Free Camping on the Natchez Trace

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile long recreational road and scenic drive through the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.  It closely follows a historic forest trail that was used by Native Americans for centuries and later used by early European and American explorers, traders, and emigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Natchez Trace Parkway was established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1938 to commemorate the history and preserve the natural beauty of this significant travel route of the Old Southwest. The Parkway is open 24 hours a day year round and is free of charge. Commercial vehicles of all types are not allowed on the Parkway.

The National Park Service provides three campgrounds for boondocking along the Natchez Trace Parkway. All three are free of charge and available on a first come, first serve basis. No reservations are accepted and no electricity or dump stations are available at any of the campgrounds. 

The campgrounds are available for tent camping and RVs. They are located as follows:

  • Rocky Springs – milepost 54.8
  • Jeff Busby – milepost 193.1
  • Meriwether Lewis – milepost 385.9 

Rocky Springs Campground

Rocky Springs campground at milepost 54.8 offers 22 sites suitable for tents and RVs. Many of the sites are pull-through and can accommodate any size rig. Each site provides a fire pit and picnic table. No electricity, water or dump station are available at this campground. There is a restroom but no shower facilities. Both Verizon and AT&T signals are very minimal at this location.

 

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Rocky Springs is located in a highly wooded area making solar power minimal in most spots. Generators are allowed except between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days and 30 days park-wide per calendar year. 

 

Multiple hiking trails are located nearby the campground including the one below that follows along the Little Sand Creek. One of the trails is on the historic Sunken Trace. 

Jeff Busby Campground

Jeff Busby campground at milepost 193.1 is the smallest of the three offering 18 sites. Like Rocky Springs, many of the sites are pull-throughs able to accommodate any size rig. The campground is located in a hilly area so finding a level spot may be more difficult here than the other two parks. Each site does have a picnic table and fire ring. No electricity or dump station is located in the park but potable water is available. There are public bathrooms but no shower facilities. 

The campground is located in a wooded area but several of the sites are open enough to allow the collection of solar power on sunny days. Cellular signal with AT&T and Verizon was good with the use of weBoost cellular booster

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Little Mountain, one of Mississippi’s highest points at 603 feet, is located near Jeff Busby campground. The mountain can be accessed via Little Mountain Summit Road or by Little Mountain Hiking Trail. The hiking trail is a moderate level trail due to the elevation changes. 

Severe weather passed through the Jeff Busby campground area the day before our arrival. The storm caused damage to many trees including this one at the top of Little Mountain. The bathrooms at all three National Park Service campgrounds along the Natchez Trace are built of cement blocks and are able to provide shelter during severe weather.

Meriwether Lewis Campground

Meriwether Lewis campground at milepost 385.9 is the largest of the three offering 32 sites. Like the other camgrounds, many of the sites are pull-throughs that are able to accommodate any size rig. 

The campground had bathrooms but no showers. Potable water was available in two locations in the park but no electricity or dump station was present. The campground was located in a wooded location but many of the sites had enough tree openings to provide some solar power while the trees are bare of leaves. Solar access would be more limited during the height of summer but like the other campgrounds, generator use is allowed during the daytime hours. 

Cellular signal at Meriwether Lewis campground with AT&T and Verizon were very adequate with the use of a booster. 

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Hiking trails are abundant near the Meriwether Lewis campground. One trail follows the Old Natchez Trace while another follows along the Little Swan Creek. Hiking trails also take you from the campground to the Meriwether Lewis Monument and Grave-site. 

We highly enjoyed our stay at all three National Park Service campgrounds along the Natchez Trace. We stayed a total of 15 days between the three campgrounds. During our stay we explored the surrounding areas and hiked many of the trails. All three campgrounds were full each night and some days several of the sites contained multiple RVs and/or tent campers. Many of the campers present during our stay were snowbirders making their way home to the northern United States and Canada. 

We would not hesitate to return to any of the campgrounds when in the area. We do advise anyone seeking a camping spot during the spring and fall migration season to arrive early in the day to increase a chance of a site being available. 

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