When the author of the guidebook noted that this trail is “challenging” twice in the first three sentences, he wasn’t joking. The Millennium and Merritt Ridge Trails at Edgar Evins State Park are among the most tiring we’ve done. Located about an hour east of Nashville, these hilly trails provide some impressive overlooks of scenic Center Hill Lake.
- Scenery: 3.5
- Difficulty: 4.0
- Length: 7.9 miles
- Dog Friendly Factor: 3.5
- Convenience: 3.5
- Bonus Funtimes: 4.0
Scenery (3.5 out of 5.0): We hit this trail just after the peak of fall color, which meant the trees were relatively bare, but the trail was blanketed in an assortment of gold and red leaves.
Heavily shaded by typical Tennessee oak and maple trees and the occasional cedar grove, the steep climbs and descents are broken up by intermittent glimpses of Center Hill Lake. If you’re on this trail in late spring through early fall, the views of the lake are likely to be less frequent, but you’ll still get plenty of lakeviews, especially on the far end of the Merritt Trail loop.
Difficulty (4.0 out of 5.0): We chose this trail as our outing to celebrate my birthday, and boy did my 33rd year get off to a bruising start. This hike – especially the Merritt Ridge Trail (which is an extension from the Millennium Loop) – is essentially a string of steep ascents and descents sprinkled in with the occasional flat path. We each managed at least one fall, several trips, a few rolled ankles and two exhausted sets of legs by the time we returned to the trail head.
Part of the difficulty of our hike were the layers of freshly fallen leaves, which made for nice scenery, but kept maintaining a good footing on the downhill slopes fairly difficult at times. On top of that, there were a couple of points when the path was virtually straight up or down. Those spots were limited, but they did a number on our quads, calves and hamstrings.
Despite the challenging nature of this trail, it is on our recommended list, just make sure you’re well rested and ready for a good day’s hike.
Length: 7.9 miles (we finished in 3:40, including a few rest breaks)
Dog Friendly Factor (3.5 out of 5.0): At almost 8 miles, this is the longest hike we’ve taken the dogs on, and they both handled it great. There are a few spots where you can get down to the lake, but the bulk of the trail is away from good water sources. We hiked on a day in the mid-60s and wound up going through about 90 oz. of water just for the dogs. There are also a lot of large trees down on this path, so it’s important that your dog can scurry over them. There was only one that gave both of the dogs much trouble, but they managed fine. The last few miles both dogs started dragging a bit, but finished strong.
If you keep your dog on the leash, you’ll want to maintain a close hold during some of the more tricky descents. Ezra gave me a good yank on one of the steep, leaf-covered portions so I lost my footing and wound up landing pretty hard on some rocks. After that, I kept him close on any steep downhill portions and we both did fine after that.
Convenience (3.0 out of 5.0): Located just about 60 miles outside of Nashville, Edgar Evins SP is very easy to get to and well worth the drive.
Bonus Funtimes (4.0 out of 5.0): Edgar Evins & Center Hill Lake are both full of outdoor activities for the entire family. With boating, fishing, swimming, canoeing, flat water kayaking, camping, hiking, learning centers, hiking and just about anything else you can think of, this is a very family friendly area. (Just think twice before taking the kiddos on the Merritt Ridge Trail!)