Long Hunter State Park is a pawsome 2,600-acre state park located just southeast of metro Nashville on the shores of Percy Priest Lake. It has 26 miles of hiking trails, over 20 of which are dog-friendly. While dogs aren't allowed on the Bryant Grove, Couchville Lake, or Nature Loop Trails, they can come with you on all of the park's other trails, including the top-rated Day Loop and Volunteer Trails. Not only are these two trails frequently cited as park favorites, but many local hikers include them in their lists of favorite trails in the Nashville area.
The Volunteer and Day Loop Trails cover much of the same ground and start at the same trailhead. The Bakers Grove Trailhead is located just a little north of the Long Hunter State Park Visitor's Center, and has bathrooms for human use. The Day Loop Trail is perfectly named, as it makes for a great, accessible day hike. The four-mile loop ascends about 250 feet as it skirts the shores of Percy Priest Lake, then follows an inland route back through the forest. Expect to see chiseled limestone bluffs rising above the lake and classic woodland scenery along this trail. You can complete it in about two hours.
The Volunteer Trail follows the inland portion of the Day Loop Trail and extends for a few miles past it. The part of the trail that continues beyond the Day Loop hugs the shoreline of the lake. It's a 10.5-mile round-trip out-and-back hike with about 300 feet of elevation gain that should take you and your pup four to five hours to complete.
The Volunteer Trail has white blazes, while the Day Loop is blazed in orange. Where the trails overlap, you'll see blazes in both colors. People with dogs love these trails, so expect to encounter other canines along the way! You're also likely to see some wildlife. Shorebirds, osprey, foxes, bobcats, deer, and pileated woodpeckers have been spotted along the trails. Wildflowers are abundant, and in special glades, prickly pear cactus grows.
The park has many other pawsome trails with unique features. The short Deer Trail next to the Visitor's Center loops through restored prairie and is a great place to see butterflies. The Inland Trail is a short loop where you can see tons of wildflowers and many different tree species.
Bring any essentials for your nature trek, such as water to share and clean up bags.
If you and your pup want to get in touch with nature without having to venture too far beyond metro Nashville, make sure that you put Long Hunter State Park on your radar!