Franklin’s hiking and biking trails are one of its best-kept secrets; they offer welcome relief from the crowded park trails and greenways in the area. I’ve spent the last couple of years exploring miles of trails across Williamson County. Here are my favorite places to get outside and explore the great outdoors.
Locals consider Timberland Park one of Williamson County’s greatest hidden treasures and I have to agree. Located on the Natchez Trace Parkway just South of the Hwy 96 entrance in Franklin, this little-known park contains more than three miles of secluded trails and never has more than a handful of visitors. My go-to trail here is a 2.5-mile loop trail the park created in partnership with Big East Fork next door. It’s called the Big East Fork Reserve Trail and it’s really wonderful any time of year. You’ll head deep into lush forest, out into a beautiful meadow with a pond and lots of birds and wildlife, then head back into the forest and return alongside a creek and cave spring. Maps for Timberland Park and the Big East Fork Reserve Trail can be downloaded online. You’ll definitely want to keep a map handy the first few times you visit.
Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary
Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary, a privately owned nature preserve and owl sanctuary is open to the public Monday through Saturday — Pay for and print out a $5 day pass on the website and show it to an employee once you arrive and you’ll be good to go on the trails. I can assure you the cost of admission is absolutely worth it for the privilege of hiking here. In spring, endless varieties of wildflowers abound and delightful surprises await at the end of every path. You can opt for a short and sweet family hike or make it more challenging — I hiked all the trails here on my last visit and went 4.5 miles that included plenty of heart rate-raising hills and lovely views of the surrounding countryside. It’s definitely one of my favorite spring hikes in all of Middle Tennessee. Be sure and download a map before you go.
*During the current COVID-19 situation, and to practice social distancing, only 30 day passes are available per day.
Looking for an easy loop trail with eye-catching scenery? Deerwood Arboretum is for you. The arboretum’s one-mile paved walking trail winds around a small meadow, through a forest, and along the Little Harpeth River. It’s great for jogging, walking with small children, or getting your leashed dog out for a little exercise. Take the experience up a notch by printing out the arboretum’s tree identification guide — The trail boasts more than 60 species and this guide will help you find them!
You will be mightily impressed by the stunning Preservation Park in bucolic Thompson’s Station — and the drive on back roads to get there is equally lovely. The park’s 3.4-mile Battlefield Trail takes you through rolling pasture land (where a Civil War battle was once fought) up to the top of a massive grassy hill with 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside — Reaching the top of the hill is a true Sound of Music moment. Continue on into the woods and then if you like, connect to the Depot Trail and head out to the dog park and community garden before following alongside train tracks back to where you began. We only recently discovered this park and it’s an absolute treasure. We can’t wait to go back!
Marcella Vivrette Smith Park
This relatively new Brentwood space, Marcella Vivrette Smith Park, contains six miles of fantastic trails that wind through both forest and fields and take you past the historic Ravenswood Mansion, built in 1825. It’s a great pick for anyone looking for a more challenging workout — You’ll climb plenty of hills on these trails! Hikes here are known for wildlife sightings that often include deer and wild turkeys, and locals enjoy this trail system because it’s never crowded with people. Download a map of trails here.
Bowie Nature Park
Bowie Nature Park’s 17 miles of trails are a favorite with my kids, and I have to agree this Fairview park has some of the best hiking in all of Middle Tennessee. We love it for its pine forest (planted many decades ago by Dr. Evangeline Bowie), its lovely rocky stream, and its plethora of ponds and lakes. You can opt for a short walk here or a longer, more challenging one — The choice is yours! Since the trails intersect often, you’ll definitely want a map before striking out. Download it here.
Inside Franklin’s sprawling Westhaven community is a delightful surprise — a sizable expanse of protected forest with nine miles of public trails created and maintained by neighbors. They are perfect for those looking for solitude and a bit of a challenge. The hilly, rocky terrain here is heavily forested and its many ups and downs will give you a great workout. Get maps for the trails by downloading REI’s Trail Run Project app. Use it to track your location in real-time. The trailhead is located at 1610 Grassmere Rd. Park on the street.
Other Williamson County trails:
Harlinsdale Farm: This historic 200-acre farm includes a public 5k soft track perfect for walking or running.
Pinkerton Park: This popular Franklin city park includes a paved one-mile walking trail. Behind Pinkerton Park, you’ll find Fort Granger, where a .7 mile trail takes you to a scenic overlook with some of the best views of Franklin you’ll find anywhere.
City of Brentwood Trail System: This system of paved trails connects several city parks and is perfect for hiking, jogging, or riding bikes. Download a map of the trail system here.