Many top hike lists of Nashville place Radnor Lake at or near the top. It’s been many years since I’d been there so I had to check it out. Located only 8 miles from downtown, Radnor Lake is a true city oasis. Let’s see if it lives up to the hype of the best hike in Nashville.
Radnor Lake is a man made lake that was built to provide water to steam engines on the nearby railroad tracks. Even while in use by the railroad, the lake became a habitat for many types of birds. A few developers bought and were unable to gain approval to develop as they wished. Then the community, state, and national government worked for 2 years to raise the funds to preserve the land. In 1973, Radnor Lake became Tennessee’s first State Natural Area.
I encourage everyone to read more about the area at https://radnorlake.org/. I especially enjoyed reading the section about the Radnor Lake caretakers. The accounts available are truly fascinating. This website has lots of great information about the area including common birds seen in the park. I must admit that I didn’t know there was a visitor center seeing as I’ve always entered on the east side. I’ll try to check it out next time.
Be aware that though a map of the park shows a road from east to west, it is no longer used. This does make it difficult seeing as the lake is very popular and often the parking lots are full. We went at 10 am on a Friday morning and space was limited then!
Some important things to know before going: dogs are NOT allowed on nonpaved trails. Running and bicycles are not allowed on trails either.
I decided on taking Garnier Ridge trail to the lake trail over to Otter Creek Road. Online it was stated as 3.8 miles but I must have taken a wrong turn because I only got 3.1 miles. The climb up to the Garnier Ridge is strenuous but not too difficult. It was overcast so it was dark but everything was such a vibrant green! Even though we passed many people on the trail, it was never crowded. Also, sound doesn’t carry well here so you can’t hear much once you’ve passed others.
We came across some deer feeding. They were right next to the trail and barely moved as we walked by. When the trail got closer to the lake, we came upon a bunch of turkeys. Wild turkeys are common in Middle Tennessee but I’ve never seen them roosting! There lots of burkeys too! While not a technical term, burkeys = baby turkeys. The burkeys appeared to be making an egret uncomfortable while it was feeding.
The lake trail is flat and easy. We continued past the caretaker’s cottage to Otter Creek Road. This is the road that connected the east and west parking areas. It is no longer open to automobiles. Once you walk on it a bit you realize the upkeep was probably difficult. Its closeness to the lakes edge makes it prone to sinking into the water.
In a swampy algae pond across from the lake, we saw the biggest snapping turtle! It was huge. Later we saw several more box turtles sunning themselves.
While I’m not sure I would call it the best hike in Nashville, Radnor Lake does make for a peaceful retreat. If you’re looking for some nature inside the city, Radnor Lake is the perfect spot for you!