Our first hike of June took us down the road to Murfreesboro. With a couple of tagalong hikers from Kansas in tow (my parents, to be specific) we wanted to take them somewhere that would mix a little bit of nature with a little bit of history – which is exactly what you get on the Stones River Battlefield Loop Trail.
- Scenery: 2.0
- Difficulty: 1.5
- Length: 3.6 miles
- Dog Friendly Factor: 3.0
- Convenience: 4.0
- Bonus Funtimes: 4.0
Scenery (2.0 out of 5.0): While Stone’s River doesn’t have much in the way of unique scenery, the loop trail provides a diverse mix of native vegetation (and replica Civil War cannons). Starting off you travel down a gravel road that divides an open meadow (old cotton field) from the forested area on the left. Shortly after that, the trail takes you through a cedar glade. According to our sources, cedar glades are only found in Tennessee. Personally I’m not too wild about the scenery of these glades, but you can’t deny the refreshing feeling that comes from walking through a heavily scented cedar glade.
From the cedar glade, the trail briefly veers by a local farm and the stink of cow patties quickly replace the aroma of cedar. Fortunately the stench fades quickly as you enter the forested area. This is the part of the trail I found most enjoyable with the constant shade acting as a great barrier to the sun’s heat.
At the end of this portion of the trail, there’s an area similar to a small boulder field that make for fun hopping across walks. My appreciation for the area changed dramatically after reading the historical significance that this spot played during the battle of Stones River. Throughout this hike there are markers that tell of significant events that happened during the 3 day Civil War battle, which is what fills out most of the remainder of the hike scenery.
Difficulty (1.5 out of 5.0): The trail is immensely well-maintained and offers a variety of terrains – from gravel to dirt to asphalt paths. It is also very flat, making it an easy stroll throughout.
Length: 3.6 miles
Dog Friendly Factor (4.0 out of 5.0): Normally this path would have been a breeze for the dogs. Flat, well maintained, mostly shady and relatively short, this should’ve been the perfect outing for them. Just one major problem: the summer heat.
While it didn’t seem that hot to us (low 80s and virtually no humidity), the weather had a different impact on the dogs. We hit this point every year when the dogs (especially Ezra) begin to wilt from above-average temperatures. This time Ezra nearly dragged me off the trail so he could collapse in the shaded grass. We gave them our extra water and even doused Ezra with the water in my CamelBak to help cool him off quicker.
Had there been a stream or pond on the trail, it may have helped cool them down, but overall the trail was fine for the dogs – it’s the weather that was the buzz kill. So reminder to all: understand that your dog’s limitations likely aren’t the same as yours and be prepared to adjust your plans so you don’t over-exert or push your pup into an avoidable heat-related illness. Needless to say, the dogs will be staying off the trails until cooler weather rolls in this fall.
Convenience (4.0 out of 5.0): Stones River Battlefield Park is an easy drive from Nashville. Just hop on I-24 down to Murfreesboro and follow the well-marked signs.
Bonus Funtimes (4.0 out of 5.0): If you’ve got a history buff in the family, bring them on this hike. This history of this Civil War battle is very well documented and, as I wrote earlier, gives you a new perspective on what would normally be a regular hike. Part of the National Parks system, there is also a welcome center that provides a variety of insights and videos about the battle. And if you’re lucky (like we were) you’ll be walking along the trail and nearly start to run for cover when they start simulating the canon firing!