9 Reasons Franklin is an Outdoor Lover’s Dream Destination

Sure, Franklin has a world-class music scene, a downtown stretch fit for a postcard, and all the conveniences of a big city with warm, welcoming small-town locals — but have you considered our possibilities for outdoor adventure?

Throughout Williamson County, you’ll come across rolling hills, long stretches of flat farmland, the swift-coursing Harpeth River, a jagged rock quarry, and scenic vistas that change pace and color with each season. We have beautiful parks and nature preserves that lend themselves to a peaceful walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon and curated adventures that show the best of Middle Tennessee to those who like a little risk.

Here are some of the most underrated outdoor experiences in and around Franklin that you won’t want to miss on your visit to Middle Tennessee:

Fly Fishing on the Harpeth

Though an afternoon out with Franklin Fly Fishing Co. is a wonderful treat for yourself year-round, it’s also a terrific gift to share with someone else. This local business takes guests out on the Harpeth River to fish in every season: Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass in spring, summer, or fall and Rainbow Trout in winter. You can also enjoy a float trip or peaceful cruise down the river in the heart of downtown Franklin, enjoy a wading trip with the pros, or take a one-on-one fly-fishing lesson to improve your skills. Franklin Fly Fishing Co. also offers trips out on the Caney Fork River, one of the South’s best trout rivers, to fish for Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout.

Hike & Picnic At Bowie Nature Park

It’s worth the drive out to Fairview to experience Bowie Nature Park’s 700+ acres of forests and lakes. This stunning nature preserve has over 17 miles of trails that suit all skill levels, including a short, but lovely, half-mile trek around the main lake. The longest trail — aptly named The Perimeter Trail, as it runs around the edge of the park — takes hikers on a moderate five-mile jaunt alongside a picturesque creek. There are a handful of picnic tables and spots to sit at Bowie Nature Park (even two picnic pavilions that can be reserved for events) that you’ll frequently see folks utilizing. Keep an eye out for wildlife during your visit; there are all kinds of birds, turtles, rabbits, squirrels, and deer to be found among the trees. (Bowie also has a new inclusive playground for kiddos.)

Climb Up SOAR Adventure Tower

For a more controlled adventure, and one that’s especially great for kids and teens, turn your eyes toward the SOAR Adventure Tower on Carothers Parkway. This spectacular climbing tower has a ground level kids’ course and three upper levels, the highest of which is situated more than 45 feet off the ground. You’ll be harnessed in for the thrill of navigating through obstacles and scaling bridges; the tower has over 110 climbing elements.

Curated Experiences At Southall

One of Franklin’s newest outdoor additions is the long list of curated activities — both rugged and refined — available at Southall, a luxury hotel and spa on 325 acres of gorgeous Tennessee farmland. These outdoor experiences aren’t limited to guests, either. Choose from an aerial course, a falconry expedition, mountain biking, fly-fishing, archery, ax throwing, an ATV adventure, field and orchard tours, plein air painting, floating on Lake Mishkin, apiary exploration, and guided hikes — the options are thoughtful and extensive.

A Bird’s Eye View From A Hot Air Balloon

If you’ve had a chance to explore Franklin from the ground, it may be time to see it from above. Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures takes folks up in a hot air balloon flown by commercially licensed pilots for a sky-high experience you’ll never forget. Fly from April through November with daily sunrise flights, tethered rides, and even an extreme flight that soars high above the rest. Guests can book shared hot air balloon flights with other passengers or reserve private flights that set the scene for a personalized romantic proposal, anniversary surprise, or once-in-a-lifetime birthday gift.

Paddleboarding In Westhaven

Since 2010, Paddle Dog has been renting out supplies from their charming boathouse on Westhaven Lake so that folks can thoroughly enjoy spring, summer, and fall in Tennessee. From March through November, you can walk up and rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and bikes and then conveniently enjoy a hearty serving of frozen yogurt from nearby Sweethaven after you’ve worked up a sweat. Paddle Dog also hosts various events for the community, including live music and food trucks.

Touring On An Electric Bike

Did you know that you can enjoy all the beauty, history, and charm of Franklin by bike, even if you’re not from the area? Thanks to our local Pedego Franklin, visitors can rent electric pedal-assist bicycles and embark on the Fun Franklin History Tour, Historic Homes Tour, Leiper’s Fork Tour, or Natchez Trace Tour. It’s a fantastic way to explore Franklin while getting a great workout. Plus, if you visit in the fall, you’ll have a chance to experience the miraculous shades of gold, red, and orange that illuminate the Natchez Trace right from the road.

Horseback Riding At Creekside Riding Academy

Take to the trails for a bit of fresh air alongside some of Tennessee’s most treasured residents: horses! At Creekside Riding Academy, guests can enjoy acres of beautiful wooded trails for an hour or two with beginner and advanced rides. You may also be interested in a riding lesson, which Creekside offers for all age levels in private or group formats.

A Guided Hike At Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary

Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary is one of the best spots to thoroughly appreciate Tennessee’s diverse flora and fauna, playing host to more than 2,000 species. The nature sanctuary, located in Brentwood, features 300 acres of protected hills, forests, ponds, meadows, and a creek for visitors to engage with and respectfully explore. Owl’s Hill is open Monday through Saturday and, each day, releases a limited number of paid Day Passes to protect the fragile ecosystems in the park. A great way to explore the beauty of this Brentwood gem is through a guided hike; Owl’s Hill offers Marshmallow Hikes in the late fall and winter (complete with marshmallow roasting, of course), nighttime Lantern Hikes, and Wildflower Hikes.

In addition to this collection of outdoor adventures that you won’t want to miss in Franklin, there are more than a dozen other parks around the county that invite guests to explore trails, creeks, and hilltop views. Add these spots to your to-see list:

Where will your outdoor adventures in Williamson County take you next?

Abbi is an adopted Tennessean who has fallen in love with the South—especially its people, warmth, and incomparable food. When she’s not telling stories or experimenting with family recipes, Abbi loves to explore new places with her husband Zach and dog Groot.