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The Trails of Long Hunter State Park

Looking to go for a hike? Here is a handy guide to the trails of Long Hunter State Park by
naturalist/wilderness guide Jason Allen. Happy hiking...

Couchville Lake Arboretum Trail - 2 miles - Loop Trail - Rated: Easy - This paved trail
encircles 110-acre Couchville Lake. This is one of the most popular walks in the state park
system due to its accessibility, lakeshore scenery, and abundant wildlife. White-tailed deer and
Wild Turkey are common sights here, as are birds such as Great Blue Heron, Prothonotary
Warbler, Hooded Merganser, and Osprey. Occasional/rare sightings include American Bald
Eagle, Sandhill Crane, and Baltimore Oriole. The nearby ponds and sinkholes result in a wide
variety of frogs and turtles. American Mink have been spotted along the shoreline. Unique
wildflowers found along the trail include Mayapple, Mistflower, Green Dragon, and

The Couchville Lake path (pictured below) also features the Couchville Lake Arboretum, which
in 2008 became the first state-certified arboretum in a Tennessee State Park. Forty-two species
of trees are labeled and identified along the route.

Nature Loop - 0.3 miles - Loop Trail - Rated: Easy - Hidden near the back of the
Couchville/Area 2 parking lot, this short trail has a nice sampling of Long Hunter's well-known
features: sinkholes, limestone glades, and oak-hickory forest. Rare wildflowers found along the
trail include Tennessee Coneflower, Long-styled Glade Cress, Nashville Breadroot, Glade
Savory, and Limestone Fameflower. Birds such as Summer Tanagers and Eastern Wood-
Pewee are heard here. The trail also features several interpretive plaques created for an Eagle
Scout project.

Bryant Grove Trail - 4 miles - One Way - Rated: Easy/Moderate - This flat, winding trail
connects the Couchville Lake area to Bryant Grove Recreation Area as it follows the shore of
Percy Priest Lake. The path visits several unique habitats, including rare limestone glades. It
crosses a wooden bridge above Bryant Grove Creek, where Green Herons are occasionally
seen wading and feeding. The one-mile marker (coming from Couchville Lake) is a good
"habitat edge" birding spot for warblers, vireos and other species. Wildflowers along the route
include Spider Lily, Shooting Star, Glade Phlox, Rose Verbena, Evening Primrose, Tennessee
Milkvetch, and Prickly Pear cactus. Keep an eye out for owls, hawks and raccoons along the

Deer Trail - 1 mile - Loop Trail - Rated: Easy - Located near the park office, the Deer Trail
features a restored prairie which displays many native flowers and grasses. During summer, the
striking wildflower known as Blazing Star attracts a wide variety of swallowtail butterflies,
including Eastern Tiger, Spicebush, Giant, Pipevine, and Zebra. Monarchs, Juniper Hairstreaks
and Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies are also seen in the prairie. Other interesting insects
here include praying mantis, green lynx spider, and clearwing moth, also known as
hummingbird moth. The back section of the trail showcases an impressive stand of mature
Sassafras trees. Other unique wildflowers here include Rose Pink, Heal-All, Purple-headed
Sneezeweed, and Mountain Mint. Note: Beware of significant numbers of ticks on this trail
during warm weather months.

Inland Trail - 1 mile - Loop Trail - Easy - Despite its short length, the Inland Trail features an
impressive variety of trees, wildflowers, birds, and mammals. Many large, mature oak and
hickory trees are found here; in fact, the Inland Trail boasts more variety of hickory trees than
perhaps anywhere else in the park. Other trees include Pawpaw, Yellow Buckeye and
Sassafras. Birds seen or heard here include Wood Thrush, Red-headed Woodpecker, Scarlet
Tanager, Barred Owl, and Red-eyed Vireo. Keep an eye out for such wildflowers as Spring
Beauty, Cutleaf Toothwort, Trillium, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Mushrooms are common here, too.

Bluff Trail - 0.2 miles - One Way - Easy - This trail runs along the shore of Percy Priest Lake
and connects Area 3 to Area 4. It features many scenic views from high atop the lake bluffs.
Several picnic tables and grills are located alongside the trail. Great Blue Herons are often seen
wading in the shallows.

Day Loop - 4.5 miles - Loop - Easy/Moderate - This wild, rocky trail (pictured below) winds its
way through mature oak-hickory forest, abundant plants and wildlife, and several scenic bluff
overlooks of Percy Priest Lake. The first part of the hike follows the Volunteer Trail, but then it
breaks off to form its own loop. Plants found along the route include Trout Lily, Indian Pink and
Rue Anemone. Keep an eye out for large oak trees, unique rock formations and sinkholes, and
even some limestone glade habitat featuring Prickly Pear cactus. And listen/look for such birds
as Pileated Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, and Common Loon.

Volunteer Trail - 6 miles - One Way - Moderate - The longest trail at Long Hunter follows the
shore of Percy Priest Lake for most of its run and leads to a pair of primitive backcountry
camping sites. Various species of shorebirds, ducks and geese are heard and seen frequently
along this route. Though most of Long Hunter's trails are relatively flat, this trail has a slight
increase in elevation as it leaves the shore and climbs up the bluffs overlooking the lake. Rocky
jumbles, mossy hillsides, scenic lake views, majestic trees, and abundant spring wildflowers are
common sights along the trail. This area is home to a variety of mammals, including red fox,
bobcat and deer.

Jones Mill Trail - 4.5 miles - Two Loop Trails - Easy/Moderate - Although created as a
mountain bike trail, this path is also open to hikers - although bikers have first right-of-way.
Surprising to many, the Jones Mill Trail is one of the best wildflower locations in the park. The
route meanders through several cedar glades and boasts impressive spring wildflowers such as
Gattinger's Prairie Clover, Nashville Breadroot, Golden St. Johnswort, Glade Stonecrop,
Lanceleaf Gumweed, Wild Bergamot, Glade Larkspur, and Wild Columbine. The path ascends
Bald Knob, which is the highest overlook on Percy Priest Lake. Common Loons are occasionally
seen from the bluff area. Be advised: there is an outer loop and a shorter, inner loop; if you hike
only the outer loop to Bald Knob, the total distance is just over 3.5 miles.

Point Trail - 0.1 miles - One Way - Easy - This short path goes from the Bryant Grove parking
lot to the rocky overlooks just past the picnic shelter. These days the "point" has become a
popular spot for fishing.

Tyler Sykes Trail - 1 mile - Loop Trail - Easy - This trail circles Couchville Cedar Glade State
Natural area (pictured above), home to many rare, threatened and endangered plant species.
Also known as the Couchville Cedar Glade Trail, this path leads visitors to desert-like areas
known as cedar glades. The thin, gravelly soil found here is home to such treasured wildflower
species as Leafy Prairie Clover, Tennessee Coneflower, Limestone Fameflower, Nodding Wild
Onion, Glade Phacelia, and Gattinger's Lobelia.

This area also features a wide variety of milkweed and sumac plants. Birds found here include
Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Nighthawk, Northern Bobwhite, and Chuck-
Will's-Widow. Other interesting flora and fauna include Reindeer Moss, Hairy Lipfern,
Streamside Salamander, Glade Moss, Juniper Hairstreak butterfly, Adder's Tongue fern, and
Nostoc (aka Witches' Butter).
Group Camp trails - 0.3 miles - Various - Easy - This area of the park, located behind the main
office, is closed to park visitors unless you are signed up as a group camper or participating in
an official park program. At Group Camp 1, a small, circular gravel path is located in the middle
of the field, and there are also short spur trails leading to Group Camps 2 and 3. The highlight of
this area is several large, impressive trees - Black Cherry, Tulip Poplar, etc. - found in the Group
Camp 1 field.

Sellars Farm Trail - 1.5 miles - Loop - Easy - Located near Lebanon, this trail leads visitors on
a historic tour of Sellars Farm State Archaeological Area (pictured below). Although not
physically connected to Long Hunter State Park, this site is managed by the park.

Sellars Farm was once inhabited by the Mississippian Period Indians from about 1000 to 1300
AD. A large mound - and several smaller ones - are still visible today. The site includes an
informative kiosk which tells the story of the ancient village and people who lived there; the
kiosk features photos, drawings, and diagrams.

The trail itself meanders through a scenic prairie and ultimately leads to peaceful, shimmering
Spring Creek. Our state wildflower, the Passionflower, can be found along the trail, while the
creek area boasts tree species such as Bur Oak, Beech, Sycamore, and American Hornbeam.
This site is also known for its wide variety of dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies. View the
walking tour brochure here:

For more information about Long Hunter State Park, contact the park office at 615-885-2422.

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(Jason Allen is a Nashville-based naturalist, writer and photographer)

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