When I first visited Beaman Park, I was so excited to find something like this so close to the city. This metro park is located in the Bells Bend area of the county, northwest of downtown.
There’s three different trailheads: Nature Center (entrance is off of Old Hickory Blvd), Creekside and Ridgetop (entrance off of Little Marrowbone Road) Trailheads. Creekside is the one nearest to the entrance and Ridgetop is up the hill. The Nature Center and Creekside have toilets and all three have parking lots.
There’s also three different trails of varying length and difficulties: Henry Hollow, Sedge Hill, and Laurel Woods. For this post, we’ll focus on the two shorter trails: Sedge Hill and Henry Hollow Loop. You can access any trail from each of the trailheads, but typically, you’ll start at the Nature Center for Sedge Hill and Creekside for Henry Hollow. (Although all the trails connects though in some fashion.)
The Henry Hollow Loop (2 miles) follows Henry Creek then ascends onto the ridge. You get a good mix of walking creekside and along the ridge. There’s a little bit of elevation change climbing out of the hollow, but nothing too strenuous. You’ll have plenty of chances to sit along the creek or take a splash in warmer months. You’ll also see a few cascades from smaller streams leading into the creek, looking like mini waterfalls. I really love this stretch of trail; it feels so peaceful.
The Sedge Hill Trail (.6 miles) connects the Nature Center to the Henry Hollow Loop. It’s short, but gets your heart pumping. It has a few ups and downs before it descends to join the Creekside trail. Plus, you’ll see one of my favorite trees in the world.
By connecting these two trails, you can make a just-over-three-mile balloon loop for a perfect little local hike. I love that you can be 20-25 minutes from downtown Nashville, but feel like you can grab a slice of wilderness.
Distance from Nashville: 20 min
Trailhead: Nature Center (Sedge Hill) or Creekside (Henry Hollow)
Harpeth River State Park is unique because it is a linear park following the Harpeth River and it’s split up into 9 sections across 40 river miles. Some sections are just canoe/kayak launching points and others also include a few short hiking trails. Some of the more popular sections of the park are Narrows of the Harpeth and Hidden Lake.
The Narrows is a part of the Harpeth River that consists of a high bluff with two different parts of the river on both sides, forming a very narrow bluff in between the two sections. Above, you’ll see the view from the high bluff.
There are three very short trails in the Narrows of the Harpeth section: the Bluff Trail, the Harris Street Bridge Trail and the Tunnel Trail.
Bluff Trail (.25 mi) – Steep climb to the top of the bluff, views of the Harpeth and the rolling Tennessee hills.
Harris Street Bridge Trail (.35 mi) – Hugs the bluff on the one side (beautiful rock ledges) and the river on the other
Tunnel Trail (.2 mi) – Short and flat walk to the tunnel through the bluff.
Fun history fact: This tunnel used to power Pattinson Forge which was used to break pierces of iron into smaller pieces of iron – pretty exciting stuff for 1818.
Because they are all so short, I don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t just try ‘em all. You’ll end up doing an out and back of all three trails because they don’t form a loop. So, even though the trails only add up to .8 mi, you end up hiking at least double that amount. (I did about 2.5 miles because I parked near a canoe access and walked along the paved road for a bit.) Although these trails are short, there’s a few pretty nice things to see.
Bring your hammock or a packable chair and hang out on top of the bluff or near the tunnel if you need to get a quick relaxing reset from the city.
Distance from Nashville: 40 min
Directions to trailhead: Either near Harris Street Bridge parking area off of Cedar Hill Road or near the canoe/kayak access point on Narrows of the Harpeth Road
Trail: Harris Street Bridge, Bluff Overlook, and Tunnel Trails
Just like many other hobbies, hiking/camping/backpacking can get expensive quickly. But, if you have patience and aren’t looking for something really specific, you can grab some gear no the cheap. I grew much of my outdoor gear collection buying highly discounted or clearance gear. It can get tricky because, just like any type of bargain hunting, it takes time both in searching and researching. Below, I’ve tried to condense what I’ve learned over the past decade about bargain hunting for outdoor gear.
Starting off with the biggest potential bang-for-your-buck website, Steep&Cheap is anchored by their “Current Steal’, which is a highly discounted item – oftentimes over 50% off. The catch? Each ‘current steal’ item is only live for 5 minutes, then it’s gone (or just moved to the other part of the site for not as great a deal). I first learned about Steep&Cheap from fellow counselors my first summer working at camp in 2008. (Also, the summer I quit college and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Fun fact: Over ten years later, I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. But, I digress…)
You can find anything from outdoor clothing to tents to skis to hiking boots and more. Over the years, Steep&Cheap has expanded to have much more discounted gear at all times. So, you’ll be able to search for whatever you are looking for. While this other gear isn’t as highly discounted as the ‘current steal’ you can still find amazing deals. Off the top of my head, I’ve purchased my tent, my first pair of hiking boots, base layers, Chacos, snow boots and a sleeping pad.
The downside of Steep&Cheap is that many items have limited size options. (It is a bargain site after all.) I’ve been tricked may times before, finding an amazing deal only to find an XXS or XXL (Upside: if either of those are your sizes, you will probably be able to find lots of cheap gear!) But, if you stay patient and check often when you are in the market for an item, I bet you’ll get lucky one time or another. But, I will warn you, browsing this site is very addicting because you’ll think “Oh, just five more minutes and I’ll see the next item on super sale” and then one hour later, you are still staring at the screen.
While Backcountry isn’t necessarily a bargain site, you can still find amazing deals. There’s almost always some type of promotion or sale. They sell almost all of the outdoor brands plus now have their own line of clothing/gear. Backcountry will have a much larger selection than Steep&Cheap. In fact, Steep&Cheap is powered by Backcountry meaning the limited-time, limited-quantity deals are from the stock of Backcountry.
If you are looking for something very specific and don’t want to wait to see if it may show up on Steep&Cheap, try Backcountry and see if you can find the item on sale. For example, I just saw a Patagonia fleece vest, available in most sizes, for just under $65 (usually $99). Chances are, you won’t find a popular item like that on Steep&Cheap.
Sierra Trading Post, also known now as simply Sierra, is like a T.J. Maxx of outdoors items and clothing. (Probably because they are owned by the same parent company…) Most of the items are already discounted from normal prices and they also have a ‘Clearance’ section. Some of their stock turns over quickly, so, if you are looking for something specific, I would check back frequently.
Sierra also tends to have brands discounted that I haven’t seen anywhere else. (I’ve gotten a Filson coat for over 50% off.) I feel like this site is, in some ways, the best of both Steep&Cheap and Backcountry. They have so many items, a large variety of great brands, and good prices. I’ve seen brands like Gregory, Cotopaxi, Eno, CamelBak, Northface and so many more. But, since it is more of a bargain site, you may not be able to find the exact thing you were looking for. Occasionally, you will run into limited size options. But, by searching more broadly, you will probably find a great deal on something similar.
One of the most popular perks of being a member of REI is being able to shop the garage sales. REI has a one year return policy in which you can return any item that didn’t meet your expectations/needs. Because REI obviously can’t sell used items for full price, they have garage sales multiple times thttps://www.steepandcheap.comhroughout the year where they sell all of the returned items. You can find amazing deals on so many different types of gear and clothing. However, you are at the mercy of what gets returned to REI, so I would try not to have something very specific in mind. Make a ‘wish list’ of gear and keep that in mind as you are shopping around.
Keep in mind that these items are used at least once and you cannot return them for any reason. However, it is a small price to pay for such great deals. Also, buying used gear is much better for the planet and help contribute less waste to the planet. So, it’s a win-win!
Tips for Finding Deals
Be flexible. If you are looking for something specific, it’s pretty rare that you will find that exact thing on sale. So, by opening up your options, you have a much better chance of finding a piece of gear that works and also doesn’t break the bank. Have ‘good, better, best’ options in your mind when looking to make a purchase.
Read reviews with a grain of salt. I am an avid review-reader when I am looking for something new. But, I have learned to be a smart review reader. Be careful to note if the reviewer used the item incorrectly or is being extremely picky. Sometimes, I’ll see an item with a 2 or 3 star review and be weary of the item only to find that they overloaded a backpack or used a sleeping bag in weather colder than it was meant for. It takes time and a little bit of outdoor-gear knowledge, but it’s something you can home in on as you begin your bargain searching.
Know your limits. You may find a deal that seems too good to be true. You may not even need the thing, but it’s 80% off. Are you willing to spend the money on the item, possibly cutting into the budget for another item that at the top of your list? Or, on the other hand, you find the _perfect_ coat, the exact one you were looking for, but it’s still $30 more than you wanted to spend. It may be worth the splurge because you never know if it will go on sale again or if it will go out of stock. Just something to think about as you’re browsing.
Pay attention to seasonal sales/shop “out of season”. Many local outdoor shops (like Cumberland Transit if you’re in the Nashville area!) and REI have sales throughout the year; get on those email lists and pay attention! For example, if you are looking for a new winter coat, buy one at the end of the season when all of the winter wear is going on sale. Try to think ahead so you aren’t purchasing something you absolutely need at the last minute.
Also, I’ll leave you with this: Don’t buy something you don’t need, just because it’s on sale. I’ve been wooed far too many times by a fantastic deal when I really didn’t need the item in the first place. Perhaps that alone will help you save money on gear!
Even though it’s less than 30 minutes from Nashville, Long Hunter State Park seems to stay relatively under the radar, taking a backseat to Radnor Lake and Percy/Edwin Warner Parks.
Long Hunter State Park sits on the east side of Percy Priest Lake and has a handful of trails scattered through its four distinct sections – Bryant Grove, Couchville Lake, Bakers Grove, and Jones Mill.
The Volunteer Day Loop is in the Baker’s Grove section in the northern part of the park. It’s a four-mile trail that hugs Percy Priest Lake bluffs for half of the hike while the other half meanders through cedar groves. I think it’s as close to a perfect hike as you are going to get less than 30 minutes from Nashville. It’s a well-marked trail and a relatively flat and easy hike with a few spots along the shore that are perfect for setting up a hammock and making a cup of coffee.
Coffee has been a daily ritual for me since I was a teenager, whether at home or outdoors. Ten years of my life were spent working in coffee, so I am always searching for different ways or methods to bring great coffee and hiking together.
For me, making a cup of coffee in the outdoors usually requires a hand grinder, a brewing device like an Aeropress, filters, campstove, fuel, and water. (Whew!) All of this coffee gear adds weight and takes up space, but it was well worth it so that I could make a halfway decent cup of coffee.
Now there’s a better way: actually good instant coffee! CREMA Coffee Roasters has partnered with Swift Cup Coffee to make instant coffee that, well, doesn’t taste like instant coffee. No more are the days of cramming multiple items into my pack, just to be able to drink good coffee in the outdoors. I’m sold.
I took some of the CREMA staff on this hike of the Volunteer Trail and we made fantastic trailside coffee with just a camp stove and water. Each little packet of instant coffee weighs practically nothing and you can bring exactly the amount that you need. (Bonus: The packaging is compostable. But, please always practice ‘leave no trace’ and pack everything out.) Instead of juggling multiple items, we just boiled water on a camp stove and mixed in the instant coffee. Not only does the CREMA instant coffee save weight and space in your pack, it also saves time. You’ll have that cup of coffee as fast as you can boil water, which is especially important on those chilly mornings after a not-so-great night’s rest in a tent.
Having an easy and convenient way to make coffee while outdoors is a game changer. I’ll be bringing my CREMA instant coffee along on many more hiking and camping adventures.
Ready to try it on your next outdoor excursion? Get it here or stop by either of the CREMA locations in person (15 Hermitage Ave and 226 Duke St).
Want to win a couple packs of CREMA instant coffee? Before Thursday, November 14, follow @cremacrema and @shehikestn on Instagram and tag a friend in CREMA’s instagram post!
Distance from Nashville: 30 min
Directions to trailhead: Baker’s Grove Trailhead of Long Hunter State Park off of Hobson Pike
Brief Overview: A pleasant, easy day hike close to the city with lake views, cedar groves and a few quiet spots for relaxing in a hammock or making CREMA instant coffee.
Note: The full Volunteer Trail is 5.5 miles one way and ends in a backcountry campsite. You need a reservation to camp and can reserve a campsitehere. So if you only want the 4-mile loop, follow signs for the Day Loop Trail!
This hike barely squeezes itself into Tennessee. It straddles the Tennessee-Alabama state line and there is a trailhead in both states. You can do this as a shuttle hike (Start at the Tennessee trailhead and end at the Alabama one and drive back to the starting point. You would need 2 cars for this option) or you can make it into an out and back like I did because taking two cars on a solo hike is quite challenging.
To do the out and back, start at the Alabama trailhead which is off of AL-79. You’ll hike to the Walls of Jericho on the Tennessee side, then hike the same trail back out.
The trail isn’t too bad on the way in (read: downhill), but it is a steady (and sometimes intense) uphill most of the way back out. But, there is variety of terrain to keep you interested and not so much thinking about the uphill.
Here is the first thing that greets you when you get to the final destination:
So what are the “Walls of Jericho” anyways? Jericho isn’t just for bible stories anymore. The Walls of Jericho are a huge limestone rock amphitheater fed by streams and cascades. It truly is pretty spectacular. I usually don’t stick around when I get to the “cool spot” of the hike, but I couldn’t help myself here. It was just so other-worldly, like if I was walking on a very lush moon or something.
If possible, try to go when it hasn’t been raining a ton. It’s hard to get back into all the parts of the amphitheater when the water is calf deep. It’s not impossible, just makes for a soggy and squishy hike out.
Distance from Nashville: 1 hr 50 min
Getting to the trailhead: I-24E from Nashville to exit 127 for US-64/TN-50W. Turn left onto TN-16, which turns into AL-79. Less than a mile after entering Alabama, there is a sign for the trailhead on the right. Or just Google Map “Walls of Jericho Alabama trailhead”.
Trail: Walls of Jericho AL entry (See route in black, out-and-back)
Length of hike: just under 7 miles, allow 4-5 hours
Overview: Steep descents and ascents, limestone amphitheater and falls, stream crossings. Wear your sturdy hiking boots for this one. A great challenging hike that’s not very crowded. Highly recommend!
Frozen Head is one of the “coolest” (pun intended) state parks in Tennessee, maybe because it feels so much like a national park. It has lots of trails to explore and plenty of backcountry sites for backpacking.
It’s located right in the foothills of the Appalachians and is named after it’s tallest ‘mountain’, Frozen Head (elev. 3324), because in the winter it’s ‘head’ is often covered in snow.
view from the top of Frozen Head
I backpacked the South Old Mac trail in to the Tub Spring Campground, which is one of the only backcountry sites with water. The next day, I climbed the lookout tower on top of Frozen Head just a short walk from the campground then hiked the Chimney Top Trail out back to the car. There’s plenty of diverse terrain and elevation changes to keep you interested (and sweaty.)
(Fun side note: when we were hiking the trail, the ‘Barkley Fall Classic’ was going on which is basically where people do this really intense marathon on the trails of Frozen Head. It’s like a million miles with lots of elevation change and the people that do it are crazy.)
It’s a pretty serious hike especially with backpacks on, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. If you are going to make the drive out to this park, I would suggest camping, even if you don’t backpack so you can have enough time to enjoy the trails. It’s fun for a weekend away and a little closer to home, for me, than the Smoky Mountains.
Distance from Nashville: 2hr 30min
Trailhead: Old Mac Trailhead off of Flat Fork Road
Trail: Old Mac, South Old Mac, part of Lookout Tower Trail, Chimney Top trials (see my route in orange below, camp at Tub Springs)
This is one of my most favorite trails in the area. It’s pretty close to Nashville and there are many different loops that you can connect together to make the hike longer. It’s not strenuous but there’s enough variety that it make it fun. You’ll find multiple waterfalls, a creek, a weird lake/creek hybrid things, forests and lots of squirrels. It’s kind of like those choose your own adventure novels, where you can pick different endings.
There are 4 different trails and most of them can be connected together or only accessed from other ones and each one is so unique. If you hike all of the trails, it’s about 5 miles. If you only want to do one, I’d choose Machine Falls.
Machine Falls Loop– 1.6 miles. The crowning jewel of Short Springs Some stairs and gentle hills but so worth it to see one of the prettiest cascading falls of middle Tennessee. Be sure to follow the signs to actually get back to Machine Falls. You will have to do some precarious walking on ledges and rocks in the water, but it’s so totally worth it.
Adams Falls Loop – 1.1 miles, accessible only from the Machine Falls loop. You only see Adams falls from above on this trail. Nothing too spectacular but if you want to add on mileage, I would include this loop too.
Bobo Creek (Busby Falls) Trail– .7 miles, forms a loop with half of the Machine Falls trail. I don’t know why they call this Busby Falls on that map. At Short Springs, it’s more aptly labeled Bobo Creek trail because it crosses Bobo Creek.
Laurel Bluff Trail-1.5 miles, only accessible from Bobo Creek Trail. You follow Bobo Creek from the other side and get alternative views of the falls and such. Also, as a bonus, you get to walk through a magical pine forest.
Distance from Nashville: 1hr 15 minutes
Directions to trailhead: Short Springs Road, park in the parking area near the large water tower. The trails begins across the street.
Trail: Choose any or all: Machine Falls Loop, Bobo Creek, Adams Falls, Laurel Bluff
Brief overview: This trail has everything (said in the Stefan voice):creeks, waterfalls, forests, hills. Choose your own adventure. Also, bring good hiking boots (or sandals you don’t mind getting wet) because your feet are bound to get wet if you don’t.
I love driving on the Trace, so I figured I would also hike some of it. The Natchez Trace (road) follows the Natchez Trace (the actual footpath used in the 1700-1800’s). You can hike the entire Trace. Pretty crazy.
I only did a short loop hike near Leiper’s Fork called Garrison Creek. It’s only about 3 miles and a relatively easy hike. Obviously, it follows the Trace. But, I didn’t think about that and just found it distracting because when I’m hiking I like to feel like I’m far from civilization, even if I’m not.
I don’t recommend this hike. There’s not much going on and you have to cross a creek that clearly meant to have a bridge and said bridge is crumbled into that river and get your feet super wet. Plus, it’s kind of a confusing trail. If you have done many others in the area and are looking for something different, I guess you can check it out but definitely don’t make this your first hike in the area. Like please, at least do Radnor or something.
this is what they call an overlook?
Distance from Nashville: 45 min
Directions to trailhead: Garrison Creek Milepost 427.6 on the Natchez Trace Parkway, start behind the bathrooms.
Trail: The trail is kind of confusing about where to start, but there’s really only one trail. Well, actually 2, but that one connects to the main one. There’s a short “overlook trail” the connects to the main one (blazed in blue). See my route below in black.
Length of hike: 3 miles
Brief overview: Creek crossings that require your feet to get wet to to your ankles along with gentle hills and trees. Nothing special. It doesn’t feel secluded and you can often hear cars go by. Not recommended, kind of a (milk) dud.
I actually stumbled upon this hike, well more drove upon, I guess. I was returning to Nashville from camping in Montgomery Bell State Park, and I saw a sign for one ‘Hidden Lake Trail’. It sounded intriguing enough to make me stop my car and hike it.
It’s part of the Harpeth River State Park, which spans a large portion of the Harpeth River. There are different trailheads and canoe drop off points all along the river. So, this state park is kind of scattered all around.
It’s really close to Nashville and a fun little afternoon adventure. Also, a bunch of weird stuff like a metal thing that looks like a half underground submarine and some concrete that used to be a dance floor (yes, they used to host dances out here). A close one to Nashville if you need to get away. Go wander around all the little connecting trails and find the Hidden Lakes!
The (larger) Hidden Lake
A pup enjoying one of the bluffs
Distance from Nashville: 25-30 min
Directions to trailhead: I-40W to exit 192 and turn slight right onto McCrory. You’ll see a Harpeth River Hidden Lake sign on your left and a small parking lot.
Trail: There’s lots of little loops and paths all surrounding the lake, some accessible, some not. So it’s fun to just wander around and it’s small enough to feel like you won’t really get lost. (See map below)
I was on a quest for more hikes closer to Nashville, and I stumbled upon the Hidden Springs trail in Cedars of Lebanon State Park. This park has some of the oldest cedar trees in the country, and you’ll sure see a bunch on this loop trail.
It’s an easy walk through the woods, although it tends to be muddy because of the springs (the hidden springs, if you will), but not a problem unless you are wearing shoes that you don’t want to get dirty. And if you are hiking in shoes that you don’t want to get dirty, then you might need to reevaluate the shoes you are wearing hiking.
This 5 miles loop trail meanders through most of the park and take you through numerous cedar glades. It’s a flat and easy trail to do some woods walkin’.
Distance from Nashville: 45 min
Directions to trailhead:Theres a parking lot across from the start of the trail near some campsites and a bathhouse, follow signs for trailheads