The Ultimate Outdoor Itineraries for Exploring Franklin

The deep freeze we experienced in Franklin just a few months ago is a distant memory now. The hills of Williamson County have exploded with verdant greens, punctuated with neon redbuds and sparkling white dogwoods. It’s time to get outside.

Regardless of skill level or time available, opportunities abound to hike, bike, paddle and explore. 

In downtown Franklin, there’s plenty to see and do on foot, via a Pedego electric bicycle, or even astride a SegwayFranklin Walking Tours also offers a host of group and private guide-led tours, from the historical to the supernatural. Or strike out on your own, with a self-guided tour from the Visitor Center.

The City of Franklin’s 18-park system includes preserved historic open spaces perfect for a nature stroll, all connected by a network of sidewalks and trails through the core of the city. From the northern gateway into downtown at The Park at Harlinsdale Farm—a renowned horse breeding operation before it was acquired for public use—you can walk the pastures on a mown turf trail, past the historic barns and homes that comprised the 200-acre farm for decades. A four-acre dog park, fishing pond, and scenic overlook are among the highlights, and you may see horses on the trails or in the equestrian arena. Be sure to visit The Factory at Franklin, just across Franklin Road, for great food, drinks, and shopping. Mojo’s Tacos is a local favorite.

If you’re looking for playgrounds and a paved walking trail, then Pinkerton Park on Murfreesboro Road is a must-visit. A short hike over the bridge and up to Fort Granger provides a fun and educational tour through the earthworks created by Federal troops during the Civil War.

And the Eastern Flank Battlefield Park, another expansive property saved from development to become a city park, sits on Lewisburg Pike. Here, interpretive signage along the trail through 110 acres dives deeper into Franklin’s legacy. The Eastern Flank is adjacent to Carnton, historic cemeteries and gardens, and plenty to explore. 

It’s worth noting, too, that all three of these parks feature public canoe launches. Even if you didn’t bring a float, the scenic and shallow Harpeth River is a perfect place to splash around or go fishing, and these are easy access points.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to do some paddling, then Paddle Dog is the place to be. Located in the Westhaven neighborhood on New Highway 96, you can rent a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board, get a gourmet hot dog, and spend a few hours soaking up the sunshine on the 13-acre lake. If you’re hungry, visit Scout’s Pub or Coal Town Public House for casual dining.

Bonus: Being on the west side of Franklin means you’re halfway to the iconic double-arch bridge of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Take the exit onto the Trace and you’re at Timberland Park, with its three miles of forested trails, an interpretive center, a butterfly garden, and more. Then continue south down the scenic parkway to the quaint little village of Leiper’s Fork exit and stop at Fox & Locke for lunch or dinner.

If more adventure is what you’re after, then consider renting an electric mountain bike at Franklin Bicycle Company and hitting the groomed trails that have been established in Williamson County. Wilkins Branch Mountain Bike Park, for instance, offers 13 trails—beginner through advanced—that wind through six miles and 167 acres of picturesque hills, and another several miles of dedicated dirt are currently being constructed within both the more urban Cool Springs Mountain Bike Trail in Franklin and the Marcella Vivrette Smith Park in Brentwood, a 400-acre historic homestead that also features six miles of hikes on four trails (easy to challenging), the ca. 1825 Ravenswood Mansion, a playground, picnic shelter, and more.

If there’s still energy in the tank, head to SOAR Adventure Tower, four levels of 110 climbing elements designed for family fun for kids and adults of all ages. The facility, located on Carothers Parkway just off I-65 in Franklin, offers mini golf as well and is easily located to get back to downtown Franklin in a breeze. Consider the Franklin Chop House for a scratch-cooked Southern meal on your way.

No matter where you find yourself in Williamson County, there’s something to explore behind every curve.