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If you enjoy history, some time in the great outdoors and a beautiful drive, you'll love this daytrip itinerary to sites north of Natchez along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
The Natchez Trace was a travel route long before Natchez was established — first by migrating animals, later by Native Americans and finally by French, English and American explorers and settlers.
Today, the Natchez Trace Parkway closely follows that historic path. This itinerary of about 80 miles along the Natchez Trace hits historic sites en route to the charming towns of Port Gibson, Mississippi and (via U.S. Route 61) Vicksburg, Mississippi. This route will give you a glimpse into Mississippi history, all while experiencing the legendary beauty of the Natchez Trace.
Natchez Trace Parkway Milepost 10.3 (about 30 minutes from Natchez)
This National Historic Landmark is one of the largest mounds in North America. It was built and used between 1250 and 1600 A.D. by the ancestors of the Natchez Indians as a ceremonial center. Hike to the top for a terrific view. Exit the Parkway at Route and follow the signs (about 1 mile).
Highway 553 (25 minutes away)
If you continue a little further along Highway 553, you'll come to the rural community of Church Hill, named for Christ Church on the hilltop, built around 1790. The site is also home to a country store/post office built in 1837. Beautiful antebellum homes line the Highway, though they're privately owned and not open for tours.
Natchez Trace Parkway Milepost 15.5 (45 minutes away)
If you continue north from Church Hill, you'll rejoin the Natchez Trace Parkway, but you'll need to backtrack to where you left it to see Mount Locust, about 5 miles north of the 553 exit. This 1780 home functioned as both a working plantation and an inn, and has been restored to its 1820 state.
1000 Alcorn Drive, Lorman, MS (20 minutes away)
Established in 1871, Alcorn State was the first U.S. land-grant university for African Americans. It was founded on the site of what was Oakland College, a school for white students that closed at the start of the Civil War. Exit the Parkway at milepost 30 and follow Highway 552 west to Alcorn Drive.
Highway 552 (22 minutes away)
From Alcorn, continue along Highway 552 (now heading north) to the ruins of what was the largest antebellum Greek Revival mansion in Mississippi. In the Civil War, Confederate troops used the homes rooftop observatory as a lookout, and after the Battle of Port Gibson, the mansion was used as a Union hospital. Sadly, in 1890, the home was consumed in a fire started by an abandoned lit cigar.
Shaifer Road (10 minutes away)
The Shaifer House is the site of the first shot of the Battle of Port Gibson, fired on May 1, 1863, the first place that Grant's army encountered Confederate troops. During the Battle, the house served as a Union Hospital and General McClernand's headquarters. From Windsor Ruins, head east on Rodney Road (towards Port Gibson) about 4.5 miles, then turn right onto Bessie Weathers Road. Continue 1.3 miles to an unmarked gravel road (Shaifer Road). Turn right onto the gravel road and continue 1.4 miles — past the Old Magnolia Church historical markers — to the Shaifer House and parking area.
(10 minutes away)
The third-oldest settlement in Mississippi, Port Gibson offers visitors charming historic homes and churches — the town that General Grant declared "too beautiful to burn." See much of that beauty along Church Street, hit Main Street to see the "No Easy Journey" exhibit of Civil Rights photos and artifacts and see award-winning quilts at the Cultural Crossroads workshop and gallery.
Just 10 minutes south of Port Gibson on Route 61 (in Lorman, Mississippi), don't miss The Old Country Store, "Mr. D's restaurant, gift shop and flea market, known throughout the region as one of the best places to sample Southern fried chicken!
12006 Grand Gulf Road (15 minutes away)
After lunch, get back on U.S. Highway 61 heading north to the Grand Gulf Military Park, once a Civil War battlesite now memorialized with museums, exhibits and two preserved forts. Exit Highway 61 at MS State Route 462 (a.k.a. Grand Gulf Road), continuing 7 miles to the Park.
4139 North Frontage Road (50 minutes away)
Head back to Highway 61 and north to see one of the largest collection of Civil War battleship replicas in the country and learn about the 47-day siege of Vicksburg that ended on July 4, 1863, a turning point that would eventually cede the Confederacy's control of the Mississippi River.
Just next door, the Vicksburg National Military Park offers visitors more than 1,300 monuments, the National Cemetery and the U.S.S. Cairo along a 16-mile tour road — an extraordinary park you don't want to miss.
1008 Cherry Street (5 minutes away)
Cap your daytrip with a stop at the Old Courthouse Museum in the heart of Vicksburg, a beautiful 1858 Greek Revival building that is today home to a unique collection of antebellum and Civil-War-era artifacts.
Before returning to Natchez, enjoy a number of other antebellum properties in Vicksburg, as well as shopping and dining. Return trip along U.S. Highway 61: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Enjoy all the remarkable sights you see along the Natchez Trace Parkway!