If you’re traveling the Natchez Trace Parkway by bicycle, as many do, you should plan ahead, as 444 miles is a significant ride. People of all fitness levels, ages, and abilities complete this ride, which ESPN rates as one of the 10 best bike routes in the country. The lack of dangerous road traffic combined with beautiful scenery and mild weather makes it particularly appealing to newbies and experienced pedalers alike. Here are some strategies and resources for biking the Natchez Trace Parkway:
Planning your ride
Before you begin, figure out approximately how many miles you plan to bike a day. If you plan to do the trip in a week, you’ll need to average at least 75 miles per day, with limited detours. Make a training plan that gets you up to that mileage.
When you first glance at the Trace you may notice there are no designated bicycle lanes. That’s because National Park Service has designated the Trace in its entirety—all 444 miles—as a bicycle route. Bicyclists share the road with recreational vehicles, cars, and motorcycles. Drivers should move into the left lane to give cyclists more room (when there isn’t oncoming traffic, of course).
Want to bike for a cause and make your experience even more meaningful? Consider Erase the Trace, a charity bike ride along the Natchez Trace raising funds for Glioblastoma cancer research. The second annual 444-mile challenge takes place May 3-7, 2022. If you can’t make it, you can still join as a virtual rider or donate—or start training for next year’s ride!
If you’d like to cycle a portion of the Trace, there is infrastructure to support your ride. It’s possible to leave your car parked for an extended period in one of several parking lots, provided you complete a vehicle contact form. A few of the lots recommended by the park service are at Garrison Creek (milepost 427.6), Gordon House and Ferry Site (milepost 407.7), Natchez Trace Parkway Headquarters and Visitor Center (milepost 266), and the Parkway Information Cabin (milepost 102.4). See the NPS website for more recommended lots.
Because so many people bike the Trace, most of the nearby hotels and bed-and-breakfasts offer secure places for guests to lock bicycles. Some even offer basic repair tools and services. Park bikes, cars, and motorcycles in well-lit parking lots. Use locking bike racks if traveling with bicycles on your car.
There are five bike-only campgrounds on the parkway:
• junction with TN‑50 (milepost 408)
• Colbert’s Ferry Site (milepost 327)
• Witch Dance (milepost 234)
• Natchez Trace Parkway Headquarters and Visitor Center (milepost 266)
• town of Kosciusko (milepost 159)
To get your own bicycle to the start of this epic adventure, you’ll want to ship it ahead. Bike Flights is a concierge service that will help you pack and ship your bike—and get it back home when you’re done. They offer several shipping speeds and methods. Prices vary based on shipment origin but start at around $60 each way.
Bike tours and shuttles
If you don’t want to do it alone, there are tour companies and shuttles to help you out:
Lizard Head Cycling Guides
Lizard Head Cycling Guides ($2,890 pp) has both spring and fall guided trips, on which you can bring your bike or rent one. The cost of the seven-day trek includes meals, lodging, shuttles, and mechanical support. These trips begin in Natchez and head north to Nashville.
Cycle of Life Adventures
Cycle of Life Adventures ($2,895 pp) offers Trace trips four times a year. If you need a little extra boost, you can rent an e-bike (an electric bike) instead of a traditional bike.
VBT ($1,945 pp) offers a six-day tour of the Mississippi section of the Trace, including lodging, meals, tours of Vicksburg National Military Park, and more.
Natchez Trace Cycle Tours
Natchez Trace Cycle Tours ($1,099 pp) offers four-, five,- or seven-day trips, based on your schedule, not set dates.
Black Bear Adventures
Black Bear Adventures ($3,600 pp) takes 10 days to tour the Trace on bicycle, with options in both spring and fall.
Downtown Karla Brown
Downtown Karla Brown ($600), based in Natchez, offers a shuttle service. Leave your car in Natchez, let Karla drive you and your bikes to the northern terminus, then bike south. Karla also offers a three-day, 100-mile bike tour of the Trace ($949-1,599 pp).
Ready to plan your adventure?
what to read next: