One of Knoxville’s largest public recreation spaces is often overlooked. No, it’s not a park or a playground or a wilderness area. It’s actually something that goes through all three—the city’s extensive greenway system. This system has 91 plus miles of paved, pedestrian-only trails can be found all over the city, meandering through protected green spaces, paralleling primary roadways, and skirting along the edge of the Tennessee River.
While you may be familiar with a few of your local circuits, you may not know that the greenways travel long, linear paths as well, connecting west Knoxville to the University of Tennessee and traveling across a huge swath of the downtown waterfront area. Someday very soon, walkers, runners, and cyclists will even be able to travel from Knoxville all the way to the Smokies—on greenways.
If you’re looking for a tranquil passage across town, searching for a new favorite walking spot, or just hoping to find a family friendly space to try out everyone’s new skates, come explore Knoxville’s ever-growing greenway system
Greenways as Travel
One of the best and most underutilized functions of the intricate, inter-connected greenway system is A-to-Z travel. Whether you want to reduce your carbon footprint, have a healthier commute, or augment your downtown day trip, greenways are the way to go (figuratively and literally).
Let’s say you’re a dedicated VOLS fan that lives out west. You can keep sitting in game-day traffic and spend half an hour looking for parking, or you can spend that time biking through Knoxville’s beautiful parks on the greenways, lock your bike up right outside the stadium, and hitch a ride with your friend or load up your bike on the bus after the game.
Does work stress you out? Being out in nature has been found to reduce stress and relieve depression. Think about how much better your day could be, if you shifted your commute from gridlock to greenway.
If you’re intimidated by the idea of navigating the vast greenway system, don’t be. The Knoxville Transportation Planning Organization has done all the hard work for you and mapped a greenway-centric route from Cedar Bluff to the University of Tennessee and downtown. Google Maps has also made it really easy to route your trip with a “via Greenways” option available when you select the “Cycling” transportation mode. We’ve used this ourselves to travel the 14 mile route from Cedar Bluff all the way downtown, and done so without a hitch!
The Best Sections and Circuits
Feel miles away from the city as you cruise along 3.5-mile Will Skelton Greenway.
If you want to spend some time getting to know individual sections of the greenway, here are a few excellent places for you to start.
The Will Skelton Greenway is 3.5 miles long and draws visitors from its start at Island Home Park deep into Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. It curves underneath a thick forest canopy, passes Ijams Nature Center and Mead’s Quarry, and traces the Tennessee River before it finally ends on the northern boundary of Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area.
The Will Skelton also forms the first section of the South Loop Trail System, which rolls along the outer border of the Urban Wilderness and connects its numerous parks and natural areas. If you’re looking for the most immersive and wild greenway experience in Knoxville, this is the section for you.
If you’re looking for a more urban greenway experience, then you want the crowning jewel of Knoxville’s greenway system: the downtown waterfront greenway. Several sections of greenway connect to form this eight-mile stretch that starts in immaculate Sequoyah Hills. It then runs through Tyson Park, past beautiful UT Gardens, on along the popular northern waterfront and on downtown to its eastern terminus at Riverside Landing Park.
You can also go up the Second Creek Greenway for a ride through World’s Fair Park, which offers easy access to the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Sunsphere, and the Knoxville Civic Center. You can also make your way downtown where restaurants, shops, and many of the breweries on Knoxville’s new “Ale Trail” can be found.
There is also a large variety of trails through Knoxville’s suburban neighborhoods. Head north to the Fountain City Greenway at Fountain City Park, northwest to the Victor Ashe Greenway at Victor Ashe Park, or southwest to Lakeshore Greenway at Lakeshore Park. Each offers different mileage, terrain, and sub-community of active Knoxvillians out stretching their legs and having a good time.
Connecting the Dots: The Future of Knoxville Greenways
The dreams for Knoxville greenways are far from over, and plans to further connect residents to the outdoors and to one another are currently underway. The First Creek Greenway Plan aims to expand the existing greenway north all the way to Tommy Schumpert Park. This would give cyclists, walkers, and runners in Fountain City and northern Knoxville a safe, pleasant, and up-to-date alternative to the the busy streets and neglected sidewalks of North Broadway. It would also connect the currently isolated parks of northern Knoxville to the larger park system.
And then, of course, there’s the big one, the doozy, the greenway to rule all greenways—the “Knox/Blount Greenway,” or at least that’s what is is collectively being called at the moment. This greenway will connect the Knoxville greenway system to Maryville’s in the south.
A small 1.8 mile section has already been added over the Buck/Karnes Bridge, and that, in addition to providing a pedestrian route from Downtown Knoxville to Cherokee Farm, brings the Knoxville-Maryville connection one step closer to completion.
But, more exciting than this link, is the plan to further extend the greenway through Townsend. Yes, that’s right. Someday (hopefully soon) you’ll be able to bike from Knoxville all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains!
Once these projects are complete, it’s not hard to imagine Knoxville at the top of the nation’s list of bike-friendly cities. If you want to know more about Knoxville greenways present and future, check out these links: Full map of the Knoxville Greenway System, Full list of greenways, and Knoxville’s Existing, in Progress, and Proposed Greenways.
See you on the greenway!
Originally written by RootsRated for Visit Knoxville.