Top Five Best Hikes in Memphis


Photo: Sienna Lightman

The beginning of the Big River Crossing which spans over the Mississippi River.

Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee, having a population of over half a million people. With large buildings, busy roads and lots of traffic, it is hard to escape to a quiet place where you can purely enjoy the beauty of nature. Thankfully, there are a few getaways and I am here to give you my top five. I will rank these trails out of ten based on how clear they are, the scenery and the isolation of them, and then I will take an average of these for the composite scores.

1. Tour De Wolf Trail- Shelby Farms

Well-marked (6/10)
Scenery (10/10)
Isolation (8/10)
Composite (8/10)

Found in the vast woods of Shelby Farms Park, the Tour De Wolf Trail is a 5.6-mile loop. It is an unpaved trail that is accessible for walkers, bikers, leashed pets and horseback. I walk this trail about once a week with my dog, usually doing a front and back three miles and parking by the playground. The trail is beautiful in every season in a different way. The fall is definitely my favorite time of the year to walk this year due to the bright colors and cool weather. The trail is mostly marked, but it is just important to follow the orange markers. The downsides of this trail are after rainy days, it can be very muddy and some areas can get flooded, and sometimes you will find off-leash dogs with poor recall but they are friendly for the most part.

2. Woodland Trail Loop- Shelby Forest

Well-marked (10/10)
Scenery (8/10)
Isolation (10/10)
Composite (9.3/10)

Shelby Forest is a little bit north of Memphis, so a bit harder to get to, but it is still a very popular Memphian hiking destination. Shelby Forest has a grand total of 12,539 acres and is right on the Mississippi River. The Woodland Trail Loop is one of the most popular Shelby Forest Trails, a moderate three-mile trail. The trail is unpaved and make sure to be prepared for very steep hills when embarking on this trail, but luckily, the trail is well marked. There is a beautiful creek and tall trees to truly feel surrounded by nature in. There are usually not a lot of people on this trail, so you will truly feel one on one with nature. Note that there is not great cell service.

3. The Wolf River Trail- Blue, Yellow and White Loop

Well-marked (9/10)
Scenery (10/10)
Isolation (10/10)
Composite (9.7/10)

This trail is probably the most underrated and unknown trail in Memphis. It spans 12.5 miles across the Wolf River, and there are multiple access points. It is an unpaved trail that is used by cyclists, walkers, runners and much more. There are three options of trails- the blue, yellow and white trails. The different trails connect and disconnect from each other, and the trail is well marked. There are many colorful bridges and beautiful views of the Wolf River. I take my dog here very often and you just have to make sure you yield for bikers. Not many people are on this trail, and sometimes, I have been the only one. It really connects you to nature and it is very quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I have not completed the whole trail yet, but I have done many different sections of it. This is by far my favorite trail in Memphis.

4. Big River Crossing- Tennessee to Arkansas

Well-marked (10/10)
Scenery (9/10)
Isolation (2/10)
Composite (7/10)

The Big River Crossing is a pathway for someone who is looking for a scenic, short and flat walk. It is less secluded, located in downtown Memphis. The path crosses the Mississippi River and gives a great view of the river and downtown attractions, including the Bass Pro Pyramid. The crossing is about a mile long and can get pretty crowded sometimes. Make sure to walk your dog on a leash and stay on the right side. The pathway is a bit narrow too. Once you cross the river, you have the option to go off the paved path and go onto a nonpaved trail in Arkansas. You can walk down and see the river too, but make sure not to get too close, for it has a very fast current.

5. W.C. Johnson Park Reservoir Loop

Well-marked (10/10)
Scenery (7/10)
Isolation (9/10)
Composite (8.7/10)

W.C. Johnson Park is the closest of these trails to St. George’s. It is widely known as a soccer and baseball park, but at the very east end, there is a boardwalk that is a bit over half a mile. Once you finish the boardwalk, the trail makes a three-mile loop. The loop follows the Wolf River and then goes through the woods. There is also a lake alongside a portion of the trail. The trail is remotely flat but be aware there are a few large ditches you must go into. There are not usually many people on this trail, but just be mindful of bikers. The trail is very well marked and maintained, with a few access points to the Wolf River beaches. Watch out for snakes, especially in the summer months, as they are definitely there and make rare appearances on the trail.