Nashville Urban Hike
By Chef Corso
East Nashville –> Downtown –> Around and Back – 12ish miles
The great part about any urban hike is that there isn’t really a specific path or plan. The idea is just to start walking and see where the roads and paths take you.
For this Northern boy, I was excited.
I started this hike in East Nashville and just walked out the door.
You might think Nashville isn’t well known for being walkable, and you’d probably be right but that doesn’t mean it’s not doable.
It was a gorgeous Fall day, 65-70 degrees, sunny and windy to start. But the leaves were in prime late season form and the breeze coming through strewn those guys all along my path.
The first section of the hike was through residential neighborhoods of Porter Heights and Lockeland Springs. Some old house, some extremely new as this area continues to rebuild after a tornado in 2020 as well as some city growth gentrification.
I love seeing these older neighborhoods along a walk. Plus the maple, oak and gingko trees this time of year were great.
Most of these neighborhoods had sidewalks or a bike/walking path, but I did have to be mindful of traffic in a few places. Another factor for any Urban Hike is safety. Making sure you’re taking a route that is safe enough with passing traffic.
I walked generally toward downtown but headed South to enter the Shelby Bottoms Greenway which is a long reserve with great walking trails and lagoons all centered around a dormant small airport.
I walked until I hit the Cumberland River, then headed West toward downtown.
You might be asking…what do you listen to on a long hike like this, if anything? For me, it’s usually a mix of music that fits the mood and an audio book. It’s a great time to plow through a couple hours of a good book.
This next area was pretty industrial; passing a fuel refinery, go kart track, lighting store and counter top supply store. You might think these types of areas are gross to not that interesting, but I disagree. Sure, they are flowers, gardens and architecture in other parts of town but this is all part of any city. The “normal” stuff that keeps the wheels moving.
As I kept walking, about 1.5 hours into the walk, the city popped into view.
As I got closer through more industrial areas, Nissan Stadium, the AT&T building (locally known as the batman building) became more prominent as well as other notable skyline pieces.
I kept walking to Nissan stadium where there is a nice wide pedestrian bridge shooting right into downtown. Awesome and helpful. This crosses the Cumberland and gets you right into the famous Broadway area. If you don’t know this, Broadway is THE spot to be of Nashville. More music than you fathom at all times of day, restaurants and more music.
(Side note: the locals tell me that you can park at Nissan for free or cheap when there isn’t a game going on. This is a great spot to start for any urban hike in Nashville and gets you to the goods a little quicker plus opens up some areas around the campuses of Vanderbilt, Belmont and Lipscomb which are quite pretty or even the famous Parthenon re-creation.)
I’ve done the Broadway thing before and at this point, I was getting pretty hungry. So I charged walking through The Gulch neighborhood to Arnolds. A note here: As Nashville as been growing over the last few years, the Broadway area has blown up. A JW Marriott, a new Four Season hotel surrounding the convention center plus other supporting food halls and entertainment options. Then we have about 3 blocks of “older style Nashville” getting into the Gulch area where some new restaurants, bars and condos are popping up.
I arrive at around 11:30 with the dining room already 80% occupied but no line. Filled with construction works, lunch meetings, families and college kids. Really a place for all.
I surveyed the menu for the day, grabbed my tray and made my play. What to eat, what to eat. But man, I wanted everything. I debated between the roast beef (classic) and the fried pork chop for a good few minutes. The sides were a bit easier as I’m a sucker for any greens and okra is a treat any time you can find them.
I went with the roast beef, mashed pots and gravy, stewed okra, greens and cornbread.
All this cost me about $11.50 and just classic awesome. None of the dishes were slap you in the face flavorful, but the whole plate is just down home goodness. A couple shots of hot sauce, squeeze of lemon and I was a happy hiker.
Now that my belly was full and my main destination was met, now…how to get back home.
I backtracked through downtown, passing the famous Ryman Auditorium and a few of the office buildings. I walked North to find a bridge to pass back over the Cumberland and shoot back into East Nashville. I will say for all things comparable, downtown Nashville. It is easily walkable with about 15-20 from end to end. There are a bunch of great neighborhoods just outside of downtown that are definitely worth exploring with a few more minutes walking.
Another note for any urban hike. If you get tired, there’s always an uber, taxi or now scooters in most cities that can give you a rest of help finish off your day. But I like the challenge of making it door to door with my two feet.
After crossing back into East Nashville, my feet started to get a little tired but knew I didn’t have too much left to go. And the pretty Fall day was just a delight…why did I want to hurry and finish this?
East Nash has some awesome hot chicken places, bars and restaurants as well as some great little commerce pockets.
The last few miles were filled to changing leaves and listening to a new book. All told I was walking from 9:30am – 3:30pm and covered over 12 miles. What a great walk! What a great day of exploring a new city on foot!
If you concerned about a hike in your city, jump on google maps and do a little research on the best and safest route. But most of it is mental. Just head outside your door and get walking. Half of the fun is exploring new paths and areas that may have been hidden in plain site this whole time. Also if 10-12 miles is too much for you…no problem. Find something that works for you.
Get out there and explore!