The trail leading to the Montgomery Bell Tunnel is located in Harpeth River State Park in Cheatham and Davidson counties, approximately 30 minutes west of Nashville and is included as a National Historic Landmark.
The Montgomery Bell Tunnel is located in an area known as the Narrows of the Harpeth, where two parts of the Harpeth river get quite close after a lengthy oxbow. The tunnel runs through this section, roughly north-south and is approximately 290 feet long strait through limestone rock!
Montgomery Bell was an entrepreneur from Pennsylvania who was involved in iron foundries and purchased the land along the Harpeth in 1818. To apply water power to the process of producing wrought iron, he decided to have a tunnel constructed for water to flow through to generate power. The tunnel was the first known example of a water diversion tunnel in the United States. The tunnel is the only part of the original iron works to survive to present day.
On reaching the parking lot, you walk a short distance along the base of the bluff (on your left) before reaching two trailheads. To the left is the Bluff Overlook Trail, steeply rising along the side and towards the top of the bluff. On the right is the trail you’ll take to the Montgomery Bell Tunnel. The trail is level and easy to navigate, following along the Harpeth River.
Approximately half way to the tunnel is a tree that offers a fun photo opportunity for kids.
After the photo stop, it’s only a short hike to the tunnel.
A 1/2 mile down the trail you’ll find the official sign and see the tunnel on your left along with a pond of sorts and rocks at it’s base. The water is murky and there is a sign letting visitors know that swimming is off limits. When we arrived there were several other visitors with dogs who loved climbing over the rocks. A few adventurous folks were observed climbing up the rock wall into the tunnel since it had been relatively dry out and there was minimal water flow though this isn’t advisable.
Overall, this is one of our favorite destinations in the area!