Nashville has made great strides in the last several years to strengthen the greenway system throughout the city. We’ve already reviewed several of the greenways (Shelby Bottoms, Stones River, Mill Creek, Bells Bend) so last fall (I know, I know this post is LONG overdue) we headed out to check out the MetroCenter Levee trail on the Cumberland River Greenway.
Length: 3.0 miles
Dog Friendly Factor: 4.5
Bonus Funtimes: 0
Scenery (2.0 out of 5.0): If you’re familiar with MetroCenter, you know it’s a pretty flat space topped with a whole lot of office buildings (and the Titans’ training facility), so I was pleasantly surprised by how relatively scenic this trail was. The Cumberland River and the bluffs overlooking it are the main attractions. There were a few nice views, but the steady stream of office buildings and storage facilities killed a lot of the “get out in nature” vibe.
Great sunset on the MetroCenter Greenway
Difficulty (0 out of 5.0): This trial is flat and paved and super easy. This is a there-and-back trail, so unless you’re immensely talented you won’t get lost. It’s easily accessible for walkers as well as cyclists or would also be a good alternative for anyone with disabilities who may not be able to get out and about on other trails.
Length: 3.0 Miles
Dog Friendly Factor (4.5 out of 5.0): This was another easy trail for the dogs. The only thing it’s missing is a good watering hole for them to take a long drink, but overall this is a short enough trail that it shouldn’t matter too much.
Convenience (5.0 out of 5.0): This trail starts just north of downtown next and is easily accessible.
Bonus Funtimes (0 out of 5.0): Aside from the perk that this trail is almost smack dab in the middle of Nashville (where there’s tons to do), there’s not a lot of extra fun stuff on this trail. However, the immense convenience of it does make for a nice spot to get some fresh air and enjoy views of the Cumberland River.
My personal favorite holiday is almost upon us (which means I’ve got to get to cookin’…). We hope you all enjoy a great Thanksgiving with family, friends and full bellies! Among dozens of other things, we’re thankful for the opportunity to get outdoors and share our stories with all of you. Thank you for your ongoing support!
If you’re looking for a good alternative to the frenzy of Black Friday shopping (ugh!), here’s our recommendations trails to hit up after you’ve done your best to conquer the Thanksgiving feast.
Scenery (2.5 out of 5.0): While Fall Creek Falls is full of trails with really impressive views of the many different waterfalls, this less-traveled trail provides a little more subdued scenery. The trail starts out along a fully wooded path typical of many trails in Tennessee, but it’s not long until the trail begins to skirt along Fall Creek Falls Lake.
These peaceful lake views continue throughout the bulk of the hike – and give you a great chance to see nature at work. From tiny toads leaping across the trail to impressive beaver handiwork that’s evident through a sizable beaver dam, the delights of this trail really came from slowing down and observing nature at work.
As the trail curves away from the lake for the last mile, the wooded area disappears and you enter a small, open meadow. The day we walked through the trail the grass was high and butterflies hopped from one wildflower patch to another. From here the trail quickly enters back to a wooded path that takes you back to the trailhead.
Fall Creek Falls Lake
Difficulty (1.5 out of 5.0): Aside from a few mild climbs (one longer one just past the meadow during the home stretch to the trailhead), there’s not much difficulty on this trail. During the first two miles the trail is very well maintained, but after that you’ll encounter some higher grass on the less-traveled portion of the trail.
Note the freakishly tall thistle to Nate’s right (above his head!)
Length: 4.4 miles
Dog Friendly Factor (5.0 out of 5.0): We didn’t have the dogs with us on this trek, but they would’ve done great on this trail. With so many spots right along the lake, there’d never be a worry about not finding enough water forthem to refresh themselves. The one note of caution (and it’s only a minor one) – there’s a lot of free roaming wildlife at FCF so we saw quite a few deer and a group of wild turkeys — if your dog’s likely to bolt after these types of critters, you’ll want to be sure to keep a good hand on the leash just in case you run into some deer!
Convenience (1.5 out of 5.0): At 100 miles+ from Nashville, plan an entire day for this outing.
Bonus Funtimes (5.0 out of 5.0): Fall Creek Falls is one of Tennessee’s most popular state parks for good reason. There’s hiking, biking, camping, swimming, fishing and a whole host of family friendly activities. We enjoyed our free night’s stay at the Inn (which is more like a conference center than a rustic lodge) and made sure to get seconds at the great buffet in the restaurant at the inn. We also hit up the lake for a little paddle boat action on our first night! Any trip to FCF will give you plenty of memories to take home!
After the great experience hiking Mt. LeConte in June, hiking a 14er was on of our main goals during our trip to Colorado this summer. Nate did a fair amount of research on Colorado’s 53 14ers and we settled on summiting one of the “easier” ones, Grays Peak. Initially we had hoped to summit both Grays and Torreys Peaks (they’re right next to each other). While Torrey’s extra 500′ climb didn’t sound like much on paper, it was a little more than we were ready to handle on this hike.
Give yourself a few days to get acclimated. If you’re a “flatlander” visiting Colorado, be sure to give a few days to let your lungs get used to the thinner air. We hiked Grays on our 4th day in Colorado – and we’re glad we didn’t rush it.
Get started early. We got to the road leading up to the trail around 7:00 a.m. and were on the trail around 8:00 a.m. – and we’re glad we started early. By the time we were descending, the wind was picking up and ominous clouds were rolling in, so getting started early is highly advised.
Pick the right vehicle for your drive to the trailhead. For the most part the drive up to the trailhead isn’t too bad, but there are parts that are rough for cars – a vehicle with high clearance is a wise idea if you plan to get past some of the bigger ruts that are in the road. You can park and avoid the ruts, but it will add more hiking to your trip.
Layer up & bring your gloves! We knew it’d be cool to start the hike and that it’d be chilly at the top, but wow was it colder than either of us expected for late July. We were both very glad to have layers — and I even lucked out and found a pair of gloves in my backpack that came in very handy when we were at the top.
Grays on the left, Torreys on the right
Scenery (5.0 out of 5.0): Nothing beats the view from the summit of a mountain… especially one that provides so many sweeping panoramic scenes. While the scene from the top is phenomenal, the start of the trail isn’t too shabby, either. An idyllic creek runs along the first mile and mountain wildflowers and shrubs line the well-kept trail.
As you pass tree line, the surroundings become more rocky and sparse, but that’s if you’re just looking at the trail in front of you. Take in a few minutes every few hundred feed to look back down the valley and at the surrounding mountains. Also, Grays and Torreys are lined up right along the Continental Divide – it was impressive to see the rugged division line of mountains while hiking up to the peak of Grays.
While the hike is full of great scenery, nothing beats the view from the summit. The 360 degree view of mountain ranges is breathtaking. We could also see a couple of mountain lakes and even Pike’s Peak way off in the distance.
Rocky Mountain vista from Grays Peak
Difficulty (4.5 out of 5.0): Grays Peak is noted as one of the easier 14ers in Colorado, but for us flatlanders, this was a doozy… certainly not impossible or dangerous, but the hike up to Grays Peak demanded a good amount of stamina and patience. There were people of all ages on the trail – we saw a couple of 9-year-old troopers in the mix with people of all ages all the way to 70-year-olds.
When Nate and I started the hike, we were both wheezing a little more than either of us anticipated. The first mile was a steady climb – not overly difficult, but our hearts got to pumping and legs got quick primer on the climb that was to come. After the first mile, we could also make out the various trail paths that have been distinctly cut into the mountain side. It helped to be able to visually identify the parts that were going to be extra difficult and see that there were a few flat(ish) spots, too!
Wildflowers along the trail
We followed the Eastern Slopes route up to the peak at Grays. The most difficult part was between mile 2 – 3 when the climb became the steepest. At this point we were climbing over boulders and maneuvering through very rocky terrain. A few times we opted to take advantage of the large boulders and stop for a breather. Stopping for breathers frequently was key to maintaining our stamina, it’s amazing how much a 30 second breather can help settle down a racing heartbeat – then you can easily get going again.
The last mile up to the summit consisted of switchbacks up the mountain side. It’s only during this switchback phase that the trail can get a little tricky. We kept an eye out for the cairns that are the markers for when to redirect your path, but there are a few that aren’t as obvious. Just keep an eye out for what your fellow hikers are doing (there are likely to be a lot of them on the trail with you) and try your best to stay on the right path.
Once we were atop Grays Peak, the next decision was whether to make the trek to Torreys. I was the one who opted us out of this addition to the hike… I felt that 16 weeks pregnant was not the time to start pushing my luck with scaling too many mountains in one day… and Nate felt that not abandoning his pregnant wife on a cold mountaintop to make a solo climb up Torreys was the best way not to push his luck too much, either Were I not pregnant, we would’ve sucked it up and made the climb up Torreys, but the baby in the making decided one 14er was good enough for the day!
Length: 7.6 miles – it took us about 5.5 hours
Mogley leading the way to Gray’s Peak
Dog Friendliness (3.0 out o 5.0): There were a few dogs on the hike to Grays Peak. If your dog is in shape, just make sure to bring plenty of water. Mogley was the dog of a pair of hikers that we kept pretty good pace with – he seemed to handle the trail great. At the top of the trail his owners put some booties on his paws to protect him from the rocks, but there were a few people who had dogs running up the trail off leash unfazed by the terrain.
Convenience (1.0 out of 5.0): From Nashville, this is not the most convenient trail to hop on. However, if you’re just about anywhere in central Colorado, Grays Peak is easily accessed just off of I-70 between Idaho Springs and Breckinridge.
Bonus Funtimes (3.0 out of 5.0): There are several different paths you can take to summit Grays and Torreys, but aside from hiking there’s not a lot going on around this trailhead. However, just drive a few miles down the interstate in any direction and you’ll stumble into all kinds of Colorado bonus funtimes!
As Nate mentioned in last week’s weekend destination, we had tried to make it to Cummins Falls in June but got sidetracked (read: lost) before we made it to this newest state park. Fortunately last weekend we were handed an unusual July combination – rain and temps in the low 80s, so we took it as a sign to venture to Cummins Falls again. If you go, make sure to bring your swim gear and water shoes or sandals – it’s a soggy but impressive trek!
Scenery (3.5 out of 5.0): As the state’s 8th largest waterfall by volume, Cummins Falls is a dramatic and inspiring sight. While the overlook provides a decent view of the falls, it pales in comparison to the view from the base. From the overlook, the hike down to falls first starts out in a wooded forest then crosses back and forth across the Blackburn Fork River. A few spots along the river reminded me of scenes from a fly fishing movie, but we certainly never saw any trout.
After crossing the river a few times and climbing over a few sets of small boulders we finally arrived at the base of the falls. It didn’t take long to understand how these falls ranked so high in water volume. The water from these broad falls rushes down onto a terraced, almost stair-stepped landing. The water cascades down these stair steps into a broad, wide open swimming hole. As long as you don’t mind getting pretty wet, you can climb up these stairs and crawl directly under the base of the waterfalls.
Base of Cummins Falls
Narrow path at Cummins Falls Trail
Difficulty (3.0 out of 5.0): The path down to the falls starts out easy enough with a slight downward slope. To get to the falls, you have to hike downstream along the ridge about a mile. The final descent to the river is decently steep and narrow. The day we hiked it was raining, so the dirt path had also turned to slippery mud along the descent.
Once down to the river, you begin to hike upstream — it’s at this point that you want to make sure you’re wearing river-friendly footwear. The trail at this point kind of disappears and you’re left mostly following the river and crossing back and forth at the most shallow points. At the points where we were crossing the river never got much higher than calf-to-knee deep.
The wet, rocky terrain of the river and boulders along the base of the falls are also pretty slippery, so be sure to watch your footing all along the trail.
Length: 3.25 miles (We spent about 2.5 hours hiking down and hanging around the base of the falls.
Dog Friendly Factor (3.0 out of 5.0): Since it was a freakishly cool July day and we knew there’d be plenty of water, we brought the dogs along for the hike. For the most part they handled the trail pretty well, although there were a few spots were we had to reroute because the trail narrowed too much and dipped into the river at places where the dogs would’ve been in a little over their heads (literally). Once we got to the base of the falls, Coltrane scurried over the boulders and maneuvered pretty well, but Ezra was overwhelmed by the volume of water and lack of steady terrain, so we found a safe spot for him to hang out and tied up his leash so he could relax while we checked out the base of Cummins Falls.
Convenience (3.0 out of 5.0): Located north of Cookeville, this trail is about 90 minutes outside of Nashville, but is well marked and easy to find from the interstate.
Bonus Funtimes (3.5 out of 5.0): After the final “stair step” at the base of the falls, the water drops into a large, open swimming hole – making it the perfect spot to cannonball into the water below. Travel & Leisure recently ranked Cummins Falls as one of the top 10 swimming holes in the nation and there were a lot of people taking advantage of it while we were there. A few people along the river had fishing poles, but just about everyone had swimming trunks on.
For other hikes like this, check out Hiking Tennessee, get your own copy now from amazon.com.
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