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Admire Nashville's beauty with these 8 fall guided hikes — plus 3 hikes you can do on your own

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 9/27/2018 Mary Hance
a group of people in a forest: Hiking © Submitted Hiking

As the fall season hits Middle Tennessee, it always puts me in the mood for a nice hike in the woods to enjoy some fresh autumn air and see the changing colors. 

But I am kind of a wimp and I gravitate toward "guided" hikes, meaning hikes that are led by a ranger or naturalist, who will not only educate me about what I am seeing, but also (presumably) keep me from getting lost, or bitten by a snake or stranded from a fall or other misstep. 

Lucky for me, most of our state parks and local nature centers offer this sort of luxury "hiking for wusses" experience at no charge. And there are plenty of options for all levels of hiking on the Midstate fall calendars.

Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park

On Oct. 7, there will be two interpretive hikes at Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park, in Pall Mall, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of York’s battle in the Argonne Forest.

The hikes, which are rated "moderate-strenuous" are at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. It is recommended that you pre-register online at https://tnstateparks.com/parks/sgt-alvin-c-york or by phone at 931-879-6456

This park, which pays tribute to one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I, is about 2½ hours from Nashville, just north of Jamestown. The park includes a visitor center modeled after York’s general store, his two-story house, a gristmill, the York Bible School and various picnic facilities. The York Farm was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. 

Fall color at Edgar Evins

State naturalist Randy Hedgepath will lead a 9 a.m. Oct. 14 Fall Color Walk on the Merritt Ridge Trail at Edgar Evins State Park, which is on Center Hill Lake in Silver Point, Tennessee. The hike is 8 miles and rated "strenuous."

"The Trails at Edgar Evins climb narrow rocky ridges where there are splendid views of the Center Hill Lake," said Hedgepath, who is a delight to hike with because of his commentary and deep knowledge of Tennessee nature and wildlife. 

"Beautiful forests will be starting to show their color on our walk along the Merritt Ridge Trail, and many late wildflowers and other interesting nature sites will be investigated about along the way. The walk will lead us up and down some steep grades so wear good hiking footwear," he said.   

a tree in a forest: Fall in Edgar Evins State Park. © Submitted Photo Fall in Edgar Evins State Park.

Rugby Nature Walk 

Another option for hiking with Hedgepath is a hike he will lead at 10 a.m. Eastern time (9 a.m. Central) Oct. 20 along the Rugby Nature Walk trail at Rugby State Natural Area. 

The 3-mile walk is rated "moderate," and I can attest that a day trip to the historic village of Rugby is a lovely outing any day.  

Rugby is a 667-acre state natural area southwest of the town of Historic Rugby in Morgan County on the Cumberland Plateau.

There are also free guided hikes at 10 a.m. Eastern time every third Saturday at Rugby State Natural Area. No registration is required.

Details: http://www.historicrugby.org/ or 423-628-2441

Fall bird hikes at Warner Parks 

There are several bird hikes where you can see and learn about hummingbirds, tanagers and warblers, and how they react to environmental changes by migrating south in fall and north back to Tennessee in the spring. Hikes include: 8:30 a.m. Oct. 5 for all ages at Burch Reserve; a Family Bird Walk at 10 a.m. Oct. 6 led by a 12-year-old BIRD team volunteer; and a Fall Migration Bird hike at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 13 for adults and ages 13 and up along the Harpeth River Greenway in the park.    

Another fun way to learn more about birds is to visit the Nature Center campus and explore the pond, gardens and bird feeding stations and take a hike on the Hungry Hawk Trail. The Nature Center is at 7311 Highway 100. Register at https://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Nature-Centers-and-Natural-Areas/Warner-Park-Nature-Center or call 615-862-8555.

More: 5 day trips near Nashville that will wow you but go easy on your wallet

Nashville Hiking Meetup hikes

My pals at Nashville Hiking Meetup offer Tuesday and Thursday evening hikes at Warner Parks. Check out the meetup's full October calendar at https://www.meetup.com/nashville-hiking/events/calendar/2018-10/, where you'll also find a Savage Gulf Day Loop Hike on Oct. 13 and a hike at Marcella Vivrette Smith Park in Brentwood on Oct. 21.

Early November meetup hikes include Obed Wild and Scenic River in Lancing, Tennessee, and a Fall Foliage Hike at Pogue Creek Canyon near Jamestown. This is a wonderful group to hike with, and it is free to join.

Details: https://www.meetup.com/nashville-hiking/

Shelby Park night walk

If you want a nighttime walk, there is a Full Moon Meander at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 24 for all ages. Gather at the Nature Center at 1900 Davidson St. and enjoy a moonlit walk. Registration is required. Go to https://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Nature-Centers-and-Natural-Areas/Shelby-Bottoms-Nature-Center.aspx.

Off-trail hike

For the truly adventurous, Outdoor Nashville has an off-trail hike at Beaman Park from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 25, where hikers can explore some of the area where 10 miles of trails will be added. It is a great way to get a preview of these new trails but is rated strenuous. Ages 8 and up. To register, call 615-642-9745.  

Fall Colors Hike

There is a 3-mile Fall Colors Hike at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 3 for all ages. This should hit at the peak of fall tree colors of the oaks, gums, elms and hickories. No registration required. Go to https://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Nature-Centers-and-Natural-Areas/Shelby-Bottoms-Nature-Center.aspx.

Reach Ms. Cheap at 615-259-8282 or mscheap@tennessean.com. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/mscheap, and at Tennessean.com/mscheap, and on Twitter @Ms_Cheap, and catch her every Thursday at 11 a.m. on WTVF-Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town.”

3 hikes you can do on your own

And if you are comfortable hiking without a guide, here are a few good fall options. 

Beaman Park

Enjoy the peaceful 2-mile Henry Hollow Loop along the creeks and hillsides at Beaman Park as the fall colors hit their peak. The trail, rated "moderate," begins at the nature center. It is a great place to enjoy native plants and the creekside beauty in Middle Tennessee.

The 2,300-acre Metro-owned Beaman Park offers an additional Ridgetop Trail, which connects to Henry Hollow and is 2.1 miles one way. Trail maps are available at https://www.nashville.gov and at Beaman Nature Center, 5911 Old Hickory Blvd.

Details: 615-862-8580

Bells Bend

The River Loop Trail beginning at the Bells Bend Outdoor Center is an easy to moderate 2.5-mile trail through rolling old farmland with great diversity of bird species and colorful plants. There are several views of the Cumberland River as well as ponds and wetlands.

More than 7 miles of trails can be enjoyed at this 808-acre park along the Cumberland River. Trail maps are available at https://www.nashville.gov/ and at the Bells Bend Outdoor Center, 4187 Old Hickory Blvd.

Details: 615-862-4187

Warner's Warner Woods Trail

Warner Parks, with more than 3,100 acres, offers nine hiking trails, including 12 miles of trail and four trailheads. A good bet is Percy Warner Park's Warner Woods Trail, which is a 2.5-mile loop, rated moderate starting at the Deep Well Trailhead. The entire up and down trail is in the heavily wooded interior of the park, and about one-third of the trail is in one of the park’s most secluded regions. Also, hikers can experience a breathtaking view from the cleared knob of Luke Lea Heights at an elevation of 922 feet by walking up a paved road that the trail crosses.

Another longer Warner hike option from the same trailhead is the Mossy RidgeTrail, which is a 4.5-mile loop and also rated moderate. The trail winds up and down wooded hills and hollows, crosses several springs and open meadows, and offers some great wildflower viewing on the early part of the hike. 

The newly opened Burch Reserve, at 7300 Highway 100, boasts acres of field and forest, with beautiful views of Edwin and Percy Warner parks. A moderate 2-mile trail invites visitors to high ridges and secluded hollows. Trail running and pets are not permitted on the Burch Reserve.

Percy Warner Park trail maps and Edwin Warner Park trail maps are available at the Warner Park Nature Center, 7311 Highway 100 or at 615-862-8555, or go to https://www.nashville.gov/.

Details: 615-862-8555

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