In recent decades, Mississippi has seen a surge in initiatives aimed at urban revitalization and outdoor recreation. These programs have resulted in the enhancement of countless waterways, parks, and public lands. Cycling routes have been a major part of these efforts, equating to hundreds of miles of new or improved bike trails. From the Mississippi coast to the Delta, residents and visitors alike can now enjoy and explore the Magnolia State from any number of dirt singletracks or paved multi-use paths.
So, whether you're an avid cyclist or out for a family-friendly excursion, here are the 10 best biking trails around the state.
Graceland might be the pinnacle destination for Elvis fans, but Tupelo, Mississippi still gets its share of the love. Visitors come by the bus loads to see where America’s legendary rock 'n' roll musician spent his early years. Now, the city has created a self-guided bike tour to explore 13 notable sites around town; from his birthplace to his junior high school to his local swimming hole, the 6-mile route maps it all. It’s also a fun way to explore Tupelo’s historic district and take in other points of interest like Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, Reed’s department store, and the Caron Gallery.
The Tanglefoot was completed in 2013 and runs between Houston, Mississippi and New Albany. A Rails-to-Trails project, the 44-mile path follows what used to be a heavily-traveled trade route and railway. The name comes from the Tanglefoot steam engine that operated back when the rail line flourished. Thanks to “whistle stops” along the way, riders have access to sheltered rest areas with picnic tables and even bike repair stations. Most of the trail runs through forested areas and rural farmland, but the small towns along the route offer dining and lodging options. The Seafood Junction in Algoma, roughly halfway, is a locals’ favorite for the dinner buffet.
The “Trace” is Mississippi’s most popular byway for road trips and Sunday drives. For the serious cyclist, it’s an epic bike trip. The path covers a 400-mile stretch from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a lot of ground to cover, and some of it is hilly, but the trip can easily be divided into segments. From waterfalls and cypress swamps to Indian Mounds and remnants of the Old Trace, each section has plenty to see. Without the usual billboards and roadside distractions—not to mention the slower speed limit—this scenic two-lane feels like a trip back in time.
Located in Ocean Springs, this 15-mile trail is a gorgeous sub-section of the Mississippi Coastal Heritage Trail. Green signposts clearly mark the route so cyclists can enjoy an easy, unhurried ride through the tree-lined town and along the waterfront. Ocean Springs has a long history as an arts and crafts destination, so the Walter Anderson Museum, Mary C. O’Keefe Center, and Shearwater Pottery shouldn’t be missed.
One of the first Rails-to-Trails conversions in the state, the Longleaf was Mississippi's "premier" bike trail for over a decade until the Tanglefoot came along. Named for native pines, this wide, multi-use trail begins at the University of Mississippi in Hattiesburg and extends for 41 miles to Prentiss. Restrooms and parking are available at various train depots along the way. The beauty of this trail lies in its versatility; it can be an urban adventure through five charming towns or a retreat into nature for peace and quiet.
Slow things down with this quiet loop in Columbus, Mississippi. The path skirts Lake Lowndes for roughly 6 miles, and, combined with other activities in the area like camping, fishing, and hiking, you're in for an ideal weekend in the outdoors. The lake also works well as a base for day trips into the “Golden Triangle” region of northern Mississippi. Attractions like the Howlin’ Wolf Blues Museum, Catfish Alley, Tennessee Williams’ childhood home, and Waverly Mansion are a short drive away.
Mt. Zion Bike Trail
Arguably the most popular trail in the state for singletrack enthusiasts, this fast-riding, quirky trail is in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Just under 7 miles long, the track is challenging and fun. With occasional jumps, it’s geared to expert riders but there are offshoots for beginners. Mt. Zion is growing in popularity, so the trail is well-kept and frequently maintained. Brookhaven has a variety of spots for a well-deserved drink or bite to eat afterwards, and Jackson, the state capital, is only an hour away.
To pedal the Great River Road in its entirety would mean biking 3,000 miles along the Mississippi River through 10 states. For something less daunting, 35 of those miles follow the “Blues Highway” from Walls, Mississippi to the casino town of Tunica. This region is flat, wide-open terrain, so there are no rugged hills to conquer here.
Already popular for other open-air activities, Homochitto National Forest is now gaining traction on the mountain biking scene as well. This trail, which encircles Clear Springs Lake, is part of a connected series that totals over 25 miles. Aside from hours of riding time, the Clear Springs Recreational Area offers spots for camping, hiking, and swimming. Located in the southwestern part of the state, it’s within driving distance of the Natchez Trace, Mt. Zion, and Longleaf.
In addition to blues and barbecue, Mississippi is home to many celebrated authors. For readers of William Faulkner, this trail in Oxford, Mississippi offers an up-close look at the writer’s hometown. It runs for 5 miles around the grounds of Ole Miss, and connects to paved paths in town as well. After a good ride, other areas of literary interest worth checking out are Faulkner's former home, Faulkner's grave at St. Peter’s Cemetery, and downtown’s Square Books.