Exploring Shelby Farms

Explore Shelby Farms

Bike, hike, fish and play at this awesome Memphis park. 

by Allen Gillespie

by Peter Short

Spanning 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country. At five times the size of New York City's Central Park, it’s a massive green space located in the eastern part of the city just outside the interstate loop. Over the years, Shelby Farms Park has become a popular destination for locals and tourists looking to spend some outside time challenging themselves—or just counting the clouds.

Here are a few of the things you can do at Shelby Farms Park:

BIKE, WALK OR BOTH

Sounds simple, but taking a long walk, hike or bike ride may be the best thing you can do at Shelby Farms Park. (The park offers bike rentals for visitors traveling without their own wheels.) The trails are numerous, and long enough, to make you feel like you’ve truly escaped modern life. Trails to keep in mind:

  • The Wolf River Trails wind through the Lucius Burch Jr. State Natural Area alongside the Wolf River. It’s a scenic ecosystem you should take a peek at.

  • The Tour de Wolf trails are nicely shaded with some fun elevation change, so you’ll share them with dog-walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and runners.

  • For cyclists, the Shelby Farms Greenline offers 10-plus miles of uninterrupted pavement, connecting users from the park all the way to Midtown Memphis.

  • The Chickasaw Trail’s smooth 2.75 miles provide a nice option for families biking with or strolling small children.

GO APE TREETOP ADVENTURE

One example of what makes Shelby Farms Park more than your average city park is the Go Ape Treetop Adventure. An outdoor ropes course, Go Ape is fun for families and friends, but do check age requirements before you go. The course begins with rope-climbing challenges in the treetops of a shady pine forest, then rewards participants with zip lines across the park’s Pine Lake.

GET OUT ON THE WATER

Shelby Farms Park features several bodies of water, all sized just right for exploring under your own power. Visitors can rent kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards from the boathouse at Hyde Lake, or launch their own. At Pine Lake, grab a friend and a pedal boat.

Shelby Farms Playground
Kayaking at Shelby Farms Memphis
Buffalo at Shelby Farms Park. Photo Credit: Baxter Buck
Shelby Farms Cycling

BUFFALO

Shelby Farms Park is really big. How big? So big that it has a resident herd of buffalo. In 1989, the superintendent for the park brought six buffalo from a safari attraction outside of Jackson, Tennessee. Ever since, the Shelby Farms Park herd has been a bit of tourist attraction. After entering the park from Walnut Grove Road, eye for them across from Hyde Lake.

WOODLAND DISCOVERY PLAYGROUND

The folks who run Shelby Farms Park knew that when they set out to create a playground, they had an opportunity to do something different. The resulting Woodland Discovery Playground is as much an art installation as it is a kids fun zone. The playground, certified by the Sustainable Sites Initiative, offers kids a creative experience including six play “nests,” innovative play structures and open fields.

AND SO. MUCH.MORE.

As you can see, Shelby Farms Park is packed with fun things to do, and we’ve only scratched the surface. Explore the acreage and you’ll discover an off-leash dog park, a dirt bike track, a stable that offers guided horseback rides, a splash park and regular events. In summer, for example, you can pick your own strawberries or photograph a field of sunflowers; in fall, the Mempho Music Festival takes over the park with local and nationally-touring musicians. And with the addition of a grab-and-go deli and The Kitchen restaurant, specializing in delicious real-food options, you can easily make a day of it.  

Shelby Farms Park and Greenline are open daily from sunrise to sunset. The Woodland Discovery Playground is open from 9 a.m. to one hour before sunset.

 

Follow Sara & Abbie on their Memphis cycling adventure