I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
January 29, 2019
A while back, I wrote about my favorite ‘secret’ hiking trail in Nashville — the Hidden Lake trail at Harpeth River State Park. It’s a gorgeous trail with a fascinating past, and most people who read the post were excited to find out about it. Notice I said MOST.
‘Well, I guess it’s not a secret anymore, thanks to you,’ one sourpuss wrote.
‘Why are you telling everyone about it?!’ groused another. ‘You’re going to ruin it for us!’
This often happens when I write about lesser-known places in Nashville, and I think it’s hilarious. For one thing, it’s a PARK, which means it’s meant for everyone, not for a few dozen people who seem to think they deserve to have it all to themselves. For another, it may shock some of you to know that graffiti artists, thugs, and felons don’t typically read my blog. Moms do — and I can’t think of anything bad about a few more women and kids venturing out on our local hiking trails.
And so, friends, I’M DOING IT AGAIN.
I’m here to tell you about my new favorite hiking trail — and it’s not just a new-to-me trail, it’s a bona fide NEW HIKING TRAIL. I’ve already written about Timberland Park, which is a lot like a smaller version of Warner Park, but without all the people. You’ll find Timberland Park in Franklin on the Natchez Trace Parkway, just beyond the Natchez Trace Parkway bridge if you’re coming from Nashville.
I consider Timberland to be a great safe place to hike either alone or with kids, and we go fairly frequently — but the park has partnered with the owners of the Big East Fork next door and created a new 2.5 mile trail that takes this park to a whole new level. I’ve hiked the Big East Fork Reserve Trail probably eight times now, and I love everything about it.
It’s a wonderful for families because it’s a loop trail, which is much more interesting than an out-and-back trail. I find that 2.5 miles is a perfect length for most kids, and I love that it includes both deep woods and a beautiful grassy meadow with a pond and benches — perfect for a picnic or snacks or even some reading time.
It’s a great trail to hike solo, too, because these woods are filled with wildlife. The trail winds deep down into a forest with steep hills on either side, and I almost never go without seeing plenty of deer. For some reason, the deer love running up and down these ridges in herds and it’s thrilling to watch them thunder by — I’ve experienced this several times at Timberland Park, but nowhere else.
Walking through the meadow and around the pond, I’ve seen lots of cool birds, too, like kingfishers, herons, and bluebirds. And from a workout perspective, I love that this hike ends with a long climb back up to the top of the ridge — It’s a massive, steep hill that makes me feel like I’ve really done some significant exercise.
I also like this hike from a safety perspective. Hikers park in one lot adjacent to the Nature Center, which is always staffed by two men who are nosy in the nicest way. They keep tabs on everyone’s comings and goings, and even came out on the trail once to check on my daughter and me after we got caught in a rainstorm. (We loved the rain, but I appreciated their concern!)
Actually finding the Big East Fork Reserve trail is the hardest part of the hike. When you arrive at Timberland Park, be sure to grab a map from the Nature Center — It will definitely come in handy. You’ll find the Big East Fork Reserve trail map on the flip side of the Timberland Park map. I’ve gotten turned around several times at this park and pulled out the map more times than I can count, but the good news is that almost every trail is a loop trail, so even if you get lost, you’ll eventually end up right back where you started.
To hike the Big East Fork Reserve Trail, take the Judy Holman Trail until you see the sign that tells you you’re entering the Big East Fork Reserve. Then just follow the trail markers. Park workers have done a great job of marking the trail, especially at points where you might get confused, so if you’re worried, just look around and you’ll probably see a marker nearby.
When you get to the pond, walk all the way around it and you’ll see a footbridge. Take the bridge and you’ll end up on the loop that will eventually take you back into Timberland Park. Once you return to the park, follow the signs leading you to the Trailhead and you’ll end up back at the parking lot. Or if you’re really feeling sporty, take another trail within Timberland Park — You can easily extend this hike another mile or two.
I’ve really loved this trail as a winter hike because when the leaves are gone from the trees, the views of the surrounding hills are pretty spectacular and I see lots of wildlife. I also love emerging from the forest into that beautiful meadow and enjoying the sunshine and the sparkling pond. And I love this little abandoned cabin — I’m guessing it was an overnight spot for hunters, but I want to believe a hermit used to live there, full time.
Obviously, the park is beautiful in the spring, summer, and fall, too. In warm weather, it’s cooler down in between those ridges, and if there’s been enough rain, there’s a nice creek at the bottom as well.
Give this trail a try and tell me what you think!