Get Outdoors


Memphis has its share of the great outdoors.

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. — Kahlil Gibran

MEMPHIS HAS CREATED a successful marriage between lively urban life and classic country fun. With numerous local and state parks, Memphis has plenty of places to bike, jog, paddle, play, and fish.

The crown jewel in the Memphis outdoors would have to be Shelby Farms Park — and within the decade, the Park went from being the best of the city to the class of the world. With a Master Plan implemented by the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, the Park will underwent a transformation in several phases.

The vision for Shelby Farms Park is “One Park, One Million Trees, Twelve Landscapes.” The entire community has benefited from the Park for generations — and future citizens and businesses will be able to get even more out when you factor in the civic-engagement and economic-development aspects of the bold plan.

Rivers and lakes are in abundance throughout the Memphis landscape, bringing the opportunity for water sports to the city folk. For a mysterious and scenic interaction with water, visit the Ghost River — a part of the larger Wolf River system that’s popular with kayak and canoe enthusiasts. Of course, there’s always the Mighty Mississippi as well, for water sports or just a great view.

Bicyclers also have plenty to love around Memphis. Miles of scenic trails give riders a variety of options, whether they’re beginners or more advanced cyclists. A highlight: the cycling route that runs alongside the Mississippi River and through downtown Memphis — connecting the city to 10 states of bike trails. For more information, go to www.mississippirivertrail.org.

For hikers and joggers, there are numerous parks in the area that create a scenic environment for outdoor exercise. In Shelby Farms, a web of scenic trails stretches across the 4,500-acre park. Outside Shelby County, there are plenty more parks that pepper the Mid-South. For more information about nearby greens in Tennessee, visit www.tennesseetrails.org.

Hunting and fishing opportunities also abound in the Memphis area. For deer and small game, the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park has an 11,000-acre natural area, managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. Visit www.tnstateparks.com/parks/about/meeman-shelby

For those who love fishing, the nearby Ozark Mountains contain three of the best trout streams in the country: the White River, North Fork River, and Little Red River. For more information see the Arkansas Game and Fish Commision at www.agfc.com

For more information on hunting, fishing, boating, and wildlife watching in Tennessee, visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency at www.state.tn.us/twra.

Below, we profile the best places to bike, jog, hike, and paddle. For more information on specific activities or to meet fellow nature-lovers, contact one of the many organizations on our list. All phone numbers are area code 901 unless otherwise noted.

Quick Links: Biking  |  Hiking  |  Paddling

Biking

Arkabutla Lake | (662) 562-6261 
www.mvk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/ArkabutlaLake
This five-mile loop begins in picnic area 761 and turns into a scenic out-of-town mountain bike ride.

Shelby Farms Greenline | (901) 222-7275 shelbyfarmspark.org/shelbyfarmsgreenline
The Shelby Farms Greenline is a 6.5 mile urban trail that connects Shelby Farms to midtown Memphis - the largest of its kind in the country. Shelby Farms Park offers bike rentals from spring to fall.

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park | (901) 876-5215 
tnstateparks.com/parks/about/meeman-shelby
This state park offers moderate-to-hard climbs up and down river bluffs with beautiful vistas of the river.

Memphis City Bike Lanes www.memphistn.gov/Government/ParksNeighborhoods/BikeRoutes.aspx
Cyclists can enjoy 60+ miles of city streets for on road, shared roadway bike route tours.  There are five "neighborhood" tours and one larger "Memphis" route tour.  The routes are used for both recreation and commuting. 

Mississippi River Trail | (479) 236-0938 www.mississippirivertrail.org/
The Mississippi River Trail (MRT) has been awarded Millennium Trail status and features two main sections for Memphians to ride:

  • Memphis to Points North This ride begins at the downtown Welcome Center, passes The Pyramid, and then travels along the edge of the river through shaded country roads.
  • Memphis to Helena, AR This is a newly marked section of the MRT that takes riders 80 miles south to the historic river town of Helena, Arkansas, home of the world-famous King Biscuit Blues Festival, held every fall. A trip that just so happens to coincide with the music festival might just be the best of both worlds.

Stanky Creek
North on Bartlett Road to Yale Road, and then turn left. The parking lot is on your right. This trail system has approximately eight miles of trails to choose from. Highly technical, this tight and twisty single-track features abundant switchbacks.  Not recommended for beginner riders.

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Hiking

Arkabutla Lake Trail | (662) 562-6261 |
www.mvk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/ArkabutlaLake
This five-mile loop offers great views of the surrounding forest, and is especially spectacular in the fall.

Fort Pillow State Park | (731) 738-5581 | tnstateparks.com/parks/about/fort-pillow
Because of its bluff top views, this 1,642 acre park offers some of the most impressive hikes along the Mississippi River, as well as a rich Civil War history – a great place for a day trip.

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park | 876-5215 |
tnstateparks.com/parks/about/meeman-shelby

Just a short drive from Memphis, this park offers more than 20 miles of hiking trails through mature forests, along bluff tops, and in the bottomlands of the Mississippi River.

Mud Island Greenbelt Park | (901) 312-9190 |
memphisriverfront.com/venue/greenbeltpark
This two-mile multi-use path parallels the Mississippi River and is a favorite hike in the Downtown area. When combined with the dirt path on the grassy banks of the river, the park offers a nice four-mile walk. Time it right and you can watch the sun go down over the water.

Shelby Farms Greenline  | (901) 222-7275 | shelbyfarmspark.org/shelbyfarmsgreenline
The Shelby Farms Greenline is a 6.5 mile urban trail that connects Shelby Farms to midtown Memphis - the largest of its kind in the country. 

Shelby Farms Park(901) 222-7275 shelbyfarmspark.org
Spreading across 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms is one of the largest parks in the nation; almost five times the size of New York City’s Central Park. Drop by the visitor’s center for more information.

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Paddling

Big Hill Pond State Park | (731) 645-7967 | tnstateparks.com/parks/about/big-hill-pond
The park encompasses approximately 5,000 acres of magnificent timberland, Cypress Creek, the Tuscumbia River, Travis McNatt Lake, and Big Hill Pond.  Many smaller oxbow lakes and swamp areas further add to the waterway and make the park a great place to watch the local wildlife during a pleasant flatwater float.

Buffalo River | perrycountytennessee.com/community/outdoors-lifestyles/buffalo-river
This National and Scenic Wild River offers a relaxing float trip and great fishing. The Wayne and Perry Counties section is designated a class I/II river with regular waves and occasional rapids. Plenty of canoe liveries service the river and can help you on your way.

Cadron Creek | arkansas.com/outdoors/canoeing-rafting-kayaking/cadron-creek.aspx
Between Greenbrier and Damascus, Arkansas, this beautiful Ozark wilderness stream twists its way through tall bluffs, pinnacles, caves, and uncut timber. Depending on rainfall, this stream varies from a pleasant float to challenging whitewater and even dangerous flood conditions, so be sure to check the water level before you paddle.

Spring River | (870) 856-3210 arkansas.com/places-to-go/lakes-rivers/river.aspx
This stretch of water near Hardy, Arkansas, is fed year-round by Mammoth Spring near the Arkansas/Missouri border. The peak season is the warm spring-to-fall months when the river becomes crowded with daytrippers. The river consists of quiet pools and small ledges, which can make the relaxing float fun and especially interesting at times.

Wolf River Ghost River Section | (901) 452-6500 wolfriver.org
The Ghost River section is a paddler’s delight: a beautiful 14-mile section of the Wolf River that flows from LaGrange, Tennessee, to the Bateman Bridge near Moscow. This spring-fed waterway is rich in wetlands and wildlife.

Paddling Clubs and Organizations
Contact the wide community of regional paddlers and water enthusiasts for more information.

American Whitewater
www.americanwhitewater.org

Bluff City Canoe Club
www.bluffcitycanoeclub.org

Memphis Whitewater
www.memphiswhitewater.com

Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association
www.paddletsra.org

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