Routes that reach the soul

Robert Johnson Blues Trail marker in Greenwood, Mississippi

Summer is upon us, and that means it’s time for those family road trips. Mississippi is one of many Southeast states that has specific regional trails and byways mapped out for such excursions.

As the birthplace of some of the most influential and talented musicians, writers, activists and entertainers in the world, Mississippi offers visitors an incredibly unique opportunity not only to visit significant locations, but to explore and dive into their story through the state’s four cultural trails.

Blues Trail

Hop on the Mississippi Blues Trail to get a taste of the sights and sounds that inspired some of the best Blues artists in the world. Trail markers illuminate the genre’s incredible history. With the Mississippi Blues Trail app, you can create your own itinerary with turn-by-turn directions to hotspots like the Clarksdale crossroads, where legend has it Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for his unmatched guitar prowess. You’ll also find the birthplace of B.B. King near Itta Bena and a host of other authentic Blues destinations in the state.

Country Trail

Giants of country music — its Father, First Lady, High Priest and even its “Hillbilly Cat” — were born here. For every Jimmie Rodgers, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty and Elvis Presley, there is another Mississippian whose talent greatly expanded country music and its fan base. From Charley Pride, the most successful African- American artist in the genre, to “Mississippi Girl” Faith Hill, a huge pop-crossover star, to the many others whose names are less well-known, Mississippians have made their mark on country music. The Country Music Trail commemorates their many, varied contributions and influences as well as the places that cradled their creativity.

Freedom Trail

The Mississippi Freedom Trail was created in 2011 to commemorate the people and places in the state who played a pivotal role in the American Civil Rights Movement. The first Freedom Trail markers were unveiled in conjunction with the Mississippi Freedom 50th Foundation’s 2011 reunion activities for the 1961 Freedom Riders. The trail markers represent the routes once taken by courageous souls who stood up to the status quo, and it’s impossible not to be humbled as you follow in their footsteps.

Writers Trail

William Faulkner’s home — Rowan Oak — in Oxford, Mississippi

Their words have won Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards. They have borne titles, such as Nobel Laureate and U.S. Poet Laureate. Their imaginations have captured the nation. And now Mississippi’s legacy of literary greats is the focus of the new Mississippi Writers Trail.

The Writers Trail helps tell the complete story of some of the world’s greatest authors. Visitors can learn more about these well-known wordsmiths by viewing the markers outside some of the places that inspired their masterpieces.

Just like a great novel, this story is still unfolding as literary scholars determine which writers will be honored with a marker. A trail marker for Gulf Coast region native and two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward is in the works, and state officials say the list of future honorees already will likely include such prominent names as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Natasha Trethewey and Richard Ford.

Speaking of soulful routes, don’t miss the 2021 Bikes, Blues and Bayous event on Aug. 7. Located in Greenwood, home of Viking Range Corp., Mississippi’s largest ride takes participants through the flat and fast alluvial plains of the Mississippi Delta while showcasing the best southern hospitality on Earth at our four unique rest stops that each have their own special amenities and hospitality, not to mention live blues music!