10 Outdoor Adventures Awaiting You at Shelby Farms

10 Outdoor Adventures Awaiting You at Shelby Farms

Shelby Farms Park is one of Memphis’ greatest treasures, and a truly stunning outdoor amenity. At 4,500 acres, it covers an area roughly five times the size of New York City’s Central Park.

It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise, offering everything from wildlife viewing on scenic trails to kayaking in tranquil lakes to exploring the woods on horseback. Here are 10 ways you can enjoy the outdoors at Shelby Farms Park.

1). Explore the trails on foot.

Holly Whitfield

Shelby Farms Park offers more than 40 miles of scenic, multi-use trails, including some beautiful unpaved trails, perfect for hiking or enjoying a relaxing walk to soak up some soothing forest vibes.

On the six miles that make up the Tour de Wolf Trail, you’ll pass by Beaver Lake, a perfect spot for viewing waterfowl. Or get a workout on the Wolf River Trails, which meander through the Lucius Burch Jr. State Natural Area, parallel to the Wolf River.

There’s a good chance you’ll cross paths with forest inhabitants, from industrious woodpeckers to graceful deer to busy beavers. Monthly guided hikes are also available.

2) Hit the bike trails.

Holly Whitfield

The park has several paved trails for cyclists. There’s The Promenade, a popular path that takes you along the edge of Hyde Lake in the heart of the park. It’s the park's first separated-use trail, with a loop for cyclists and a separate trail for pedestrians.

There’s also the 2.75-mile Chickasaw Trail at the northern portion of the park, which winds past several lakes and through pine and hardwood forest areas, and the 3.6-mile Dunnavant Trail that takes you all the way from the Wolf River Bridge to Shelby Farms Greenline. Mountain bikers will enjoy the unpaved Tour De Wolf and Wolf River Trails.

If you don’t own a bike, a variety of rentals are available at the Hyde Lake Wheelhouse, including mountain bikes, hybrids, cruisers, and, for those who really want to test the strength of their relationships, tandem bicycles. If you’ve got kiddos, children’s bikes and trailers are also available for rental.

3). Rent a kayak or canoe.

Allen Gillespie

Shelby Farms is a great kayaking or canoeing spot for both beginners learning to paddle on calm waters and those with more experience. You can enjoy some quiet time on the lake, or people-watch folks passing on The Promenade.

Non-motorized boats are allowed on all lakes at Shelby Farms. There’s a boat launch ramp on the north edge of Hyde Lake, near the park’s main entrance. If you don’t have your own watercraft, you can rent a kayak, canoe, or paddle board at the Hyde Lake Boathouse.

Humans under age 12 and four-legged friends are permitted to participate in the fun, but both are required to wear a lifejacket, available with boat rental if you don’t have your own.

4). Explore the park on a guided horseback tour.

Allen Gillespie

Saddle up and hit the trails on guided tours, appropriate for both beginners and experienced riders. You can choose between shorter and longer rides. This is an awesome way to see areas of the park you might otherwise not see, and from a lofty point of view, while making new friends of both the equine and human variety.

Rides are dependent on trail conditions, so always call ahead to ask if rides are available that day and to inquire about fees.

5). Take an outdoor fitness class.

Holly Whitfield

Like the thought of taking a fitness class by the water while getting your dose of Vitamin D? Shelby Farms offers numerous opportunities for outdoor group exercise. There are general fitness classes by the lakeside, as well as outdoor tai chi, yoga for both kids and adults, and special fitness classes and clubs for moms of young children.

6). Play disc Golf, paintball or laser tag

Allen Gillespie

The park has an 18-hole disc golf course, and discs can be purchased at the Pine Lake Boat House, where you can also pick up score sheets and maps of the course. You can also gather your friends for a game of laser tag, arrow tag, or paintball on 10 acres of wooded playing field, operated by Battlefront Memphis.

7). Go Ape treetops adventure courses

Allen Gillespie

Shelby Farms is home to a treetop adventure course, where visitors ages 10 and up can zip, swing and climb through the pine forests around Pine Lake. The course is comprised of six sections, each taking you higher into the forest canopy, with more than 40 crossings and obstacles, like rope ladders, zip lines, net bridges and Tarzan-style swings.

You’ll receive a 30-minute training prior to setting off on your forest adventure. Reservations are required, and weather may affect course availability, so call ahead. You can read about Holly's experience with Go Ape right here.

8). Make Time for Child’s Play

Allen Gillespie

If you’ve got littles in your life, the Park’s Woodland Discovery Playground is an absolute gem. It features six outdoor playrooms, or “nests,” each focused on a different type of play, and with tunnels, swings, slides, climbing areas, and water features built into the design.

The playground has earned international awards for innovative and sustainable design, and was even named by Mental Floss Magazine as one of the world’s coolest playgrounds.

Kids under 10 will also enjoy the seasonal Water Play Sprayground, a 4,000-square-foot play area with plenty of room for splashing. It also features a water tunnel, interactive spray jets, water pumps and geyser boulders. Admission wristbands for the splayground are available for purchase at the Hyde Lake Boat House.

Allen Gillespie

9) Take Fido on an Outback adventure

Allen Gillespie

Dogs are practically mandatory at Shelby Farms. Leashed dogs are allowed throughout the park, but if you really want to show Fido the time of his life, let him off leash at the 100-acre Outback Off-Leash Dog Park, featuring trails, lakes and ponds, a water fountain with doggie bowls, and a dog-washing station. You’ll probably want to bring a couple of towels, too.

10) See the Buffalo Roam

Baxter Buck

It’s not every day that city folks get to watch the buffalo roam...unless they’re Memphians. Since 1989, Shelby Farms Park has been home to its own herd of American bison, who have plenty of room to roam on more than 50 dedicated acres. Calves are born each spring, so now is the time to try to spot the adorable babies!

When you’re done with your outdoor adventures at Shelby Farms Park for the day, relax with a picnic by one of the park’s many lakes, or take a seat on an Adirondack chair on the front porch of the visitor’s center, which has giant overhead fans to cool you down. Stay for the sunset; it’s one of the best in Memphis.

About the Author

Aisling Maki is a writer, editor, and public and media relations specialist with awards from The Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and Public Relations Society of America, as well as several awards for fiction writing. Her work has appeared in publications in more than 20 countries. You can usually find her cheering on the Grizzlies, doing outdoorsy things, or traveling with her daughter, Brídín. They live in Cooper-Young with their pets.

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What about the Hidden Beach?

June 20, 2021 4:02pm

How many lakes are at Shelby Farms - are they all for kayaking, & and what clothes should be worn for kayaking ? 
  Also, when & how much are exercise classes & how much is the zip line course ?  Thanks ! 
                     Vicki  🙋‍♀️🌷

July 26, 2021 12:06am
Holly Whitfield

Hi Vicki, 

Shelby Farms says they have 20 lakes. The main one for kayaking is Hyde Lake. I would wear comfortable clothes and shoes (seasonally appropriate) that you don't mind getting wet for kayaking. Exercise class and Go Ape info is availble at shelbyfarmspark.org! 

August 6, 2021 7:58pm
Journey Cunningham

I’ve been to that park so me you times

November 18, 2022 7:56pm