You can go from Nashville to New Orleans and drive about 533 miles, or you can make an adventure out of it by heading west like the early pioneers and exploring much more of the country. While you will add about 400 more miles to your Nashville to New Orleans road trip, it will be worth visiting the fantastic national parks and the state parks along the way. Consider this alternative before you decide to drive straight south on your Nashville to New Orleans road trip.
Many national parks can easily be added to a Nashville to New Orleans road trip.
Hot Springs National Park
Congress first protected the water at Hot Springs National Park in 1832, and today, you can soak in the thermal waters at two bathhouses. There are also several places in the park where you can drink the water, including in front of the national park headquarters building. You can also touch the water, which was believed to have healing properties and is 147 degrees when it comes out of the ground at Hot Water Cascade, which is the largest visible spring in the area. Two trails offer outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities. You can also take ranger-led tours and cellphone tours to understand more about the history of this park.
Cane River Creole National Historical Park
This park contains two French Creole plantations in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, on the Cane River. Between the two, 65 structures are preserved by the National Park Service. At Oakland, you can tour the main house, which has been restored with period antiques and a slave/tenant cabin. The main house at Magnolia is privately owned, but you can tour outbuildings, which consist of a town where slaves lived.
By routing your road trip from Nashville to New Orleans and seeing the two national parks, you can visit some great state parks in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana along the way.
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
You will love the stunning views at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, located near Millington, Tennessee. Rent a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or pedal boat and explore Popular Tree Lake. You can also use the free boat launch to gain direct access to the Mississippi River. Two 18-hole disc golf courses are available with one for beginners and one for more advanced players. Over 20 miles of hiking trails are available, and you may spot some of the 240 reported species of birds seen in this park. There is also an 8.5-mile horseback riding trail.
Lake Ouachita State Park
Lake Ouachita State Park surrounds a 40,000-surface-acre lake where you can go swimming, skiing, scuba diving, boating, kayaking, and fishing. At this location near Mountain Lake, you can rent canoes, kayaks, small motorboats, and pontoons from the park’s vendor. The extremely clean lake is over 200-feet deep in many places, so it has great visibility under its surface. The lake contains more than 30 diving spots, and you can get a map to them at the park’s office.
Logoly State Park
Logoly State Park near Magnolia, Arkansas, covers only 390-acres, and it sits in a protected nature preserve. Follow Crane’s Fly Trail around the small lake to access the boardwalk where you can often see birds and other wildlife that call the lake and the old-growth forest home. Watch the water bubble from the mineral springs. This park is the first designated environmental park in Arkansas, and you can learn about many animals and the park’s geology at the interactive exhibits in the visitors center. If you have children with you, they will love romping on the playground. There are other outstanding Arkansas state parks nearby that you might also want to consider.
Lake Chicot State Park
Another stop that you will want to make on your road trip from Nashville to New Orleans is at Lake Chicot State Park, which is located near Lake Village, Arkansas. Lake Chicot is the largest natural lake in Arkansas and the largest oxbow lake in North America. Anglers often come here to catch channel catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass. This park’s location in the Mississippi Flyway makes it a popular location to look for birds. While you will have to pay a little extra, cool off with a dip in this state park’s swimming pool.
Tickfaw State Park
Tickfaw State Park near Springfield, Louisiana, is a great place to go on a nature hike along the park’s boardwalk. In under a mile, you will hike through a cypress/tupelo swamp, a bottomland hardwood forest, a mixed pine-hardwood forest, and along the Tickfaw River. Periodically, park rangers provide guided hikes at night. Cool off at this park’s splash pad from Tuesday through Sunday. Head to the nature center to see the 800-gallon aquarium stocked with plants and marine-life from the Tickfaw River.
There are many interesting points of interest that you may want to include on a road trip itinerary from Nashville to New Orleans. Here are a few standouts.
Stop and visit the homes along Adams Avenue near downtown Memphis, Tennessee, on your trip. These homes were constructed during the late 1800s, and many of them are open for public tours, including Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum that was built in 1871. Next door is the Mallory-Neely House, which contains many mementos from the Chicago’s World Fair of 1893. The Pillow-McIntyre House is the only pre-Civil War Greek Revival-style home in the city.
Old State House Museum
If the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, could talk, it would have quite a tale to tell. You can learn more about the events that happened there, including the admission of Arkansas into the United States, a knife fight between two sitting legislators, the vote for Arkansas to join the Confederacy, and the acceptance speeches of two United States presidents given on her grounds. You can also see the largest collection of First Lady’s dresses outside of the Smithsonian Museum.
Garvan Woodland Gardens
Garvan Woodland Gardens is a 210-acre botanical garden located very near Hot Springs, Arkansas. This garden nestled on Lake Hamilton's shores contains more than 160 varieties of azaleas and many other types of plants. Stroll along the lake or the garden’s stream and take in all the different gardens located within this space.
Great Mississippi River Road
The Great Mississippi River Road runs along the east bank of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans for 70 miles. As you drive along it, you can see many examples of antebellum and colonial homes. Stop at St. Joseph Plantation, where you can see the main home, the schoolhouse, and an ironsmith shop. The Evergreen Plantation contains one of the most complete collections of slave quarters in the United States. You will not want to miss seeing the gardens at the Houmas House Estate and Gardens.
Compared to many cities that draw tourists in Tennessee, Memphis is a budget-friendly, energetic city to visit. Consider camping at Graceland RV Park and Campground or at Elvis Presley Boulevard RV Park. Both are located very near Graceland. Dump stations are available at both and at other nearby locations in Tennessee.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Stroll the promenade, shop in the outlet malls, and experience all that Little Rock, Arkansas, offers. Give yourself time to enjoy the city by camping at the Downtown Riverside RV Park on the Arkansas River banks or the Burns Park RV Park and Campground, which features two golf courses and a theme park. You can find nearby dump stations at either of these campgrounds or many other places across Arkansas.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offers many great restaurants and outstanding college sports. Consider camping at Lakeside RV Park, which offers a camp store, or at Reunion Lake RV Resort with a tiki bar. You can use the dump station at Farr Park Equestrian Center & RV Campground or at Mid River Truck Stop.
Going on a Nashville to New Orleans road trip by going through Arkansas allows you to visit Hot Springs National Park and Cane River Creole National Historical Park. You will be building memories as you get off the beaten path and experience towns skipped by many people. Get your RV ready and set out as soon as possible. If you do not have an RV, then rent one in Nashville or New Orleans to make this epic Nashville to New Orleans RV road trip.