger than ever, having completed an expansion and face-lift last spring. In addition to carrying a large selection of bikes, boats, fishing gear, footwear, technical wear and casual clothing, the staff at CT are top-notch and they offer several outdoor clinics throughout the year. Blue Ridge Mountain Sports is another giant on the outdoor retail scene. Gear-heads can find good back-to-school sales at Blue Ridge’s locations in Belle Meade and Cool Springs this fall. Lastly, the superstore of outdoors retailers, REI, has a location in Brentwood that offers helpful service and loads of gear from your favorite outdoor brands.
Where’s the best canoeing?
The Duck River in Columbia (30 minutes south of Nashville) is a prized Tennessee river due to its streamside scenery, fauna and wildlife. Throughout most of the year, the Duck runs deep and quick, allowing paddlers to stay in the boat, rather than portaging over shallow runs (as is often the case in many rivers around Nashville). The Duck is especially popular with those who want to fishit’s full of trophy-sized smallmouth bassbut most people just take a cooler full of cold drinks and a picnic lunch and float lazily down this beautiful river. If you do not own a canoe, contact River Rats Canoe rentals (4361 Highway 431) at (931) 381-2278. Their facility is right on the Duck and they will set you up with a canoe and a ride to the drop spot. Half-day floats are $30 for two people and $50 for a full day trip. Other rivers of mention in Nashville are the Harpeth out Highway 70 in Cheatham County and the Stones River above Percy Priest Lake, both admirable floats, but lacking the quality of the Duck in water purity and scenery.
Where can I hit the links?
Nashville has terrific, highly affordable Metro-owned courses. Probably the most overlooked Metro course is Ted Rhodes, located past Metro Center at 1901 Ed Temple Blvd. This 18-hole course costs $29 with a cart for 18 holes and has more water in play than nearly any track in Nashville. Tee times are recommended, but are often easy to get the day before, or the day of, your round. For a last minute round, McCabe Golf Course will be your best bet. The former airstrip isn’t the most challenging track in the city, but its three 9-hole courses make it the easiest to walk anytime in any weather (no matter how perfect).
Where can I go for a hike?
There are places to hike right in the greater Nashville area, including Radnor Lake, a nature preserve off of Granny White Pike, and Percy Warner Park, the entrance to which lies at the end of Belle Meade Boulevard. But if it’s a full day or even weekend trip you seek, there are many options in Middle Tennessee. Outside of Sparta, Tenn., about 100 miles from Nashville on I-40E, the Virgin Falls hike is a moderately strenuous trip at four miles each way, but the reward is well worth the effort. Virgin Falls is unique in that there is no stream before the fall and none after, or so it would appear. The stream that feeds the falls runs underground before plummeting over 100 feet into a sinkhole, where it disappears again. The hike up to Virgin Falls follows Big Laurel Creek (flowing above ground) and contains two more waterfalls of 20- and 40-feet that provide swimming holes for weary hikers. Spring and fall are ideal times for this trip, because of the cooler weather, colorful views and more water pouring over the falls. From Sparta, take 70S into DeRossett or Pleasant Hill and follow the signs to the Virgin Falls trailhead on Scotts Gulf Road.
What are they biting on?
The end of your line, if you know what you’re doing. The most accessible fishing near Nashville is on the Harpeth River, west of Nashville in Cheatham County. The Harpeth is a small, yet productive river that holds many species of fish, including small- and largemouth bass, catfish and brim. Take Highway 70W and you’ll find several spots to pull over and fish from the shore or use one of the many canoe outfitters along the way. Tip-A-Canoe (952-2674) and Foggy Bottom (952-4062) are two companies that will put you on the river to fish longer stretches. While the fishing is almost always fruitful, the size of the fish will be on the smaller size; therefore, light tackle is recommended and can be purchased at Friedman’s Army Navy Store at 2101 21st Ave S.
The Caney Fork River below Center Hill Lake is the favorite among fly-fisherman in Nashville. The cold water from the bottom of the lake allows the state to stock good numbers of rainbow and brown trout in the top section of the river. The Caney Fork has flourished as a trout river with a good survival rate, allowing the size and quantity of fish to rise in the past few years. Fisherman on the Caney Fork must remember that the water comes through a hydroelectric dam and water levels can rise at any given time, so be cautious. Public access to the river is available at Betty’s Island and Happy Cove at the dam exit off I-40 (approximately 50 miles east of Nashville); just follow the signs. For equipment or tips on fishing the Caney Fork, go see the guys at Fly South (1514 Demonbreun St.).
Where can I ride my bike?
To get off the beaten path for a day or so, there are several areas around Nashville with plenty of challenging mountain bike trails. One of the more popular spots is Hamilton Creek Park (2901 Bell Road) on Percy Priest Lake. Hamilton Creek has trails for both novice riders (a short three-mile trail in the woods) and experienced riders (a challenging seven-mile, stone-filled trail that runs along the water). Fairview Nature Park at 700 Block Fairview Blvd. (Highway 100) has a series of trails maintained by a local mountain biking club. With three trails running through the lush Fairview wilderness that accommodate any skill level, the park is a favorite destination among riders in Nashville. For more information on trails or equipment, visit The Bike Pedlar at 2910 West End Ave.