The Corps of Discovery When Thomas Jefferson was looking for a strong, bold leader to explore the northwest in search of an all-water connection between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean, he found an eager volunteer in his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis. Jefferson agreed that Lewis was the man for the job, and on May 14, 1804, the Corps of Discovery left St. Louis. The 2.3 year tour failed to find a continuous waterway to the Pacific, but it succeeded spectacularly in accumulating massive amounts of geographical, cultural, and biological information. This information, though familiar to the resident American Indians and the French and British trappers in the northwest, was previously unknown to scientists. After the Expedition After the expedition returned home, Jefferson rewarded Lewis with the governorship of the Upper Louisiana Territory. As the presidency changed, so did politics. Several of the bills that Lewis submitted to the Department of War for payment were questioned, leaving Lewis personally liable for those bills. Lewis set out from St. Louis (the capital of the Upper Louisiana Territory) toward Washington to defend them. Part of Lewis's route took him along a portion of the Natchez Trace. During the early morning of October 11th, while staying in Grinder's Stand, Lewis died of gunshot wounds. The evidence that exists leads most historians to conclude that Lewis' wounds were self-inflicted, and many who knew Lewis believed he had committed suicide. Some accounts dated 1848 and later suggest that Lewis may have been murdered. The Memorial Meriwether Lewis was buried near Grinder's Stand, and, in 1848, the State of Tennessee erected a memorial to honor him. A simple erect, broken shaft reaches above the stone base, symbolizing a life cut short. The memorial includes several inscriptions, one in Latin. "Immaturus obi; sed tu felicior annos vive meos: Bona Republica! vive tuos." "I died before my time, but thou O great and good Republic, live out my years while you live out your own." To see the Lewis Monument, visit the Meriwether Lewis Site at milepost 385.9 on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Get a map at the park!
We started at the monument down the old trace road. When you get to the four way stop, do NOT turn right! There are several trees across the trail, it is grown over, we lost our way a couple of times, the two hill climbs were on all fours, and had it not been so dry, we would've definitely gotten our feet wet. I'd stay straight for the most lengthy of trails. The full loop is a lot longer than 4.3. It's more like 5.3. The old trace road trail and the trail portions to the west of the park road are easier and maintained. We did not see another hiker the whole time. Listen to the other reviews in warmer weather about ticks. I can see the potential for a great tick attack! The full large loop isn't signed or spray painted at all. Take a map and keep your eyes on!!
Becky G. on Meriwether Lewis Loop Trail
The campground is very well maintained and peaceful. Lots of great spots that are free on first come basis.
We hiked this trail in June and it was very overgrown and difficult to follow- Even with a map and a hiking app, we ended up on the main road and caught a ride in the back of a park ranger's pickup truck back to our car! We want to try again in the fall or early spring, when the undergrowth is at a minimum. If you hike it in the summer, be sure to wear bug spray, long pants and hiking shoes. You will have a LOT of weeds and bugs to contend with.
Hiked this trail today and it was worth the trip. I would recommend downloading a map before traveling to this trail as there were none available and the information cabin was not open. The trail is not marked nor maintained very well but we did not have any problems following the narrow trail. I would rate this trail as moderate. We only saw one other person the entire hike. Overall, a good hike.
I have been hiking this trail for the past five years on a regular basis. It is a beautiful forest with a change in topography that makes for enjoyable hiking. Over the years I have never seen evidence of trail maintenance and the trail has steadily deteriorated. Over the past three months the trails have become nearly impassable; overgrown with poison ivy, briars, 6' high vegetation, fallen trees, and erosion. I contacted the authorities 3 months ago to report that the trails is in need of maintenance but nothing has been done.
Be careful, you and your children will get covered with poison ivy and chiggers. You should avoid this trail until the trail is opened up.
A little bit of history about the burial site of Meriwether Lewis. Lot of options for hiking although need to get a map otherwise it gets confusing as to where the trail leads when it branches. We completed the loop that goes along the perimeter, which we recommend as it follows a small stream that leads into the Little Swan Creek. About 70% of the trail was along the creek, or had a view from some nice high bluffs. Although the trees were pretty bare when we were there (end of March), I am sure it would be a lot nicer during summer and especially autumn. This hike is listed as "easy", but I would rate it moderate. A fairly flat trail like those along the Gulf Coast would be "easy", but since this was very hilly with some spots along the tail having fairly steep dropoffs. Recommended.
It was very interesting to be at a place with so much history and it gave me a renewed appreciation for the difficulty of life before our modern age. Part of this loop takes you on the Old Trace, with the rough markings of the old path that travelers used when taking their goods down to the Gulf to sell.
The trail also takes several passes by the Little Swan Creek, which includes creekside views as well as some nice bluff views.
Not a very long trail and fairly easy to hike. The trail goes down into a small draw by a creek with plenty of scenery. Worth checking out if your near the area and plenty of history on site. There is also a few other trails that are easy to walk in the general area.
This is a pretty hike to do in the fall. Around late October the weather is perfect and the trees are gorgeous. There is a primitive campground on the property as well. No hook-ups for campers, but it would make a nice overnight stay if you are traveling the Natchez Trace Parkway.