Hiking at Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park :: Manchester, TN

I always forget about Old Stone Fort when thinking of semi-nearby hikes to Nashville. I’m not quite sure why because it’s such a unique hike in that it has like a hundred (ok maybe not 100) little ‘cascading waterfalls’ along the Duck River (Trivia time: at 284 miles, the Duck River is the longest river located entirely within the state of Tennessee AND it’s the most biologically diverse river in North America. So, yeah, I think you should check it out…)

The route I usually do is a mostly easy hike with only a few steep parts (off the main loop on the Backbone and Moat trails) and you get rewarded with all these river falls and some indigenous peoples history. The fort was built somewhere between 1500 and 2000 years ago and was formed by mounds and the bluff walls. There’s also a museum on site so you can learn all about the land you are recreating on.

It’s only an hour from Nashville and worth checking out if you only have a half day or so free to hike. Or make a weekend of it: snag a campsite here, also visit nearby Short Springs State Natural Area and maybe even stop by the George Dickel Distillery, only a short drive away.

But, please, oh please, practice the Leave No Trace principles when you’re out. There’s lots of folks out there newer to hiking and we ALL need to pitch in to keep our public lands beautiful. Let’s set a good example and politely encourage people to treat public lands the right way.

📍 On the ancestral lands of Tsalaguwetiyi, Shawandasse Tula, S’atsoyaha, and Chikashsha

Distance from Nashville: Just over 1 hour

Trailhead: Visitor’s Center at Old Stone Fort

Trail: Enclosure, Forks of the River, Backbone & Moat Trails

Length of trail: 4.4 miles for this loop-ish hike

Link to trail mapOld Stone Fort Map

Camping: Old Stone Fort Campground (recently updated in 2020) — reservation required, 50 sites total

Overview: Easy hike with lots of water features plus some indigenous history; great for the whole fam

Cheeks Bend Bluff View Trail :: Duck River Complex State Natural Area

When I look for hiking trails, Columbia, TN is not a location at the top of my list. But, I was looking for something relatively close that I could complete in less than a couple hours.

The Cheeks Bend Bluff Trail borders a portion of the Duck River, which is the longest river located entirely in the state of Tennessee. Also, according to Wikipedia, it is the most biologically diverse river in North America. The Duck River also winds through Old Stone Fort and Henry Horton State Parks if you wanted to see other portions of this river.

It’s a short and easy hike – less than 2 miles. You’ll meander through cedar groves on your way to a couple bluff views of the Duck River about halfway through right before the small loop at one end. There’s also a small cave just off the trail near one of the bluff views. Put your back to the bluffs and walk straight back and down around to your right and you’ll see the opening to the small cave.

I would imagine this trial is hardly ever crowded, so it’s a nice place to get some alone time. There’s plenty of trees near the bluffs to set up a hammock. However, it’s pretty close to the interstate so it doesn’t necessarily feel like a completely secluded spot. 

It’s a pleasant little hike and would be a great option for families with kids.

Bonus tip: Stop by Andy’s Frozen Custard in Spring Hill for some of the best custard I’ve ever had.

Distance from Nashville: 1 hr

Trailhead: Cheeks Bend Bluff Trailhead, park parallel to the sign and look for the hiking icon blaze (straight ahead if the sign in on your left)

Trail: Cheeks Bend Bluff View Trail (route in red)

Link to trail map: Cheeks Bend Bluff View Trail

Length of hike: 1.8 miles roundtrip

Brief overview: Short, flat and peaceful trail through the cedars with a couple bluff views of the Duck River and a small cave. Great hike for all ages.