As Mississippi celebrates 200 years of statehood in 2017, cyclists are taking notice of the exciting riding opportunities around the state. From rails-to-trails paths to national scenic routes, cyclists can experience widely ranging terrains throughout the state. In celebration of the Bicentennial, here is a special 200-mile ride through Mississippi.
Cycling Distance: 43 miles
Start your cycling adventure on the Tanglefoot Trail in New Albany, located in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area. The trail follows a converted railroad bed through hardwood forests, kudzu, creek bottoms and farms into the heart of rural Mississippi. Although sections were part of ancient Chickasaw trails, the railway was cleared for the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad nearly 150 years ago. Make a pit stop at the Algoma Country Store in Pontotoc for a classic Southern treat like chicken on a stick, then continue to Houston, home to the state’s first Carnegie library, which dates to 1909.
Cycling Distance: 62 miles
Pick up the pace in Ridgeland for a trip around Barnett Reservoir that follows the Natchez Trace Parkway, a national scenic trail built on an ancient path that stretches from Natchez to Nashville, Tenn. Cruise along the northern banks and watch the sunlight play on the waters of the Pearl River, then cross over on Highway 43 and make your way back through a shady, wooded expanse.
Your next leg starts at Rocky Springs farther south on the Natchez Trace Parkway, established as a popular watering spot for travelers in the 1700s. A ghost town since the spring dried in the 1930s, only a Methodist church built in 1837 remains. Follow the Trace to Port Gibson and make your way through the winding, kudzu-covered loess hills to Windsor Ruins, the remains of the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion ever built in Mississippi. The structure burned in 1890, leaving only the 23 Corinthian columns that visitors see today.
Cycling Distance: 57 miles
After overnighting in Vicksburg along the Mississippi River, take up the steep grades found in Vicksburg National Military Park, where one of the most pivotal battles of the Civil War raged in 1863. Ride along hillsides where infantrymen camped and fought, and explore the place Abraham Lincoln deemed “the key” to keeping the Union intact.
Next, head southeast to Prentiss and cycle the entire Longleaf Trace to Hattiesburg. This down-state rails-to-trails path follows the former Mississippi Central Railroad line through the Pine Belt, a timber industry hub from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Now a designated National Recreation Trail, the route passes through small towns like Bassfield and Sumrall before emerging in Hattiesburg, home of the University of Southern Mississippi and a variety of eateries and cafes.
Cycling Distance: 38 miles
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is where Deep South meets laid-back coastal lifestyle. As unhurried as life may seem on your journey through the Magnolia State, the coast eases back just a little more. Let gentle Gulf breezes push you along the Mississippi Coastal Heritage Trail, a 101-mile path of shared and dedicated biking pathways between Bay St. Louis and Pascagoula.
With casual-dining restaurants and diversions all along the beachfront and in the quaint seaside towns, picking your start and end points may be the most challenging parts of your trip. You can’t go wrong with the Bay St. Louis to Long Beach section, which carries you along the Gulf of Mexico toward your final destination, the historic Biloxi Lighthouse.
For more information on cycling in Mississippi, click here.