Potkopinu, a Natchez Indian word meaning, “Little Valley,” is the southernmost remaining section of historic sunken Natchez trace that is maintained by the Park Service and still hikeable. Three miles long, the Potkopinu segment lies between mile 20 and mile 17 on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
When we walked Potkopinu, we decided that we wanted a longer hike so we hiked from the northern trailhead to the southern trailhead, then south on the Parkway to Mount Locust, where we had lunch and chatted with one of the exceptionally knowledgeable and helpful Rangers. Then we hiked back to our vehicles via the Parkway and State Road 553 for a total of 10-11 miles.
The coolest part of the hike was easily the sunken trace, where the sides of the trail rise 15-20 feet in places. The Ranger at Mount Locust told us that this trail is older than the Natchez trace and it was worn down like this by a combination of prehistoric megafauna, Natchez Trace era traffic, and erosion.
The least pleasant part of the hike was the return trip along the Parkway with its blacktop and traffic. After pounding our hooves on the asphalt for 4-5 miles, the climb up the trash-littered incline of State Road 553 was brutal. Perhaps if we went back and still wanted to do this 10-mile route, it would be better to do the road and Parkway portion first, when we’re fresh, then make the return trip on the old sunken trace, where the novelty would help to offset the fatigue.
Update: Speaking of traffic on the Natchez Trace, did y’all see the video on the news today of the cyclist that got hit by the car today!? It was the other end of the Trace (near Nashville) but still – be careful out there! Notice in the photo above that we are fanatical about always walking on the left side of the road when we have to walk on roadways. This way cars can’t sneak up behind you as easily!
Thankfully that cyclist looks like he’ll recover, and they caught the hit-and-run driver.