The Natchez Trace

  • Sewanee, TN | Middle Tennessee | Tupelo, MS | Oxford, MS | Mentone, AL


April 12 - 18, 2023


  • Fascinating historic sites - from ferry crossings to quaint town squares, lovely historic houses and a Benedictine monastery
  • Delightful dining and charming inns throughout the trip - experience Southern cuisine and hospitality at its finest!
  • Follow in the footsteps of Meriwether Lewis, William Faulkner, and the King himself!
  • Lovely backroads drives, and fabulous stories on location!

Trip Description

A Southern Migration . . . Our Seasonal Rite of Passage

This expedition will take us to lovely spring-clad Middle Tennessee and the adjacent areas of North Alabama and Mississippi, as we explore the northern half of the Natchez Trace Parkway (maintained by the National Park Service) and stories, hamlets, and country roads that spin off from it.

In many ways, this trip is an exploration of “Americana” in the Southern Heartland (as it was often called in an earlier time).  We’ll encounter rich cultural traditions – music, art, and the written word; a panoply of diverse geography (that many a non-native didn’t know existed in this less-traveled region); and generally enjoy a week-long trip of discovery along routes that pique the intellect and imagination.

What are we waiting for?!  April . . . and the serious beginnings of spring in the forests and gardens we encounter.  Come join this special small group adventure!


Day 1

We’ll depart the western Carolinas, driving west into Southeast Tennessee.  We’ll observe a number of landscapes – Appalachian Mountains, the broad Tennessee River Valley, and the Cumberland Plateau – en route to Sewanee, Tennessee.  There we’ll settle into our comfortable digs at the lovely Sewanee Inn.  Relax and unwind.  Before we depart from Sewanee, we’ll visit the beautiful and historic chapel; and learn about the Episcopal founders of the university – folks whose stories we’ll cross again further west.  Dinner and overnight, the Sewanee Inn.

Day 2

Enjoy a delicious breakfast in the inn; then we depart for points west.  Our drive will take us through the famed rolling countryside of “Middle Tennessee” – known for horse farms, fertile crop-lands, and a dreamy limestone-based hill-and-dale landscape.  Water appears and drops onto limestone ledges, powers mills, and produces famous whiskeys.

Our route will bring us to Mt. Pleasant in time for lunch.  Nearby, we’ll visit St. John’s Church – built for the scions of William Polk, and their friend, Gideon Pillow.  A short drive will take us onto the Natchez Trace Parkway.  There we’ll visit the memorial and reconstructed cabin that interpret the last hours of Meriwether Lewis – private secretary to Thomas Jefferson, and co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  By late-afternoon, we’ll arrive at our home for the next two nights:  The Commodore Hotel in Linden, Tennessee.  Explore the quaint town; delight in the slower pace here; dinner and overnight at The Commodore.

Day 3

Following a delicious breakfast at The Commodore, we’ll depart for our day’s excursion, featuring scenic exploration through iconic “small places” not far from Nashville. We’ll then pick up the famous Natchez Trace from its northern terminus.  Place names for our day excursion will include:  Centerville, Leiper’s Fork, Double Arch Bridge, Gordon’s Ferry, Fall Hollow, and Hohenwald.

We’ll return to Linden and The Commodore Hotel for dinner and our overnight.

Day 4

Enjoy breakfast in The Commodore.  Today, we’ll drive south from Linden to the early riverport of Clifton on the Tennessee River.  We’ll continue back onto the Natchez Trace Parkway, making our way south past “sunken” sections of the original trace, spring features, and our crossing of the great Tennessee River where it forms Pickwick Lake – bordering the states of Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi.  A stop at the Colbert Ferry visitor center will help with an orientation to this “tri-state” area.

Our route on the parkway will continue from Alabama into Mississippi, where we’ll cross the Tenn-Tom Waterway, then arrive in Tupelo, Mississippi – our home for the next two nights.  Dinner and overnight, Tupelo.

Day 5

This morning, we’ll enjoy breakfast in the hotel, then drive to Oxford – home to William Faulkner and the University of Mississippi.  We’ll explore Oxford’s iconic Courthouse Square – commercial and “cultural” hub known for its magnetic book store, Square Books; creative takes on food and drink; and Neilson’s Department Store . . . “since 1839.”  We’ll also visit the William Faulkner home, Rowan Oak, whose expansive and parklike grounds connect commercial Oxford to Ole Miss.

We’ll return to Tupelo for dinner and our overnight.

Day 6

Enjoy breakfast in the hotel.  This morning, we’ll pay tribute to a local boy made good as a singer and performer . . . (whose name will be dropped on location) . . . before departing Tupelo.  Our driving route will take us back into Alabama, driving due east to Cullman, where we’ll stop for lunch.  Nearby, we’ll pay a visit to the Ave Maria Grotto – located on the grounds of a Benedictine monastery, and featuring the hand-created miniature models of 125 shrines from around the world.  The models are the work of one man, Joseph Zoetl, who crafted them between 1912 – and 1958.

In the afternoon we’ll arrive at the plateau-top perch known as Mentone, Alabama – where we’ll spend our final night of the trip.  Dinner at the Elevation Bistro; overnight in the Mentone Inn.

Day 7

We’ll enjoy breakfast in the inn; then bid our hosts adieu.  We’ll drive a scenic route bisecting the Little River Canyon, descending to the old settlement of Cave Spring, Georgia, and landing us on the square in Marietta . . . in time for lunch. Afterwards, we’ll continue our drive home into the Carolinas. Cheers!

What's Included

  • Comfortable transportation
  • High-standard accommodation
  • Breakfast, 4 lunches, and 4 dinners
  • All activities / admissions per the itinerary
  • Guide and concierge service throughout the trip

Trip Price

$3,669 / person (double occupancy; single supplement, $615)

What's Not Included

Price does not include alcohol, other meals, or optional trip insurance.

..well-planned, from interesting and fun excursions planned each day, to comfortable lodging and transportation. Our trip leaders, Chumley and Khal, were impressive with their knowledge of each area we explored and gracious in their planning of every aspect of our trips.

Trip insurance safeguards your travel investment, your belongings, and most importantly, you. Though trip insurance is optional, we strongly encourage travelers to purchase trip insurance in the event you have to cancel or leave a trip for any reason. Please note, all trip participants should wait for confirmation from Explore Up Close that the trip has the minimum sign-up required to be a “go” before purchasing travel insurance. Please confirm with Explore Up Close before making any additional travel arrangements.

Once you have received confirmation from Explore Up Close, we recommend contacting a travel insurance provider directly to request a quote and compare pricing and features. You can find other providers that may fit your needs at www.insuremytrip.com, or we can gladly connect you with our travel agent.

This trip departs from Greenville / Spartanburg, South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina. If you live elsewhere, please contact us to discuss travel arrangements, and we will look forward to assisting you!

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