Bicycling The Trace: Where To Park Your Car

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Got a question from a bicyclist today…

I’m from Indiana and have found a wealth of information about the parkway and bicycling it with schedules, campgrounds, etc. The one critical piece of information I am missing is where do you leave your car? I’d be leaving from the North end and traveling to Tupelo. Any suggestions?” — Noah

Good question!

 

Short-Term Parking

Living near the northernmost tip of the Natchez Trace Parkway (which is actually 13 miles from Nashville) I’ve walked, driven, and biked on the parkway more times than I can count.

When I bike it, I usually switch up my route a bit and park at a different location each time. Generally it’s one of these:

For the most part, I see tons of bicyclists parking at the first two locations I just mentioned. But bikers can park their vehicles at any of the roadside pull-offs that are found along the Natchez Trace Parkway… for the day. The dilemma arises when you want to leave your vehicle unattended overnight or for several days in a row.

So I decided to dig a little deeper… because long-term parking is a little different story.

 

Where The Natchez Trace Parkway Rangers Want You To Park

When I phoned the Natchez Trace Visitors Center for advice on where to park for several days in a row, they said that bicyclists starting on the northern end of the Trace and biking south on the parkway are encourage to park their cars at the Garrison Creek Comfort Station.

When I asked about parking at a couple of the pull-offs which happen to be a tad bit closer to the actual start of the Natchez Trace Parkway at milemarker 444 (like the large parking lot at milemarker 440, the hillside pull-off with 3 parking areas at 439.4, and Birdsong Hollow at 438.2), I was told “the Rangers recommend that you park at Garrison Creek instead.”

Maybe they prefer to have only one place to patrol for overnight parkers? Or maybe it’s because the Garrison Creek rest area is just a hop, skip and a jump from the ranger’s station itself.

Yolanda at the Visitors Center said if you plan to park your car (whether it be overnight or for a few days) at one of the roadside pull-offs on the Natchez Trace Parkway, you have to call the Visitors Center and give them details about your vehicle (make, model, license plate number, etc.), as well as your personal info in case they should need to contact you.

They keep your information on file and immediately dispatch the info to the Ranger Station responsible for patrolling the area where you are parked. That way, they know not to have your vehicle towed. (And my guess is, if you haven’t returned by the date you said you would return, they may begin to investigate your whereabouts.)

She said it would be okay to park at the Garrison Creek Comfort Station for several days in a row while biking the entire length of the Parkway, and camping along the way.
Biking Info From The National Park Service

The Natchez Trace Parkway rep also kindly offered to send me a “Biking The Natchez Parkway” packet of information — it’s free. Turns out, it includes hard copies of this information (plus a one or two more handouts):

The folks at the Natchez Trace Visitor Center have always been most helpful whenever I’ve called for information. Their number is: (662) 680-4027.

 

Overnight Parking Available At The Shell Gas Station

The Shell gas station that is situated at the northernmost entrance to the Natchez Trace Parkway gets a lot of bicycle and motorcycle traffic, so I decided to call them for parking advice.

They are located near the Loveless Cafe — so there are generally plenty of open parking spaces in that area of Highway 100.

The (very kind) owner of the gas station said he was more than willing to accommodate overnight parking for bicyclists, but any longer than that was simply not possible. There is just too much traffic in and out of this busy little gas station / restaurant area. Plus, there are lots of deliveries and special events on site, so they frequently have to ask people to move their vehicles, as is.

If you need to leave your car at the Shell station for just one night, be sure to call them first (615-646-1052) to double check the date you are interested in. And/or stop in and leave your info with them, so they know not to tow your vehicle.

NOTE: Anyone else who has enjoyed biking the Natchez Trace Parkway is encouraged to share tips & ideas regarding long-term parking in the Comments below. Future cyclists from Nashville to Tupelo will thank you!

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