To wander around Radnor Lake State Park, you wouldn’t imagine that this pristine place exists within the city limits of Nashville, Tennessee. This extensive natural area contains a stunning lake, wooded trails, and is home to dozens of species of wildlife. It is rare to find such a tranquil, well-preserved spot within such an urban area. The park’s many nature programs are highly educational and the accessible trails make this a place where everyone is welcome. These reasons are all why Radnor Lake State Park was named the best state park in Tennessee in 2015. If you’re planning a trip to this spot, be sure to check out our guide to Radnor Lake State Park, for all the highlights in the park.
Things to do/ highlights
Radnor Lake State Park is home to many varieties of native wildlife and plants. One of the reasons the park has so many rules and regulations about using the trails is to preserve these animals’ and plants’ environment and allow them to be observed by as many visitors as possible in years to come. Some of the animals you might catch sight of in the park include small mammals like mink, otter, and beavers, as well as bigger ones like bobcats, coyotes, and whitetail deer. There are also many species of amphibians and reptiles you might find around the lake or close to its shores. Animals aren’t the only living creatures worth observing at Radnor Lake. The park also has thousands of species of plants ranging from wildflowers to moss to shrubs to trees which all contribute to the ecological diversity of the area. Remember that no matter how pretty a flower or leaf you find, take nothing but pictures in the park.
There are miles of trails in Radnor Lake State Park which are designated for hiking only. The trails vary in length and steepness so that nearly everyone can find a part of the park they can explore on a trail. The most challenging trail is the Ganier Ridge trail, which goes 1.6 mi (2.7 km) up into the woodsy hills that surround the lake. A less challenging, but no less beautiful trail is the Lake Trail. It is slightly shorter at 1.4 mi (2.4 km) long, but has a much lower elevation. This trail hugs the eastern side of the lake, providing beautiful views of this tranquil place. It is also accessible for those who borrow all-terrain wheelchairs from the visitor center.
Jogging and bicycling
It’s important to note that unpaved hiking trails are intended only for hiking, wildlife observation, and photography–no jogging or biking is allowed. However, if you’re looking for a workout at beautiful Radnor Lake, you’re in luck; the paved Otter Creek Road on the southwestern side of the lake is open to joggers, bikers, and even leashed pets! You’ll still get a beautiful view of the lake without having to be concerned about trampling wildflowers or scaring off a small animal.
Walter Criley Visitor Center
The Walter Criley Visitor Center is a great place to stop if it’s your first visit to Radnor Lake. This center contains exhibits, maps, and media that will orient you to the nature and history of the state park. Learn about Radnor Lake’s natural history through interpretive exhibits and wildlife displays. The center also has information about the history of the park’s founding, including an 18-minute video that tells the story of how the area was designated as a preserved space in the 1970s. Walter Criley Visitor Center is the perfect place to jump off your exploration of the park, and you’ll come out with a greater appreciation that this beautiful area was able to be protected.
Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center
Aside from the plethora of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians you can observe at Radnor Lake, the state park is also well-known as a birding site. Walking around the lake and along the trails, you might catch sight of owls, herons, and other water fowl. Be sure to also stop by the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center. This center is a recent addition to Radnor Lake State Park where visitors can get up close to several birds of prey, like a Red Tailed Hawk, a Black Vulture, a Great Horned Owl, and three Bald Eagles! All of these birds were found injured in the wild and rehabilitated, and are unable to be released. Fortunately, this aviary center provides them with a comfortable home and gives visitors the opportunity to become educated about these magnificent creatures.
There are several trails in the park which are wheelchair accessible. The Otter Creek Road trail is fully paved and can be explored with any kind of wheelchair. The Lake Trail is also accessible, but visitors will need to rent an all-terrain wheelchair from the visitor center to take this path.
Restrictions in the park
Radnor Lake State Park is a Class II Natural Area, which gives it the most restrictive land management rules of any state park. Please be sure to make note of all posted signs and restrictions in the park to help preserve this beautiful place. No picnicking is allowed in any part of the park. Jogging, biking, and pets are only allowed on the Otter Creek Road trail. Pets must be leashed at all times. Do not take any plants or natural objects out of the park. No hunting or fishing is allowed.
How to get there
The best way to get to Radnor State Lake Park is by car. The park is actually within the Nashville city limits and is less than a half-hour from downtown. Head south on I-65 out of town until you get to exit 78, where you will get on TN-255 S. If you’re approaching from the west side of the park, it’s best to park in the West Parking Lot by the Walter Criley Visitor Center. If coming from the east, park in the East Parking Area off of Otter Creek Road.
Radnor Lake State Park information
Address: 1160 Otter Creek Rd, Nashville, TN 37220
Opening hours: 6am - 5pm (daily)
Official website: Radnor Lake State Park
Department of tourism: Tennessee Vacation
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