Bicycling in Nashville: Stones River Greenway


Yesterday’s early morning rains cancelled plans to ride with friends, and – long story short – this weekend I ended up riding alone for the first time in years. I chose the Stones River Greenway, via the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. This means:

    1. I rode my bike 32 miles from East Nashville to the Percy Priest dam and back without ever really venturing onto an actual trafficked road. (Nashville people: Do you realize how wonderful the city’s greenway system is? I know a lot of you do, because it required some skill and concentration not to run you over yesterday.)
    2. Because I was alone (and not constantly conversing, which is normally what I do when exercising, and thus one of the reasons my regular cycling partner and I are so close), I rode about 50% faster than I normally do.

Here are some things you will encounter if you ride the Stones River Greenway in Nashville.


First, you have to cross the Cumberland.

You can do this – as I did – via the Shelby Bottoms Greenway, which begins in Shelby Park in East Nashville and winds through the park for 6.4 paved miles, circling up a marginally steep but quick hill to the pedestrian bridge you see here. On one side is East Nashville. On the other is Donelson. A good many runners, walkers, skateboarders and other cyclists cross this bridge to connect from one greenway to the other. The views are beautiful.



Once on the Donelson side, the greenway leaves the enclosure of tree-canopied parkland here and there, shouldering alongside the Two Rivers Golf Course and Wave Country & Skate Park.


(Side note: Don’t you think it would be an awesome photo shoot to fill the skate park bowls with foam balls and let models “swim” in them? Such are the kind of things I think about on my rides through the city…) Anyway.

Past the skate park and wave pool is McGavock High School. Yesterday, the marching band was practicing.

The Stones River greenway is quite a bit hillier than Shelby Bottoms, which is more or less flat with the exception of the climb to the pedestrian bridge. In fact, I dare say one of the beastliest hills in Nashville is on this greenway, underneath McGavock Parkway and just past Two Rivers Middle School. It is both steep and decently long (.9 miles), and every time I ride it, I see people dismounting from their bikes and opting to walk them up it. I tried yesterday to take a photo that would illustrate its slope, but I couldn’t do it justice. See those platforms on the side? I’ve seen people take breaks on those things. For a climb that’s not even a mile. It’s that bad (/good).


I don’t know if the world is intentionally designed so that the most beautiful things are entwined with the biggest challenges, but around the bend from that hill is this view.


And up another short hill from that view is this one:


The property in the background of my bike is private, according to a couple of signs asking people not to trespass. According to this map, it’s the area in the U of the Stones River between Heartland Park and the Ravenwood property. Every time I’ve been on this part of the greenway, I’ve stopped to take a photo, and I have never gotten it right; it’s far more beautiful than an iPhone can convey.

After the beautiful U, the trail winds around the Ravenwood property (also gorgeous), and before you know it, you are in…


From here, the trail wraps around behind the Kohl’s before heading back into canopied, riverside trails – many of them narrow bridges constructed of that wood-like material that (warning) gets very slippery after a rain. This is what it looks like for about three miles.


It’s hilly, pretty and shady. You may ride the brakes quite a bit, as there will be lots of pedestrians and runners enjoying the path as well. Many of them, I imagine, have started their route from the parking lot at the Percy Priest dam, which was my midpoint before heading back to East Nashville and dragging (ok, I didn’t have to drag him) my boyfriend out for ice cream.


Here is to clouds parting.


8 thoughts on “Bicycling in Nashville: Stones River Greenway

  1. This is my weekly ride. I try to tell people how awesome the greenways are here, but I don’t think one can fully grasp how long and spectacular this thing is until you ride it. The Two River hill is a BEAST and doesn’t exactly help me stay in HR Zone 2!

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