4 Day Camping Road Trip along the Natchez Trace Parkway

Day 1

Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez, MS

Spend the day doing the Natchez Pilgrimage Tour and exploring the historic buildings of Natchez.

  1. Start at the Natchez Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is a one-stop shop where you can buy tickets that will grant you access to the many antebellum homes featured on the Pilgrimage Tour. Here you can also view exhibits and watch a short film on the history of Natchez and its surrounding area. Allow for 30 minutes to one hour.
  2. Spend three hours of the morning on the Pilgrimage Tour and visit three antebellum homes. Not to be missed are:
    1. Longwood – a grand, six-story octagonal house with a floor area of 30,000 square meters. Built for Haller Nutt and his wife Julia Williams Nutt, only the first floor of this house was made habitable; the Civil War dawned before the house could be completed.
    2. Stanton Hall – a mansion in Natchez famous for its Greek Revival architecture. It was built for Frederick Stanton, a noted planter and cotton broker of his time. Stanton Hall has many features, fixtures and elements imported from Europe. Most of its antique treasures are still housed in the Hall.
    3. Rosalie – formerly a headquarters of the Union Army during the Civil War. Rosalie is most noted by scholars for being the prototype of many antebellum houses found throughout the South. The mansion was originally built for Peter Little.
  3. Visit the Natchez National Historic Park. This NHP preserves three distinct edifices, namely: a) Fort Rosalie, a fortification built by the French and was the site of the Natchez Indians massacre by the French in 1729; b) Melrose, a Greek Revival mansion that served as the home of state senator John T. McMurran; and c) the William Johnson House, home of barber William Johnson, a free African-American whose diaries gave modern scholars precious insights to his life and the age in which he lived. Allow at least 1.5 hours for this visit.
  4. Stop by the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians. The Grand Village was the center of the Natchez Indian nation until 1729. Located on the banks of St. Catherine Creek, the village is home to various ceremonial mounds and other archaeological finds. Spend at least 30 minutes exploring the Grand Village.
  5. Spend the night at one of the campgrounds near Natchez.

Day 2

The ruins consist of 23 standing Corinthian columns of the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion ever built in the state.[4] The mansion stood from 1861 to 1890, when it was destroyed by fire. The 2.1-acre (0.85 ha) site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1985

Natchez to Rocky Springs – 60 Miles

  1. Drive onto Natchez Trace Parkway. At MP 10, visit Emerald Mound. Emerald Mound is the second largest ceremonial mound found in the US, rising 35 feet high and covering eight acres. Built by the Mississippians in around 1200 AD, Emerald Mound served as a site for burials as well as for civic and religious rituals. Emerald Mound can be found 10 miles northeast of Natchez. Spend at least 30 minutes here.
  2. Continue on to Mount Locust at MP 15.5. To understand the significance of Mount Locust, one must understand the story of the Kaintucks. The Kaintucks were boatmen from the Ohio River Valley who floated on flatboats on the Mississippi River all the way to New Orleans to trade their goods. Rather than fight against the strong currents of the Mississippi River on their way back home, the Kaintucks sold the salvageable lumber on their flatboats and trudged back home on the Natchez Trace. By 1785, there were so many of these Kaintucks traveling along the Old Trace that a couple named William and Paulina Ferguson decided to offer their home – Mount Locust – as a “stand” or inn. For 25 cents, a weary Kaintuck traveler can sleep under the Ferguson roof and enjoy a dinner of cornmeal. Mount Locust, however, was more than just a stand. It was a working farm that housed slaves until after the Civil War. It was the home of five generations of Chamberlains, descended from Paulina and her second husband, James Chamberlain. Allow at least one hour to visit Mount Locust.
  3. Continue to MP 30 and then take the 552 to see the Windsor Ruins near Port Gibson. Did you know that Port Gibson was deemed too beautiful to burn by Major General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War? And so Windsor was spared from being reduced to ashes. Unfortunately, some 30 years after the war, a careless guest left a lighted cigar on a balcony and caused the mansion to be destroyed by fire, leaving only 23 Corinthian columns behind. During the Civil War, Windsor was a Confederate outpost and then a Union hospital. It was built for Smith Daniell as the crown jewel of his 2,600-acre plantation. Allow 30 minutes.
  4. Near the Windsor Ruins is the Port Gibson Battlefield. The Battlefield was one of the sites of Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi. Here, Grant engaged the Army of Tennessee led by Brigadier General John S. Bowen. The Confederate defeat on this site enabled the Union to secure their Mississippi River beachhead and open the way to Vicksburg. Allow 30 minutes minimum.
  5. Drive on to Port Gibson, the town Grant said was too beautiful to burn down. Port Gibson is the third-oldest European settlement in Mississippi. Points of interest here include the First Presbyterian Church, famous for the golden sculpture of a hand on its steeple; the Gemiluth Chessed Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Mississippi and the only example of Moorish Revival architecture in the state; and the Allen Collection Exhibit at the City Hall, which features photographs of Port Gibson during the early 1900s. Allow 1 hour minimum.
  6. Stop at MP 41.5 and hike a portion of the Old Natchez Trace at Sunken Trace. Sunken Trace is a deeply eroded part of the Old Trace. It reflects the harsh conditions travelers had to face when trekking the Old Trace, including deadly insect bites, snakes, swamps, lack of proper food and shelter, bandits and unfriendly Indians. It only takes five to ten minutes to hike the Sunken Trace.
  7. Continue to Rocky Springs at MP 54.8. Once a prosperous community that grew from the rocky springs which provided an important source of water in the area, Rocky Springs is now a ghost town. The Civil War and a number of natural calamities drove the town’s residents away. Take a quick walking tour of the town before spending the night here at the Rocky Springs campground.

Day 3

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Rocky Springs to Jeff Busby – 150 Miles

  1. Come off Natchez Trace Parkway and head to Vicksburg National Military Park. Vicksburg NMP was the site of the Battle of Vicksburg, a 47-day siege that gave the Union the key to the Mississippi River and served as one of the major turning points of the Civil War. You can get orientated at the Visitor Center and then join either a guided or self-guided tour of the park. Don’t miss the USS Cairo Museum on your visit here. Allow 3 hours minimum.
  2. Head back to Natchez Trace Parkway and continue on to the Mississippi Crafts Center at MP 102.4. Mississippi Crafts Center is the home of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, whose mission is to preserve and promote regional craftsmanship. At the Center, you will find exhibits and demonstrations of both traditional and contemporary crafts. Take 30 minutes or so for your visit here.
  3. Head on to Cypress Swamp near MP 122. Cypress Swamp is a half-mile trail through a swamp filled with bald cypresses and water tupelo. This trail is self-guided and features a boardwalk. Allows 20 minutes to complete the trail.
  4. Continue on to French Camp at MP 180.7. Just like Mount Locust, French Camp was a stand that served travelers along the Natchez Trace as well as the village that adopted the name. The stand was first built by a Frenchman named Louie LeFleur, who married a Choctaw woman. Their son, Greenwood Leflore, became a chief of the Choctaw as well as a state senator for Mississippi. Today, the French Camp is a Historic District with quaint log cabins, an exhibit of French and Indian artifacts and a sorghum mill. Allow 30 minutes to visit.
  5. Head on to Little Mountain Overlook at Jeff Busby at MP 193.1. The Little Mountain Overlook is one of the highest points not just of Natchez Trace Parkway but also of the whole of Mississippi. When the day is clear, you can see some 20 miles out. Aside from a 30-minute nature trail, Jeff Busby is also a great place for picnicking. Spend the night at the Jeff Busby Campground.

Day 4

Elvis Tupelo Homecoming Statue
Tupelo, Mississippi

Jeff Busby to Tishomingo State Park – 111 Miles

  1. Stop at Bynum Mounds at MP 232.4. The Bynum Mounds are made up of six conical burial mounds and an associated village. The mounds were built approximately 2,100 years to 1,800 years ago, during the Middle Woodland period when the Mississippians were moving to settlements further inland and establishing wider trade routes with their neighbors. Two of the burial mounds are open to the public: a) Mound A, the resting place of a woman with ornamental copper spools around her wrists as well as cremated remains of a child and two adults; and b) Mound B, a log-lined crematorium.
  2. Make a short stop at Tombigbee National Forest, one of the six NFs in Mississippi and notable for its lovely rolling hills covered with pine and hardwood. Take a short stroll along the Lakeside Trail. Allow 30 minutes minimum.
  3. Head on to Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Even if you’re not an Elvis fan, it would be easy for you to appreciate the legend and influence of the King while you’re in Tupelo. Here you can visit the house where Elvis was born, the schools he went to and the store where he bought his first guitar.
  4. Returning to the parkway, check out the Tupelo Visitor Center at MP 266. The Tupelo Visitor Center serves as the National Parks Service headquarters for the Natchez Trace Parkway. Aside from the Information Center, the Visitor Center has its own nature walks and exhibits that show people all they need to know about the Parkway.
  5. Visit the Confederate Grave Sites at MP 269.4. The Old Trace saw a lot of use for both the Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. These gravesites commemorate 13 unknown Confederate soldiers, silent testimonies to the struggle the country went through to become the nation it is today.
  6. Explore the Pharr Mounds at MP 286.7. Covering nearly 85 acres, the Pharr Mounds are some of the largest Middle Woodland mounds in the Southeast. You can find eight towering burial mounds here, all containing ancient crematoriums with burned and unburned remains. You can learn more about the Middle Woodland mound building process here.
  7. Spend the night at the Tishomingo State Park at MP 304.5. Sign up at the park office for the 10 AM Bear Creek Canoe Trip on the next day.