The following quotes and advice are from fellow motorcyclists who’ve been there, done that.
Here’s what it’s like…
Ahhh, out of the city and back on the Parkway. It’s just so easy and mellow to drive this road that it’s a sigh of relief when you’re on it. … There is 2.5 mile road off the parkway that follows the original trace route. We took that little loop and it was really neat to be riding back through the woods on the small, gravely road. There was fog hanging in the trees from the recent rain.
Any time is a good ride on the Natchez Trace, but October is extremely nice as you will encounter fall colors. The traffic is usually light save for some weekends and then it is not what you’d consider heavy. The Parkway bans commercial vehicles from their system, so you don’t have the 18 wheeler traffic. One extremely nice place to camp in NE Mississippi is Tishimingo State Park. The tent sites are very primitive, but there are also sites with hookups right beside the lake should you desire one of those. I think you’ve chosen the best month to tour the Natchez Trace!
The NT is one of my favorite roads & October is an ideal time. The speed limit is 50, which some people don’t care for, but you can push it to 55 (be careful beyond that), and just kick back & cruise. Lots of scenery & history, with many informative pull offs.
There are many towns nearby, so motels are easy to find. I stayed in Tupelo MS on one trip & Kosciusko MS on another, but there are lots of other choices. Natchez State Park on the south end is very nice, and I’ve camped at Rocky Springs (somewhat primitive) (Mile 55), and Pickwick Landing State Park, TN (very nice) (Near mile 330). I haven’t been north of Mile 370, but I hear it’s even nicer on the north section. 444 miles of riding pleasure with NO 18 wheelers, and no red lights. How can you go wrong.
We jumped on the Natchez Trace Parkway at Mile 0 in Natchez. The first big chunk of the ride was very cool, with our three bikes running pretty much alone. The speed limit is 50mph, and the curves are all so gentle that John said he never had to kick off his cruise control (yes, you can get cruise control on a motorcycle). As we came close to larger towns, such as Jackson MS, you could tell that the locals used the Trace as their own freeway, and they pretty much ignored the speed limit. It sure broke the mood.
We are now spending a long weekend on The Natchez Trace in Tenn. This is some beautiful country with great motorcycle riding roads. We are slowly working our way to Colorado Springs to visit old friends but we have several stops planned along the way, Cherokee Landing, TN, Branson , MO Wichita, KS and maybe even catch up with some horse thieves or cattle rustlers in Dodge City, KS.
I live about 10 miles from the North Entrance. October is usually pretty nice, but the temps can be sort of iffy. As was said, avoid weekends and holidays and you will be fine. It takes about 9 hours from top to bottom if you only make fuel stops. Fuel at the top in Pasquo, at Tupelo, then at Jackson and you will be fine on an ST. Nice, peaceful road, but heavily patrolled by instant-on radar folks in some places.
I won’t delve into the history behind the Natchez Trace – each of you has access to the Web and Libraries and you can, at your leisure, consult those sources. I will say the Department of the Interior does a lovely job maintaining the Trace and this southern jewel deserves a spot on your ‘Must Ride One Day’ list. Imperative in your trip prep is to pick up the Trace Guide, a freebie flyer provided at various stops along the way, authored by the Government no less, which outlines to the tenth of a mile EVERY historical, cultural and natural landmark along the way. Oh, and there are obvious wooden mile markers every mile along the way, so with all due respect to the fine folks at Garmin, even garden-variety navigators can’t get too lost.
There were several spans while riding the Trace when I went 30 minutes or more without seeing another vehicle. Rain also mutes sounds to a dampened hush and deepens colors to lush saturations. Couple the beauty of the Trace with the solitude of traveling it unconcerned about traffic and you get a trip of truly memorable proportions.
6 of us rode it last year on a mix of bikes and by the time we got to Tupelo, MS we all voted to get OFF IT! Too many police and we were only running 5 over because of their presence. AND TOO DARN STRAIGHT, FLAT BORING. Unless you want to stop and read all the historical markers.
The Trace itself may be the ideal ride for the casual vacationer. Much has been said and written about speed limit. While we as a group are probably more happy the further the needle climbs on the dial, I found 50 mph to be almost the perfect pace for this stretch of the road. That said, the Trace is neither technically challenging, nor appreciably strenuous to man or machine. At this pace, wind noise abates enough that, behind the screen, you can actually HEAR what you’re passing. In Mississippi, the Trace winds in and out of the terrain gently and leisurely. I’m sure the crotch rocket ilk would whine about the pedestrian pace, but that comfy 2500 rpm-in-fourth-gear allows you to notice what you’re passing and prevents the panic-brake-what-did-I-just-miss reaction when you spot a tasty turnout. Sight lines are impeccable – there are no shoulders to speak of, but the grounds are cleared 50 feet on either side of the pavement. Such wide easements give you confidence in an out of turns, and provide you excellent opportunities to spot wildlife. Oh, and you’ll spot PLENTY of wildlife. It seemed every other turn, I rounded a bend to face wild turkey, deer, geese, you name it.
Honestly, this may be the most perfect asphalt bed you’ve ever driven. No bumps, no potholes, no heaves, no surprises. My suspension may not have traveled more than 1/4″ while on the Trace, the roads were THAT good. This perfection enables you to settle into a riding rhythm, gentling leaning to and fro as needed, steering the bike with nothing more dramatic than a bending your elbow at times. Meticulously swept of leaves (there weren’t even piles on the sides of the road!), it borders on road Nirvana, and you’ll be reminded how Nirvana-esque when you leave the Trace for gas, food, or for one of those little side roads where the Parks Department doesn’t cover. The Trace represents the best of relaxed riding and I can truly say I’ve never ridden a road that combined the beauty and ease of this stretch.
If you only stop for gas (and plan this wisely!), it’s about 9 hours top to bottom. Lots of historical sights along the way. As far as traffic goes – what traffic? On weekends, it’s pretty busy around the major cities it passes through with bicyclists and such. During the week, you will probably see more wild turkeys and deer that you will cars. The upper 50 miles is the best as far as curves go.