For many, one of the upsides of 2020 was rediscovering the peace and beauty in nature. From purchasing my first kayak to going on more hikes and walks, I tried to make the best of a pandemic that led us to eschew the indoors in favor of more outside adventures. Here are some places in and around Williamson County where you can spend more time in the great outdoors.

Biking

Opened in September, Wilkins Branch Mountain Bike Park is located in Leiper’s Fork on 156 acres of county-owned land. The park’s first phase is now open, and features miles of single-track bike routes for every stage of mountain biker.

5664 Wilkins Branch Road, Franklin TN 37064

Looking for a biking experience within the city limits?

The Franklin Mountain Bike Trail is located off Carothers Parkway and Southstar Drive, near Life Time Athletic Franklin. These trails are a partnership between the city and an adjacent apartment complex, located on nearly 5 acres of land. Both bike parks were created through a partnership with Outdoor Encounter, a nonprofit dedicated to creating more outdoor recreation opportunities.

7062 Southstar Dr, Franklin, TN 37067

Hiking, Walking & Trail Running

Outside of the Westhaven community, many Franklin residents may not realize miles of beautiful trails are just down the road. Totaling nine miles, the Westhaven Trail routes have become favorites of mine for trail running. Bonus: One of the trails ends at a picturesque spot with swings, perfect for picnicking.

The Grassmere trailhead is located at 1605 Grassmere Road, Franklin TN 37064

Located just over the eastern Franklin border in Brentwood is Marcella Vivrette Smith Park. Named for the Smith family who previously occupied the Ravenswood Mansion on the park grounds, the grounds offer six miles of trails for hiking. It’s also a starting point on the popular paved trail that runs north to Crockett Park for cyclists, runners, and walkers.

1825 Wilson Pike, Brentwood 37027

Located just off the Natchez Trace Parkway at Highway 96 West, Timberland Park has an interpretative center where you can learn about the property’s history as a logging operation. Picnicking space abounds, and the trails are suitable for beginners to those seeking a more challenging hike. Several trails connect with the Big East Fork Reserve at the bottom of the hollow, where you’ll see open fields and a pond.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mile Marker 437.2, Franklin 37064

Another less frequented trail along the Natchez Trace can be found at Garrison Creek. Located in Leiper’s Fork, the loop is a little over a mile. Trail runners, rejoice: The trailhead is also the start of the 20-mile Highland Rim Trail, which runs along the Trace and crosses multiple streams. Come prepared: sections of the trail run through briars, and the path is also traversed by horseback riders. For shorter hikes or runs, you can begin or end at the War of 1812 Memorial, Burns Branch, or the Tennessee Valley Divide.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Milepost 427.6, Leiper’s Fork 37064

Surely, you’ve walked the loop of Pinkerton Park before, but have you been up to Ft. Granger? The Union fort sits on a bluff overlooking the park. You can walk among the earthworks and catch a view of the Harpeth River along the boardwalk. Park at Pinkerton and walk up the hill where the trail diverges onto an unpaved path, or park at the fort and walk down if you want to complete the loop. If it’s a nice day, there are several hammock stands at the park.

113 Fort Granger Dr, Franklin 37064

Known as the crown jewel of Franklin Parks, The Park at Harlinsdale Farm is a great place for families. There’s a kayak launch, dog park, trails for walking and horseback riding, as well as a fishing pond and plenty of open space. A soon to be constructed bridge will cross the Harpeth River at the south edge of the park to connect to the Chestnut Bend neighborhood trails. Renovations of the property’s Hayes House and historic Main Barn will create event and museum space.

239 Franklin Rd, Franklin, TN 37064

Kayaking

With the Harpeth River right in our backyard, adventures on the river are as easy as finding a kayak, a friend to go with, and a vehicle to transport you! One of my favorite routes is from Ladd Park to Eastern Flank Battlefield Park, about five miles. Another favorite route is from the Williamson County Rec Center to Lynnwood Park. Make sure you consult the City of Franklin website for up-to-date launch location information and route maps before you go.

If you’re going solo, the five-mile Bells Bend loop at Narrows of the Harpeth is a beautiful, easy paddle. You can drop your kayak off at the start point, park at the takeout point, and walk back the half-mile to the put in to begin your voyage.

1254 Narrow of the Harpeth Road, Kingston Springs, TN 37082

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