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181 Garrison Creek Trail 2010-01-25

Overlooking Garrison Creek

We were going to South Cumberland State Park for our weekly hike, but because of the wet weather we changed our plans. Staying closer to home we drove to the Natchez Trace Parkway to explore the Garrison Creek area.

We parked a few miles south of the Garrison Creek at the Burns Branch picnic area. From our trailhead it was six miles to Garrison Creek and back. The Old Trace (the original Natchez Trace pathway) was easy to find and follow. We just followed the horse tracks.

Yes, we were on a horse trail.

Though we had previously learned the lesson, never hike on a horse trail, from a trip we had taken to the Big South Fork; we were hiking one again. We don’t mind horses or their trails, we just don’t like hiking on the trails! On this day the trail was wet, muddy, rutted, and overgrown on the sides. The horses had had a huge impact on the trail. In places the ruts were over three feet deep and the mud was over our shoe tops.

After reaching the Old Trace parking area (about half way), the trail widened and there was less erosion. It was about two miles to Garrison Creek from there. At Garrison Creek we found crossing the creek was going to take a thigh deep ford. After searching in vain for drier alternatives we decided not to continue on the loop trail. Returning to the Garrison Creek rest area we ate lunch and then retraced our steps back to the car.

We were disappointed that we did not complete the trail. We had two creek crossings to ford. The first was deeper (we did not see the second) than we would have liked. We chose not to continue. Amy said it felt like not making a summit in the mountains. I’d have to agree, but the crossings were not worth the wetness.

A few trail notes:

  • The Old Trace is a horse trail. The horse impact was evident. It was not fun to hike.
  • The National Park map indicates the Old Trace is a hiking trail.
  • The National Park Natchez Trace web page does not even mention hiking as an activity! They do note horse riding.
  • At Garrison Creek is a large horse trailer parking area.
  • The overall trail condition was sad. There were severe erosion issues.
  • There were no bridges on the horse trails - horses don’t need bridges.
  • From Garrison Creek rest area, there is a great "hiking only" trail to an overlook.
  • A longer loop continues from the overlook and up the ridge to the Old Trace. Turn left at the junction and follow the Old Trace back to Garrison Creek parking.
  • Sections of the Old Trace were in better shape.
  • It was wet when we hiked.
  • In the winter, views from the trail were numerous. Farms were very close to the trail - like it or not.
  • We saw five other hikers on the trail.
  • We walked a total of 8.5 miles.
  • Restrooms and water were located at Garrison Creek (mile 427.)
  • We will not do a Garrison Trail page on cloudhiking.com.

We didn’t like the trail. But, we don’t like hiking on horse trails. So our advice is to leave the Old Trace to the horses and hike somewhere else!

Happy horse trails, as long as they are without us walking them.


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