Meriwether Lewis & Devil’s Backbone Trails

June 6, 2010 in Tennessee Hiking Trails by amylaree

Natchez Trace Trails

Trails on the Natchez Trace

With summertime in full swing – even if the season hasn’t officially started (tell that to the heat index) – we headed down the Natchez Trace to knock off a few more of the hikes in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Nashville.  While we had a great day and saw some nice terrain, despite what the books says, these hikes are not within 60 miles of Nashville.  Our first stop, the Meriwether Lewis Loop, checked in right at 80 miles from town.

Meriwether Lewis Loop

If you’re up for a day of history-laced hikes, the trek down the Natchez is well worth it.  The Meriwether Lewis Loop marks the spot where Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis & Clark fame, died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds on his way from Louisiana to DC.

  1. Nate and Ezra on the trailScenery:  3.0
  2. Difficulty:  3.0
  3. Length:  3.5 miles
  4. Ezrability: 3.5
  5. Convenience:  1.0
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 3.0

Scenery (3.0 out of 5.0):  It was very interesting to be at a place with so much history and it gave me a renewed appreciation for the difficulty of life before our modern age.  Part of this loop takes you on the Old Trace, with the rough markings of the old path that travelers used when taking their goods down to the Gulf to sell.

The trail also takes several passes by the Little Swan Creek, which includes creekside views as well as some nice bluff views.

Stream feeding into Little Swan Creek

Stream feeding into Little Swan Creek

Difficulty (3.0 out of 5.0):  This trail starts off innocuous enough, but quickly throws in several hearty climbs.  As this is one of the least maintained trails that we’ve been on, there was plenty of overgrowth to trek through – including poison ivy.  And the overgrowth also provided plenty of ticks.  And few things creep me out as much as ticks.  If you’d like to try out this scenic trail – and it is worth the drive – we’d suggest doing this one in the late fall or winter when the ticks and poison ivy are more under control.

Length:  3.5 miles

Ezrability (3.0 out of 5.0):  Aside from being worn out from the heat – and from me frequently plucking ticks off him – this was a great trail for the pooch.  With several portions of the trail right along the Little Swan Creek, Ezra had plenty of opportunity to drink up and cool down.  Ezra even managed to cross a slightly bouncy bridge with great aplomb.  His bridge crossing is making great strides.

Convenience (1.0 out of 5.0):  At 80 miles from downtown, this trek takes a solid chunk of your day.

Real Toilets!

Real Toilets!

Bonus Funtimes (3.0 out of 5.0):  With plenty of spots to play in the water and camp along the trail – along with the host of Natchez Trace features and attractions, there are plenty of ways to spend your day when coming out to catch this trail.  And as a special bonus feature – this trail has working bathrooms midway through the trek near one of the camp sites!

Devil’s Backbone Loop

As we made our way back to Nashville, we headed up the Natchez to hit the Devil’s Backbone Loop.  About two miles south of this trail is Fall Hollow Waterfall.  While we didn’t hike all the way down to the bottom of the falls, even a brief stop made for some very nice scenery.

  1. Scenery:  3.0
  2. Difficulty:  2.5
  3. Length:  2.7 miles
  4. Ezrability: 3.5
  5. Convenience:  1.0
  6. Bonus Funtimes: 2.5

Scenery (3.0 out of 5.0):  While the general topography and foliage is very similar to the Meriwether Lewis Loop, there was a nice serenity on the Devil’s Backbone (which is so-named not to reflect the loop’s difficulty, but the danger of traveling the Natchez Trace back in the day).  As we descended into the valley portion of the trail, the area brought to mind Thoreau’s Walden.  While still in good shape, this trail is not overly popular – making it a great escape if you’re looking for solitude.

Fall Hollow Waterfall

A small portion of Fall Hollow Waterfalls

Difficulty (2.5 out of 5.0):  We took this loop counter to the guidebook’s instruction so that we could catch the stream crossing later in the hike, giving us the chance to hike along the ridge for quite a while before trekking down.  This also meant that the there was a pretty steady climb on the way back to the trail head – which as our second hike of the day in intense humidity – made for a long hike back to the top.

Creek at Devil's Backbone

Creek at Devil’s Backbone

Length:  2.7 miles

Ezrability (3.5 out of 5.0):  The length of this trail, along with plenty of watering spots made this a very dog-friendly trail.  And the undergrowth was much more tame, and relatively tick-free.

Convenience (1.0 out of 5.0):  Same as the Lewis Loop.

Bonus Funtimes (2.5 out of 5.0):  With the Fall Hollow Waterfall nearby and all the other great Natchez features, there continues to be plenty of funtimes on this trail — just no camping sites, unlike the Lewis Loop.




This hike and others found in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Nashville, get your own copy now from