Shelby Bottoms Greenway
Distance from downtown Nashville: 12 minutes, 7 miles (just over the river on the east side)
Why it’s awesome: Shelby Bottoms Greenway is just minutes from downtown, but you’d never know it. The greenway follows the Cumberland River and is surrounded by a hardwood forest, open fields, streams and wetlands. It’s perfect for walking, running, biking, skating, wildlife watching and hiking off the beaten path. The area is also home to tons of wildlife, including birds, amphibians and deer. Pet friendly.
Radnor Lake State Park
Distance from downtown Nashville: 13 minutes, 8.4 miles (I-65S)
Why it’s awesome: It’s super close to downtown Nashville and there are trails for hiking, walking and biking. This picture-perfect park is especially great for nature enthusiasts, with views of owls, waterfowl, amphibians and reptiles, as well as mammals like minks and otters. Pet friendly, but see the pet policy before you take Fido.
Distance from downtown Nashville: 21 minutes, 10.2 miles (I-40W)
Why it’s awesome: Cheekwood sits on 55 acres right outside of Nashville and is the perfect place to enjoy the changing of any season. The grounds will be blanketed in more than 5,000 chrysanthemums in rich colors, which are sure to put you in the fall spirit. Cheekwood also has a full calendar of fall festivities, including its annual scarecrow exhibit. Cheekwood is one of my favorite places to pop-up a picnic and enjoy a mini-escape from city life. No pets.
Distance from downtown Nashville: 15 minutes, 10.9 miles (I-65N)
Why it’s awesome: The Fontanel Mansion and its accompanying farm and amphitheater are tucked on the outskirts of Nashville. The place is surrounded by forest and there are trails for hiking, biking and walking your dog. Inside of the Fontanel complex you’ll also find a zipline course, disc golf course, café, hotel, music venue and distillery. Pet-friendly trails.
Distance from downtown Nashville: 20 minutes, 15.2 miles (I-40W)
Why it’s awesome: Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Parks are right in the city and are among Nashville’s most visited parks. The parks are home to a nature center, dog park, scenic roadways and overlooks, hiking trails, an equestrian center and horse trails, cross-country running courses, golf courses and athletic fields. The area is perfect for family outings and afternoon picnics. Pet friendly.
Long Hunter State Park
Distance from downtown Nashville: 28 minutes, 21.2 miles (I-24E)
Why it’s awesome: It’s relatively close to Nashville and it’s the perfect place to go fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and camping. Located in Long Hunter State Park is the Sellars Farm, an archeological area of Native American mounds that were occupied during the Mississippian Period from 900 A.D. until about 1500 A.D. Pet friendly, but see the pet policy before you take Fido.
Harpeth River State Park
Distance from downtown Nashville: 32 minutes, 25.8 miles (I-40W)
Why it’s awesome: The park covers 40 miles of the Harpeth River and connects several historical, archeological and natural sites. The Harpeth River is beautiful and is the perfect place for canoeing, kayaking and fishing in the fall. The park that surrounds the river is full of hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult. Pet friendly.
Natchez Trace Parkway
Distance from downtown Nashville: 47 minutes, 40.3 miles (I-65S)
Why it’s awesome: It’s a 444-mile drive through breathtaking scenery and 10,000 years of rich American history. Not only is the scenery beautiful, but visitors can also go camping, hiking, biking and horseback riding along Natchez Trace. Noteworthy: There are more than 100 different species of trees that grow along the parkway, perfect for those wanting to capture the fall foliage. Pet friendly.
Rock Island State Park
Distance from downtown Nashville: 1 hour and 40 minutes, 83.9 miles (I-40E)
Why it’s awesome: The waterfalls look breathtaking during fall. Both falls were created when the Great Falls Dam was built in the early 1900s, and there’s some pretty neat history surrounding the dam and the old cotton mill on the property. The best part? You can also camp, fish, kayak and hike at the state park. Pet friendly.
Alum Gap, South Cumberland Park
South Cumberland State Park
Distance from downtown Nashville: 2 hours, 90.4 miles (I-24E)
Why it’s awesome: The 2.2-mile loop to see Greeter Falls is canopied by trees, and during this season the area is absolutely breathtaking. Upper Greeter Falls is a picture-perfect waterfall, complete with a picturesque gorge, and before reaching the bottom you have to climb down a spiral staircase that seems so out of place. We highly suggest that you take the trail past Board Tree Falls and the swinging rope bridge to Alum Gap. It’s an 8.4-mile round-trip hike, but once you’ve made it to the top of the mountain, you’ll know why we suggested it. Alum Gap overlooks other mountains and valleys in the Monteagle area and with the leaves changing, this view is one you’ll want to tell everyone about. Pet friendly
Fall Creek Falls
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Distance from downtown Nashville: 2 hours, 124 miles (I-40W)
Why it’s awesome: It’s the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River, plunging 256 feet into a gorge. When there’s been a lot of rain you’ll see its sister fall, Coon Creek Falls, flowing off of the right side of the rock. If you have it in you, we suggest making it a weekend trip. Not only is this a beautiful area to hike, but there’s camping available on-site. Pet friendly.
Why it’s awesome: Everyone has seen photos of Gatlinburg in the fall. It’s the epicenter of rich hues, chilly weather and fall family fun. From hiking in the Smoky Mountains to spending a weekend nestled in a cabin, Gatlinburg is the place you want to be when the seasons change. The area is great for biking, walking, hiking, fishing and exploring. Among the wildlife you’ll see are birds of prey, black bears and deers. Gatlinburg makes for a great weekend trip with the family and there’s a ton of touristy attractions in case the outdoors aren’t for everyone in your group.