If history is a guide, the Natchez Trace is worth the trip. The Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes walked this 444-mile path centuries ago, famed explorer Meriwether Lewis mysteriously died while taking the route toward Washington, and thousands of ambience-seeking sojourners have completed segments of the tour since the track was named a national scenic byway in 1996. Now, after 67 years of work, the entire length of the historic trail has been preserved as the Natchez Trace Parkway, a snaking two-lane scenic drive from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. Autumn is prime time for this southern road trip, when the black gums burn red and the hickories blaze gold. Start your journey in downtown Natchez with an indulgent southern breakfast of sausage, biscuits, and grits at the 1888 Wensel House B&B (doubles from $95; 888-775-8577, www.1888wenselhouse.com). Then hop in your car and peel back the top for a leisurely drive past antebellum homes, prehistoric ceremonial mounds, and the graves of unknown Confederate soldiers. Need to stretch your legs? Spend an extra day in an 1830s log cabin at the Ridgetop Bed & Breakfast (doubles $95; 800-377-2770), where you can hike the trails on the property's 170 wooded acres, canoe the nearby Buffalo River, or saddle up for a horseback ride with Natchez Trace Riding Stables (931-682-3706, www.natcheztraceridingstables.com).
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