Henry Horton State Park: The Complete Guide

The Duck River at Henry Horton State Park

Michael Hicks / Flickr

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Henry Horton State Park

Address
4209 Nashville Hwy, Chapel Hill, TN 37034-2127, USA
Phone +1 931-364-2222

Built on the estate of former Tennessee governor Henry Hollis Horton, his namesake state park is located just outside the town of Chapel Hill, Tennessee (not to be confused with the college town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina). The park is about an hour south of Nashville and sits among the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee, running along the ecologically diverse Duck River.

Four-season outdoor enthusiasts will find Henry Horton State Park to their liking, as the 1,500-acre parcel of land provides plenty of things to see and do all year long. If you're looking to avoid crowds, early spring, late fall, and winter are the best times to visit. Spring can bring heavy and frequent rainstorms, but overall the weather is mild and manageable. Weekends in the off-season may get busy, but during the week the park is often very quiet and all but deserted.

The busy summer travel season usually results in a very crowded park, particularly from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That includes weekdays as well, with trails, sports venues, and the golf course quite busy. If you do visit during the summer, keep in mind that Tennessee's heat and humidity can be intense, so be sure to bring a bottle of water and stay well hydrated.

Things to Do

Travelers will find no shortage of things to see and do while visiting Henry Horton State Park. Those looking to beat the warm and humid Tennessee weather can take a dip in the park's Olympic-sized swimming pool. There are also several baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and basketball courts located inside the park. Some of the more unique activities here include trap and skeet shooting, disc golfing, and going on guided river trips along the Duck River in a kayak.

Because the park is considered one of the most ecologically diverse landscapes in the country, it also happens to be a top destination for birders. More than 70 different avian species make their home along the Duck River, including large herons, white belted kingfishers, red-tailed hawks, Carolina chickadees, and golden-crowned kinglets. Bring your binoculars and head to the 20-foot-tall observation tower to spot these wild and colorful creatures, especially in the spring when many of them are nesting.

Anglers can try their luck along the Duck River. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass can be found in abundance there, as well as catfish and redeye. The fishing is great right from the riverbank, although small boats are allowed as well. There are even a few sections of the Duck that can accommodate fly fishing, too.

Best Hikes & Trails

Hikers will find more than 10 miles of trail to explore, with routes passing through diverse ecosystems ranging from oak and hickory forest to open fields and meadows. Most of the trails provide good views of the Duck River along the way and all of them are easy to follow and suitable for the entire family.

  • Adeline Wilhoite River Trail: This scenic trail follows the length of the Duck River through the park for about a mile and a half one way. It's an easy trail and great for exploring the wildlife that lives at the river bank.
  • Hickory Range Loop Trails: These are actually two different trails, as there's an Outer Loop and Inner Loop trail and each of them is about a mile and a half. They intersect at one point, so you could combine these two easy trails into a longer 3-mile hike for even more time exploring.
  • Spring Creek Trail: Take a hike along Spring Creek, which is generally less busy than the trails that stay near the river. This hike is 1.7 miles roundtrip and considered one of the moderately difficult trails.

Golf

The park is home to the Buford Ellington Golf Course, one of the courses that make up the Tennessee Golf Trail. The 18-hole, 72-par course offers a good challenge with wide fairways lined with hardwood forests and deep bunkers. Carts and equipment can be rented at the clubhouse and an on-premises driving range and putting green allow golfers to work on their game while waiting for their tee time. Reservations are required year-round to play a game, so be sure to book your tee time in advance.

Where to Camp

If you're the kind of traveler who prefers spending your nights in a tent or RV rather than a hotel or cabin, the park has you covered. There are 75 campsites in the Henry Horton campground with spots available for tent camping or with full hookups for RV campers. There are even a few campsites specifically designed for sleeping in hammocks. All of the campsites have a picnic table, fire pit, and grill so you can fully enjoy your time in the Tennessee outdoors—but with a camp store nearby in case you need something essential. The campground is open all year and campers should make a reservation to confirm their place.

There is also one backcountry campground that has two campsites available for those looking for a more rugged experience. You'll need to hike about 2 miles from the parking lot with your gear to reach them.

Where to Stay Nearby

The vast majority of travelers will most likely stay in one of the many hotels in Nashville and just visit the park for a brief day trip. Those who are looking to spend a little more time here have a few other choices, though.

  • Lodge Henry Horton: The Lodge Henry Horton allows visitors to actually spend the night in the park itself, making some of the local activities—including a round or two of golf—easier to take in. The lodge is pet-friendly, includes free WiFi and satellite TV, and features a year-round indoor pool.
  • Henry Horton's Cabins: Another popular place to stay inside the park is in one of Henry Horton's cabins. Situated along the banks of the river, the eight cabins range from rustic to fully furnished and comfortable. Some of the cabins can accommodate several couples or a large family, and two of them are even pet-friendly.
  • The Germantown Inn: This boutique hotel is located in the hip Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. The stylish decor matches the 19th-century architecture, but the amenities are all modern for a comfortable stay. You have access to all of the best parts of Nashville with the state park just under an hour away.

How to Get There

Most visitors to Henry Horton State Park will arrive from Nashville, since it's an easy day trip from Tennessee's capital and largest city. To get there, head south on I-40E/I-65 S, staying on Interstate 65 all the way to Exit 34. From there, turn east on I-840 E toward Chapel Hill, staying on Arno-Allison Road to US-31. Signs will point travelers in the right direction, taking them straight to the park's easy-to-find front gate.

Some travelers will make the journey to the park from the south, driving out of Huntsville, Alabama, instead. That drive is about an hour and a half and follows US-231 N/US-431 N to TN-271N. The route intersects with US-31, which once again directs visitors to the park entrance.

Accessibility

The Storybrook Greenway Trail is a short, quarter-mile hiking trail that's paved and fully accessible for visitors with wheelchairs or strollers. Around the park, there are ADA-compliant restrooms, picnic areas, and a playground. Guest with special needs who want to spend the night can also book accessible campsites, cabins, or a room at the Lodge.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Henry Horton State Park is open every day of the year, with the only exception being that the golf course closes on Christmas Day.
  • You can purchase geo-referenced maps that will show you your exact location on a smartphone when you're out on the trails. These maps use GPS and not your cell signal, so they work even when you don't have service.
  • Refurbished in 2021, the Restaurant at Henry Horton is the park's most popular place for a sit-down meal. As such, it can get quite crowded at times, although the menu of Americana favorites is tasty, convenient, and affordable, using produce grown in the park's very own garden.
  • Since most travelers to Henry Horton State Park base their trip in Nashville, don't miss out on the best things to do in Music City, from honky-tonk bars to trying some famous Nashville hot chicken.
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Henry Horton State Park: The Complete Guide