veen on the road: hiking in natchez creek state park.

a few weeks ago i had a friday off and decided to use it to get out of town for the day and go for a hike somewhere new. i hadn’t been out of memphis since january 2nd and desperately needed a change of scenery; i knew a long drive and a new-to-me trail was just the ticket to getting myself back on track.

i looked at a few different state parks and ultimately settled on the cub lake trail at natchez creek state park. it had all of the things i like: a loop trail, a moderate rating, and a distance of just under 10 kilometers.

the drive took me a little under 2 hours, and the exit on i-40 puts you right at the entrance to the park. i stopped by the visitors center to get some advice on where to park, and the ranger was super helpful and even gave me the shortcut to save me some time getting to the trailhead.

when i parked around 11am mine was the only car in the parking lot, so i got my boots on and got to walking; within no time i had the biggest grin on my face and could physically feel myself relaxing. i enjoyed the views of the lake, i took far too many pictures, and i relished having the trail to myself. in fact, the only other people i saw were a couple at the very end of my loop who were taking pictures of the lake.

i had a great time on the trail, listening to podcasts and wandering along, and i am so glad i treated myself to that break. it was exactly what i needed.

more specific details about the park and trail after the pictures!

good things to know — cub lake trail at natchez creek state park:

  • the park is at exit 116 on i-40 — turn south after you exit and you’ll immediately enter the park
  • there are varying opinions on the length of cub lake trail: some sources put it as low as 4 miles, while others show it as 6. my garmin clocked it at 5.36 miles, so take that for what you will
  • the trail itself is really well marked and easy to follow — the orange blazes adorn every 5th tree or so, except for a quarter-ish mile stretch where it’s marked with pink ribbons instead. rest assured, you are still on the right path!
  • there were some super muddy patches, so make sure you have waterproof shoes. i suggest boots, but it’s up to you
  • the trail rises and falls pretty steadily — you do wind up going uphill a good bit, but there was never a super strenuous incline like there are in shelby forest
  • there are two stretches where you’re out of the woods and walking on gravel or pavement — don’t get alarmed, and keep following the orange markers on the trees
  • i definitely suggest stopping in the visitor center for a map and some directions. it gets a little confusing when you’re near the cabins, and i was very grateful to have had clear instructions from the ranger as well as the map
  • if you’re a trail runner this could be a fun one to check out
  • i loved it in march because i had some good views of the lake, but i bet it would be gorgeous in the fall when the leaves turn. one of the intersecting trails is called “red leaves trail”, so i imagine it’s quite pretty

it’s always nice to get out of town and shake up my schedule a bit, and this hike was exactly that something different that i needed.


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