harpeth river state park

Harpeth River State Park Hiking Guide

Table of Contents

Harpeth River State Park has some cute and short, family friendly hike located just west of Nashville, Tennessee. It runs along the side of the Harpeth River leading to a man-made tunnel. The hike also has beautiful bluff overlooking the Harpeth River down below. Let me tell you about the history of The Narrows Of The Harpeth along with a guide on the hiking trails we took.

harpeth river state park waterfall tunnel in a rock mountain in nashville tennessee overlay

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The Narrows of the Harpeth State Historical Area was formerly known as The Patterson Forge. This man-made tunnel was constructed at the neck of an unusual bend of the Harpeth River. Construction began around 1818  by African American slaves under Bell’s direction. The tunnel was completed by 1820. The tunnel was  excavated through a 100 yard wide rock ridge that separated the river beds. It was designed to convey water for power. Bell attempted to sell the site to the United States government for construction of an armory but this planned failed. Shortly afterwards, Bell created a forge for the production or wrought iron instead.

harpeth river state park

Montgomery Bell owned and operated Patterson Forge from 1932 to 1854. James L. Bell continued to run the operation until 1862 when it was closed during the Civil War. It was never reopened due to an iron depression in the state of Tennessee. Today the Harpeth State Historic Area is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. You can also find Montgomery Bell’s grave nearby this historic location.

Resources: https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/patterson-forge-narrows-harpeth-state-historical-area/


During out time there we did two different trails. Both fairly short and easy to do. It took us maybe 1 hour at the most to do it all. Most of the time it was sitting around and taking in the views at the bluff. You can view the trail map here of the trails that we took. You can also view all of the different trails activities that Harpeth River State Park has to offer here.

narrows of the harpeth river state park


The first trail that we did was the Tunnel Trail. It is a short 0.20 mile trail, 0.4 miles round trip. Not much of an elevation gain can be found on the trail. The Tunnel Trail will lead you straight to the Narrows of the Harpeth (pictured above). I would highly recommend visiting it after a rainfall when the river is higher. When we went there wasn’t much of a flow of water going through the tunnel so I was a little bummed out about it. Hope to visit again after the water level has risen to fully appreciate it.

harpet river state park harpet river state park harpet river state park


The second trail that we took was the Bluff Trail (pictured above). This trail is about 0.25 miles long, 0.5 miles round trip. The elevation gain was a little more on this trail. The begining part of the trail was straight up some steps to the ridge line and it continues to elevate as you get further in the trail. Total elevation was approximately 125 feet according to their map. It is a ridge line so it was steep on both sides of the trail so I highly recommend holding your little ones hands or baby carrying for the younger ones. If you choose to baby carry, I highly recommend using an Ergo Baby Carrier. Really helps ease the tension on your back and your baby’s hips. You can read more about it here. The hike is worth the climb though. The view of the Harpeth River down below was just stunning. I can’t wait to do this hike during the fall peak season to see how gorgeous it looks during the Autumn season.


1254 Narrow of the Harpeth Road
Kingston Springs, TN 37082

You can find better directions here. Or you can just search for Narrows of the Harpeth on Google Maps.

harpeth river state park garden snake


There wasn’t many challenges on the trail to be honest. For my little girls I think the challenge was the beginning part of the Bluff Trail. Their little legs were a little short for those huge steps. Also like I mentioned before, the Bluff Trail runs on a ridge line so it is steep on both sides of the trail. Holding your child’s hand at all times is a must to avoid a dangerous slip or fall down the side of the mountain. On the overlook there are no rails so making sure your babies don’t get too close to the edge is crucial as well. Other than that, it is a very easy, fun, and short hike. Great for a quick morning hike!

Related Article: How to choose the best hikes for your child

harpeth river state park


The Harpeth River State Park has more activities as well other than hiking. Some of these activities include:

  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Hiking
  • Bird Watching
  • and Fishing

harpeth river state park


As Harpeth River State Park has short day hikes it is still important to come prepared. Some of the most important essentials are:

  • Daypack to put all of your belongings in.
  • Wallet with ID.
  • Phone
  • Trail map
  • Small first aid kit
  • Hydration
  • Snacks – Read here for our favorite kid snacks.
  • Sunblock
  • Bug repellent
  • Camera
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lip Butter. This will keep your lips hydrated and prevent them from cracking. I highly recommend using an organic lip balm such as BendSoap versus a petroleum-based lip balm such as Chapstick. You don’t have to keep reapplying every 10 minutes either like you do with other cheaper brands and it lasts much longer too. Use coupon code TWM10 to receive 10% off your first purchase.

I would recommend having these items on you, whether on the trail or in your car for quick access. Hydration and a snack for sure, especially when hiking with kids.

Also don’t forget to follow Leave No Trace – 7 Principles while exploring the great outdoors. It is a good practice to leave the trails as they are, pack out what your packed in, and stay on the trail to avoid harming wildlife or sensitive vegetation.

harpeth river view from top of a bluff mountain near nashville tennessee overlay

Have you been to the Harpeth River State Park? If so, what was your favorite thing to do?

You can check out more of our Tennessee travel guides here if you like. Also, if you enjoyed this article feel free to sign up for our newsletter here or follow our adventures on Instagram so you can stay up to date on upcoming travel adventures, tips, gear reviews, recipes and more. Don’t forget to share or pin to save it. Thank you for reading.

Hi, I'm Jessica!

I am a wife and mother to three amazing kids. A coffee addict and wine lover. I also have a huge love for the mountains and the the ocean. Through my blog I hope to inspire families to spend more time outdoors. 


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