Trail Review: Shelby Bottoms Nature Park: West Loop (#12)

Quick getaway in the heart of East Nashville

A few weeks ago, on one sweltering Saturday, Moka, Minnie, and I ventured into the morning heat to walk the west loop of the Shelby Bottoms Greenway trail. If the weather had been cooler, the pups and I would have gone the entire stretch of both loop trails and back again, but pavement is hot, paws are more sensitive than you think, and dogs can’t sweat as efficiently as humans. Luckily, they are short-haired, but I still had to put their health and safety first.

I chose to bring Minnie along this time because it’s paved, easy to follow, and I could focus on keeping her going. She was not leash trained when we fostered and adopted her in February, and she doesn’t have her recall down pat yet, so I like to take her on easy walks as she learns proper leash etiquette and to listen to me. Moka, of course, is my sweet baby angel and is perfect on trails. 🙂

We started our hike by parking at the main trailhead near the Nature Center. Even on a busy Saturday, there was plenty of parking.

Shelby Bottoms Nature Center

I decided to take a slightly different route than the one listed in the 60 Hikes book, since the layout has changed since the book was written in 2007. We took a left on the paved trail after a stop at the human and doggo water fountain by the kiosk. This used to be called the Maple Trail but is now just part of the west loop.

It wasn’t long until we passed the observation deck, a fancy gazebo/pavilion wooden structure in the middle of a field offering a seat in the shade. I think they also use this location as part of bird-watching programs.

Observation Deck

After we walked about .8 mi, having taken a left after .75 mile as the west loop trail ended and we intersected with the main greenway, we diverted from the main paved path onto the “primitive” shaded grass (and mud) Wildlife Crossings Trail. No one else was on it at the time, and the pups had free range to explore the trail without dodging strollers, cyclists, and other dogs. So. Many. Things. To. Smell.

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Wildlife Crossings Trail 

The Wildlife Crossings Trail ended and we took a left to continue on the greenway. We walked on the paved trails and grass by the trails to give paws a break, and across multiple wooden bridges, one of which zig-zagged in a fun way. There were blackberries along the path, but since there were a lot of people around I tried to follow good LNT principles and not chow down.

There was a bit of flooding at one of the bridges, so Moka and Minnie splashed around in that and had a long drink. We made it to the 2 mile greenway mark (we had gone about 2.75 miles because of the loop we took at the beginning), and had another water break. I carry extra water and a collapsible bowl anytime a dog hikes with me, no matter how short a stroll.

We ran into our friends Ashlinn and Adam, who were also out on the hot, muggy morning. While I generally eschew busy city trails, unexpectedly running into friends is a definite perk.

The walk back to the car went a bit faster, as the dogs were tired and not tempted to smell so many things. I think they just missed the AC; so spoiled. I will likely go back sans dogs, or just with Moka on a cool day, complete the entire circuit of two trails, and update this post to include information about both.

For folks in the Nashville area, I encourage you to give this trail a try. Yes, it’s paved. Yes, there are cyclists and roller bladers and people with strollers who cavort down the trail three across and people who don’t manage their dogs well. But there are also side grass trails, shady spots, blackberries, and views of the Cumberland River. It’s a very short drive from anywhere in Nashville, and would be a great way to let off some stress after a busy work day.

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