This article was produced with support from REI.
Situated on the east banks of the Mississippi River, Memphis, Tennessee is known primarily for its music and barbecue. But the Bluff City’s reputation demands something of an update: a fresh look at its amazing outdoors culture.
We only had 24 hours in Memphis, so we set out on a mission to pack in as much outdoor activity as possible. Here’s where we stopped and what we recommend.
Wake up first thing, lace up your sneaks and head over to Shelby Farms for a morning trail run. Shelby Farms is one of the largest urban parks in the country (4,500 acres), and you can access over 40 miles of trail throughout (both paved and unpaved).
The Wolf River trail is an excellent choice, weaving through forest and field in the Lucius Burch Jr. State Natural Area (trail distance varies across multiple routes). The park is home to a small herd of American bison, and you can even bring your own horse on some of the trails.
After a jaunt through the park, be sure to sit outside and have an exceptional breakfast at Sunrise Memphis. This eccentric diner marries a creative menu with fast service and delicious local fare. Try the Rooster sandwich (fried chicken, biscuit, tabasco honey) with a fried egg ("for a mother and child reunion").
Well-fed and caffeinated, make your next stop South Memphis's newly minted Memphis Rox Climbing + Community. At Memphis Rox's three-month-old, state-of-the-art climbing gym in Soulsville, it's pay-what-you-can for access to 32,000 square feet of inclusivity, recreation, and community.
There's a juice bar, couches, weights and exercise equipment, yoga and meditation rooms, and even a party room. As far as staff, you'll find them warm, friendly and some mix of artists, dirtbags, and locals who will make you feel happy you visited.
Big River Crossing
Ditch your four wheels for two – because where we're going, you can only walk or bike. Grab a bike at Stax Museum from the new Explore Bike Share dock) and head northwest toward Big River Crossing and take the longest public pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River (nearly one-mile long).
There are 11 different sections to paddle on the Wolf River, between its source in Mississippi and where it meets the Mississippi River in Memphis. The Lost Swamp is a local favorite for its cypress forests and lush habitats, but you can also access from either the Wolf River Harbor, or the take-out point at the north end of Mud Island. If you're in Rossville near the Ghost Section or Lost Swamp, reward yourself to Wolf River Cafe (and the catfish, if it's a Friday night).
Head over to Hyde Lake at Shelby Farms to catch a sunset yoga class on a standup paddle board with SUP901. The lake offers a near two-mile perimeter around which you can paddle, float, people-watch, or in this case, namaste as the sun goes down. You can BYO-Board or rent one from SUP901.
During the day, Overton Park boasts an 126-acre old growth forest. After the sun goes down, you can head to this park in the heart of Memphis for a relaxed evening at the Levitt Shell, watching free concerts during the summer from a lawn chair under the stars.
If you haven't collapsed on your bed yet, make the few-block trek to Wiseacre Brewing and dip into the Memphis sand aquifer with a glass of the Memphis Sands beer to cap off an active day in one of the best outdoors cities in the country.