I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
February 24, 2016
We chose Beaman Park because we wanted a more challenging trail for our 8 and 11-year-olds– and that’s exactly what we got. Beaman Park’s trails will keep you climbing and descending, and can offer a great workout to young and old alike.
Once we found the Nature Center (caution: Google Maps will NOT get you there- follow the directions listed at the bottom of this post), we parked in the lot and headed down the steep Sedge Hill Trail to the creek, where it joins the Henry Hollow Loop. If you take the entire loop and then head back up the Sedge Hill Trail when you’re done, you will clock in at around 3 1/2 miles…
As long as you’re reasonably fit, this hike won’t be a problem. With plenty of steep uphill climbs, kids and older adults will want to include a few rest periods and food/water breaks. Expect the hike to take about two hours.
But the real star of the Henry Hollow Trail during the winter months is undoubtedly the creek– Its smooth rock bed makes the waters crystal clear and absolutely gorgeous. You will walk alongside the creek for a good part of the loop and get lots of great views.
Expect to find signs of life no matter what the season. Because of the elevation, plants like mountain laurel and even blueberries grow here- You won’t find those in Nashville proper! My eight-year-old had studied a map of the park before we set out, and when we returned to the nature center at the end of our hike, he eagerly went back to the map to compare this ‘fauna sample’ he’d found on the ground with a map picture he remembered.
Yup. Just as he’d suspected, he had (re)discovered the (not very) elusive Christmas Fern.
In March and especially in April, the Henry Hollow Trail as well as the Ridgetop Trail (a 1.2 mile offshoot), are very popular with wildflower enthusiasts. We plan to return this spring to see the flowers. Spring wildflowers include dwarf larkspur, wild geranium, shooting stars, fire pinks, and occasional lady’s slipper orchids. In summer, you might see blazing stars, coreopsis, New Jersey tea, bergamot, and the state-listed threatened flower known as the Michigan lily. In fall, blue lobelia grows, along with turtlehead, beardtongue, ladies tresses orchids, and the federally threatened Eggert’s sunflower. The Friends of Beaman Park website has a photo gallery to help you identify the wildflowers you see on the trail, and Vanderbilt has an exhaustive list of Beaman Park fauna— Be sure and check them both out. A wildflower scavenger hunt (or wildflower bingo, if you’re feeling especially creative) could be a great way to trick your kids into a more challenging hike!
Beaman Park is also a great place to look for and identify mushrooms when they’re in season. Friends of Beaman Park has identified several dozen varieties of mushrooms in the park– Use their handy guide to give the fungi you find an official name.
The TWRA has great advice for birdwatchers on the Henry Hollow Trail:
One tip I learned at the Hatchie Bird Festival this past summer– You will see and hear far more birds at the edges of forested areas- Most birds actually don’t like deep forest, which is why you often won’t see too many birds on your hikes in heavily wooded areas.
You can read more detailed information about Beaman Park’s birds on the Tennessee Ornithological Society’s website, including where to find yellow-billed cuckoos and ‘ground zero for the park’s ovenbird population!’ Birding is a slippery slope, y’all. I speak from experience.
And now, a word of caution– The area is known for its snakes, including rattlesnakes and copperheads. In fact, snake stories are a big part of Paradise Ridge’s history. According to The Tennessean: “Those stories include the 1960s account of Joelton High School student Tommy Edwards getting attacked by a rattler while riding his bicycle and the time in 1914 when a copperhead fell from the ceiling of a cabin into bed with a baby. A coon dog lunged at the copperhead, saving the baby. The high school student also escaped a bite.”
(Okay, that paragraph was entirely too convoluted. I’m all, ‘What was the 1961 high school student doing in bed with the 1914 baby?’ Oh, Tennessean, you so crazy.)
I did notice that a photo of a rattlesnake is prominently featured on the Beaman Park map (like they’re proud of their rattlers or something… *shiver*)– so just keep that in mind. Wildlife at Beaman Park also includes many non-venomous creatures, like deer, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, owls, pileated woodpeckers, and flying squirrels. The naturalist who led our hike has actually seen a bobcat in the park and we spotted a barred owl up in a tree during our walk. We are owl freaks, so this was a big deal.
The park’s Nature Center isn’t very big, but it does have a small selection of books, games, and coloring sheets for children and connects to a quarter-mile boardwalk trail. The nature center also has displays containing the remnants of a moonshine still found on the property. The property was once known as Paradise Ridge, named for the Paradise brothers (whoever they are), and was used for turn-of-the-century homesteads, farming, logging, and orchards. A 1909 newspaper article described this area as having a “lawless environment.”
Evidence of days gone by at Beaman Park includes the 100-year-old Proctor Barn, where there was room for lots and lots of lawlessness! The Friends of Beaman Park group is raising money to renovate this barn into a usable park facility. Currently, it’s only accessible via guided off-trail hikes to the property.
We can’t wait to go back to Beaman Park– We’re already planning hikes to look for wildflowers and birds this spring (my daughter is determined to find that yellow-billed cuckoo), and we’re going to keep an eye on upcoming programs and guided hikes at the park as well.
Planning a visit? Scroll down to the bottom of the Beaman Park webpage and you’ll find a PDF with a listing of upcoming guided hikes and programs. Before you go, you might also want to print out a map of the park to help you find your way while on the trails.
And when you’re done with your hike, consider stopping for brunch or dinner at the nearby Old School Farm Bar, a restaurant in a restored 1936 schoolhouse that’s getting rave reviews and has a kids menu. GOOD TIMES.
Want to learn more about Beaman Park? Check out my sources, listed below!
Sources: Northeast Davidson County: The Land and Its People, by John P. Graves; ‘Joelton is Center of Life on Paradise Ridge‘, The Tennessean; Friends of Beaman Park; Tennessee’s Watchable Wildlife: Beaman Park; The Tennessee Ornithological Society: Beaman Park; Beaman Park Trail Map; Vanderbilt: Beaman Park fauna; Tennessee History for Kids: Physical Regions