When searching for hiking trails in Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg or the Prentice Cooper State Forest in Chattanooga might immediately come to mind. For those who call west Tennessee home, all hope is not lost. There are many hiking trails in and around Memphis to explore.
While Memphis has many campgrounds available, the options for overnight hikes in the area are limited. All of the trails mentioned in this post are day hikes that are small portions of larger state or local parks. The major difference between state park and national parks, aside from the size, is state parks are governed by state officials, while national parks are regulated by the federal government.
For the hikes listed, you don’t need any special gear or equipment, but as with most all hikes proper footwear ensures you will be comfortable and can focus on nature and not your aching feet. It’s also always best to prepare for anything, so bring a daypack with some snacks, water, bug spray, a first aid kit, and sunscreen.
As always, it’s important to remember to treat nature with respect and follow the golden rule of leaving no trace. Almost all of the trails listed are dog friendly, so make sure you bring something with you to clean up after your pets. Also, depending on the terrain, you might need to protect your furry companion’s paws. Never venture off trail, do not approach the wildlife, and take everything you brought in out with you.
In this post, we’re going to share 13 of the best day hiking trails ranging from 1 – 40 miles from downtown Memphis and ranked according to their distance from the city.
Top 13 Best Places for Hiking Near Memphis Tennessee
Old Forest State Natural Area – 1 Mile from Memphis
With an ecosystem dating back over 10,000 years, it’s easy to see why the Old Forest State Natural Area, located in Overton Park, is a popular trail for nature lovers. Visitors can enjoy over six miles of paved and unpaved walking and running trails that feature diverse plants, trees, and scenery boasting with a variety of wildlife.
This area is perfect bird watchers, trail runners, and hikers looking for an easy in-and-out trail that is well-maintained. There are three trailheads with limited parking availability, so get there early, especially on weekends. After your hike, make sure you allow time to enjoy a picnic at the East Parkway entrance, where tables, restrooms and water fountains are available.
Hiking at the Old State Natural Area is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and levels, and you do not need any special gear, like trekking poles, for these trails.
Mississippi River Greenbelt Park – 1 Mile from Memphis
The Mississippi River Greenbelt Park is a tree-lined 105-acre park located on Mud Island right outside of downtown Memphis. There is a 1.5-mile trail that lines the length of the park, as well as bike racks and plenty of parking.
The Mississippi River Greenbelt Park is lightly trafficked and is hugged by the Mississippi River. This easy nature walk is a great way to view the Mighty Mississippi and try to catch a glimpse of the Mississippi River’s cruise boat, the Queen Mississippi.
This trail is perfect for dogs and strollers, and there are plenty of places to rest, skip rocks on the river, take in views, and people watch. With its close location to downtown Memphis, you can easily see Graceland and the Mississippi River Greenbelt Park in one afternoon.
Audubon Park – 9 Miles from Memphis
Located right next to the University of Memphis and some of Memphis’s top tourist attractions, including The Pink Palace, the Memphis Zoo, and the Memphis Botanic Gardens, Audubon Park is a must see. There is a 3-mile round trip paved loop trail that is well marked and lightly trafficked.
This shaded trail is great for all skill levels and is primarily used for hiking, trail running, biking and dog walking. Visitors on this trail can expect to see a variety of trees, and there are plenty of benches available to take a break and enjoy the nature around them. The Audubon Park trail is excellent for beginners and families wanting to enjoy an adventure outside.
T.O. Fuller State Park – 9 Miles from Memphis
T.O. Fuller State Park was the first state park open for African Americans east of the Mississippi River in 1938. The park has over eight miles of hiking trails ranging in length from 0.5 miles to 4.0 miles. This inner-city park is one of the only locations within the city that is suitable for wildlife.
The trails are mostly shaded and feature bridges crossing creeks, elevation gains and losses, and beautiful wild flora. In addition to the plants, if you’re lucky, visitors might even catch a glimpse of the dams and families of beavers who created the pond east of Mitchell Road. T.O. Fuller State Park can be accessed year-round and is dog friendly. All of the trails are marked and easy to follow, but be aware that this park is close to the road and traffic can be heard from some areas on trail.
Stanky Creek Trail – 14 Miles from Memphis
Stanky Creek Trail is a 9-mile loop trail located in Nesbit Park in Bartlett, TN. It is heavily trafficked, especially on the weekends, and is great for hiking, biking, and running. There are three connected trails ranging in length from 2 to 6.5 miles. While it’s hard to find yourself totally lost on this trail, it is recommended that you bring a map with you, as the trail is not entirely marked.
Visitors should also note that there are many switchbacks on this trail. The Stanky Creek Trail is unpaved, so proper footwear should be worn to help prevent any accidents that could occur due to the exposed tree roots on trail. This trail is great for families and hikers of all levels. It’s also dog friendly.
Lucius Burch Natural Area – 17 Miles from Memphis
The Lucius Burch Natural Area is over 700 acres and is part of the 6,000-acre county park, Shelby Farms. The trailhead is located south of the Agricenter off of Germantown Road at the Wolf River Nature Area. There are three Wolf River trails: yellow, blue, and white.
Combined the three trails are eight miles in length, most of which is paved. In the Lucius Burch Natural Area, you can expect to see historic river meanders, bald cypress-water tupelo swamps, bottomland hardwood forests, and an open river habitat.
The terrain features steady inclines, declines, and boardwalks and bridges that pass over flowing creeks. This is a great area for those who enjoy hiking, trail running, walking, and bike riding. Dogs are also allowed on this trail, as long as they are leashed.
Humphrey’s Trail – 17 Miles from Memphis
Humphrey’s Trail is another great option located in the Wolf River Nature Area on the Wolf River Greenway. This 4.7-mile lightly trafficked loop runs parallel to Wolf River. The path is paved, making it perfect for hiking, biking, and jogging, and it is accessible year round.
Visitors should note that while the trail is completely paved, there may be some areas where strollers or wheelchairs may be hard to maneuver due to steep inclines and declines.
Shelby Farms Chickasaw Trail – 18 Miles from Memphis
The Shelby Farms Chickasaw Trail is a 2.8-mile heavily trafficked loop located in the northern portion of Shelby Farms Park. Visitors on this trail can expect to see three lakes, flowing creeks, lush greenery, and local wildlife. The Shelby Farms Chickasaw Trail is best used year round and is great for hikers of all levels.
Bikers, walkers, joggers, and inline skaters share this trail, and it passes right by the Woodland Discovery Playground, making it a perfect option for families with young children.
Agricenter Sunflower Trail – 19 Miles from Memphis
The Agricenter Sunflower Trail is a relatively newly developed bike and pedestrian friendly trail that is approximately one mile in length. During the summer months, visitors can expect to see thousands of sunflowers that grow parallel to the trail, but another feature of the trail that is often out-shined by the beautiful flora is the chance to see production crops, such as cotton, soybeans, and corn, research plots, and the solar farm up close. This trail was created as a way to connect visitors to community farmers, and when in season, visitors can check out the pick-your-own strawberry patch, courtesy of the Agricenter.
The Agricenter Sunflower Trail is an easy, flat stretch that is great for hikers of all skill levels, families, and dogs. As an added bonus, the trail offers walking and biking access to the Agricenter farmers market, where local farmers sell fresh fruits and vegetables.
Woodland Trail – 20 Miles from Memphis
The Woodland Trail is a 2.8-mile round trip hiking trail located in the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in Millington, TN. This trail is lightly trafficked and features beautiful wild flowers, rivers and creeks, and various wildlife.
It is both kid and dog friendly and is great for road biking, trail running, and bird watching. Visitors should note that there are two halves to this trail. The portion to the left is more strenuous and has many elevation gains and losses. There are benches and plenty of spots to rest near the more challenging spots on the trail. There are also many trail markers and signs available, making it easy to decide how far you want to travel.
For this hike, it’s recommended that you wear proper footwear, bring plenty of water and remember to pack bug spray.
International Harvest Managerial Park Trail at Lakeland – 20 Miles from Memphis
The International Harvest Managerial Park, or I.H. Park, is located in Lakeland, TN, which is approximately 20 miles from Memphis. This 65-acre park features over two miles of hiking and biking trails, a 5-acre fishing lake, an amphitheater, pavilion, picnic tables, and a portable restroom.
There are three trails that you can choose from: red, yellow, and blue. They are all connected, making it easy to tackle all three in one day or allowing you to take your time and explore each trail.
Hikers can expect to see rolling hills, creeks, seasonal foliage, and local wildlife on this trail. There are many elevation gains and losses, but the I.H. Park trail is perfect for hikers of all skill levels. This trail is also biker and dog friendly.
Old Wagon Trail – 32 Miles from Memphis
The Old Wagon Trail is a paved 1.1-mile round trip trail that is part of the Collierville Greenbelt, an 18.38-mile alternative transportation system with connections to commercial and residential areas. The Wagon Trail, specifically, provides access to two of Collierville’s major parks.
Traveling on this trail feels like going back in time. During the Civil War, the Wagon Trail was used by American Indians as a way to access Peterson Lake. To this day, visitors can still walk, bike, or jog the Old Wagon Trail to Peterson Lake, and can expect to see mature hardwood trees on both sides of the trail.
Herb Parsons Lake Trail – 36 Miles from Memphis
The Herb Parsons Lake Trail is an approximately 7-mile loop trail located in Collierville, TN. It is lightly trafficked and best used from September until June. The trail starts at Herb Parsons Lake, winds through the wooded area and ends back at the lake.
The trail is comprised of three different paths ranked in difficulty by color, with red being the most difficult and green being the easiest. The path is well defined and features bridges and stunning views of lush greenery. There are also signs to help you identify the trees around you. Visitors should be mindful of the exposed roots on the trail, as it’s not paved.
Whether you’re hoping to get in a quick nature break in the middle of the week or you want to spend the day in the great outdoors, there’s a trail for everyone in the Memphis area. Lace up your hiking shoes, get out there and explore!
Looking for hikes in East Tennessee? Check out our list here.