Horseback Riding the Natchez Trace in Mississippi
Experience the scenic beauty and history of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail on horseback.
The "Old Natchez Trace" is a historic forest trail that was used by wildlife, indigenous people, and early settlers. The 444-mile long footpath ran through Chickasaw and Choctaw land and served as an ancient highway connecting what is now Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Now a designated a National Scenic Trail, visitors can experience the landscape the way travelers did in the past--on foot or by horseback. The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail currently offers four developed horse trails, three of which are located in Mississippi. The Natchez Trace Parkway also offers access to the Witch Dance Horse Trail, which is one of the most popular horseback riding destinations in Mississippi.
Explore history on horseback on the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. Courtesy NPS Photo.
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Rocky Springs Section, Mississippi.
Located approximately thirty miles southwest of Jackson, Mississippi, near Port Gibson, the Rocky Springs trail offers eight miles of trail extending from the Utica-Regantown Road trailhead. Consisting of eight miles of challenging trail that crosses steep ravines and creeks, this trail is suited for the experienced trail rider looking for a challenge. Riders will also need to cross the Natchez Parkway motor road while riding this trail. The trail is accessed at Milepost 59. Click here for map.
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Yockanookany Section, Mississippi.
The Yockanookany Trail is located just north of Jackson, Mississippi. This out and back trail is 24 miles long and passes through several areas of historical significance. Known for beautiful views of wildflowers in the spring, this trail is also excellent for wildlife viewing, as it passes by the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area. Access can be gained from the Highway 43 trailhead at Milepost 115 of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Riders can choose to ride north on the trail for 16 miles, or south for about seven miles. Click here for map.
Riders take a leisurely group ride through the southern pines on the Yockanookany Trail. Courtesy NPS Photo.
Editors note: The National Parks Service has issued a statement regarding the current status of the Yockanookany Section trail:
"Partial closures are in effect for equestrian use of the Yockanookany section of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. The trail is unmaintained from the Highway 43 trailhead to the northern trail terminus and is closed to equestrian use but remains open to hiking. Horseback riders should observe posted closures. “Some boardwalks and trail bridges may not be safe for horses, so we have closed this portion of the trail to equestrian use until repairs can be made,” said Chief of Resource Management Lisa McInnis. “The trail is open as normal to equestrian use and hiking from the Highway 43 trailhead to the southern trail terminus. All users are reminded to use caution on the trail.”
Parkway officials are planning for crews to continue bridge replacements and make general trail repairs. Superintendent Mary Risser advised that trail users should expect the trail repairs for the northern 16 miles of trail to take several years. “Getting funding for trail repairs and executing contracts is a slow process, so we ask that people be patient. The good news is that we are building a volunteer program for the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail as a whole so that interested people can help maintain the trail,” said Risser.
For additional information about this project and the Parkway, please call (800) 305-7417".
Witch Dance Horse Trail in the Tombigbee National Forest, Mississippi
Steeped in history and folklore, The Witch Dance Horse Trail, which is located on the Trace Unit of the Tombigbee National Forest, is an 18-mile, multi-loop hiking and horseback riding trail. The trail winds through a variety of topography changes and forest settings. Local legends tell of a gathering of witches that was held in the area long ago, whose dancing caused the grass to die wherever their feet touched the earth. Pretty spooky--but this is still one of the most popular places to trail ride on horseback in Mississippi. Keep an eye out for the sign at Milepost 233.
Explore the Tombigbee National Forest on the Witch Dance Horse Trail. Courtesy NPS Photo.
Toilet facilities, hitching posts, and parking are provided at the trailhead by the Natchez Trace Parkway. Click here for map.
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Blackland Prairie Section, Mississippi
Located in southwest Tupelo, Mississippi, the Blackland Prairie Section horseback riding trail is a loop that stretches about three and a half miles. The trail leads riders through southern woodlands to the historic Chickasaw Village site. The trailhead can be accessed at Milepost 260. Click here for map.
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Highland Rim Section, Tennessee
This trail is located in the great state of Tennessee, but as part of the Natchez Trace horse trail system, it felt wrong to leave it out. Approximately 25 miles in length, the trail is located one mile south of Tennessee Highway 46 near the Leipers Fork Community, within the boundaries of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The trail can be accessed at Milepost 408 to 428. Click here for map.
About the Author: Mary Katherine Morris is an equine photographer and writer living in Birmingham, Alabama. Follow her on social media: Instagram: @marykatherinemorris Facebook: Mary Katherine Morris Photography. Visit her website at marykatherinemorris.com.