Outside recreation is BIG in Knoxville with more visitors enjoying the outdoors in every season than ever before. Bicycling in all its forms is a major attraction in and of itself: Knoxville has hosted the USA Cycling National Championships for a few years and looks to welcome them back in 2021; mountain biking grows ever more popular with the continuous expansion of trails in the Urban Wilderness and other county-wide locales, and even Knoxville’s roads have become more and more cyclist friendly.
Today’s post is about the cruising the humble greenway – there are over 85 miles of paved trail alone here to explore. But wait…there’s more! We’ll also talk about what points of interest may be nearby so the journey AND the destination will be equally enjoyable! Several parks have their own extensive paved trails that are technically part of Knoxville’s Greenway system*, but for this post the focus will be on the more linear paths.
Will Skelton Greenway
Want a taste of the Urban Wilderness but don’t wanna get crazy? The Will Skelton Greenway is the perfect choice. There are a few options to hop in depending on how far you want to go. At the western-most point, a great starting point is at Island Home Park in the beautiful Island Home neighborhood. Admire the Craftsmans here, enjoy the playground, and make a mental note to come back and put in a kayak (nearby Island Home Airport has another put-in option). For a midway point, start at Ijams Nature Center. Learn about wildlife conservation, take a hike, or make plans to paddle in the nearby Mead’s Quarry. For the shortest-but-still-fulfilling, start in the lot off McClure Lane. (This is also where you’d park to see the sunflowers in late July.) You’ll be able to get in about a mile and a half (perfect if you’d got little ones with you) before the paved greenway turns into the Whaley Trail, an unpaved trail designed for mountain biking. Partial sun and partial shade. Explore SoKno more here.
This Greenway in east Knoxville is hilly, interesting, and nicely shaded. It starts at the base of Haley Heritage Square where the stunning statue of Alex Haley resides and exists as a part of the Knoxville Literary Tour. Also nearby is some incredible history in the form of the Mabry-Hazen House (this family is full of wild tales; take a tour and learn about this pre Civil War era home and its fascinating inhabitants) and the Beck Cultural Exchange Center (a museum dedicated to preserving and sharing regional African American history). Morningside Park itself is well-known for disc golf – fore! Head south through the park for just over a mile to connect to the James White Greenway at Governor Ned McWherter Riverside Landing Park (note that you do have to cross a street here and follow a bit of sidewalk as there is not a “real” connection).
James White Greenway
One of many things named after pioneering founder James White, this greenway runs a stretch of about one mile along the Tennessee River before connecting to the Neyland Greenway. There are few trees directly overhead so be sure to pack that SPF. You’re sure to notice purple morning glories and bright pink roses along the way as you pass the marina. Seasonally be sure to plan some time to experience the Tennessee River itself by renting a kayak or SUP from Knoxville Adventure Collective or you can rent a bike here too. Calhoun’s on the River is a local fave, a perfect stop for lunch. Continue through Volunteer Landing or head downtown from here - go to The Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center and take the elevator up a floor and you’ll be back at “ground level” across the street from James White’s Fort and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Named after General Neyland (like Neyland Stadium – go Vols!), this greenway can be accessed from the James White Greenway or by the pedestrian bridge near the City County Building just south of W Hill Avenue and east of Walnut Street (which brings you right down to Volunteer Landing). Thank goodness, because it’d be a steep climb otherwise! Like JWG, this is a sunny one so load up on ‘screen, and there are lots of benches to rest. In about a half mile as you head west, you’ll have an option to go north on the Second Creek Greenway or continue (either way you need to cross Neyland Drive).
If you continue, you’ll pass all kinds of buildings as it is technically on the University of Tennessee campus, which is an attraction in its own right (explore campus more here). These include the UT Boathouse on the river side (where the rowing team launches, natch), and Neyland Stadium, Thompson Boling Arena, and many other buildings. From where the split to Second Creek Greenway was, you can continue on about a mile and a half until you hit Third Creek Greenway, or continue on again about another half mile until you connect to the Knox/Blount Greenway.
Second Creek Greenway
This route follows…you guessed it…Second Creek. You’ll find two murals along the way, one behind the Publix at University Commons (if you’re here in the morning pick up some Capybara Coffee, and for lunch or din get some Fieldhouse Social for that game-day vibe), and the other in the form of a staircase called Weaving Rainbow Mountain. The stairs will help you cross over busy Cumberland Avenue and over into World’s Fair Park. The path left will guide you to the Rachmaninoff Statue (see other statues in Knoxville here) along the Performance Lawn. The path to the right splits and its left side goes close to the water fountains and next to the Tennessee Amphitheatre, and its right side is the other side of the fountains near the Knoxville Convention Center and the base of Knoxville’s famous icon – the Sunsphere! Both paths continue around the Festival Lawn and end past the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial on the north end of World’s Fair Park. Alternatively, you could take the stairs/elevator at the base of the Clinch Avenue bridge up and walk a short way to the Knoxville Museum of Art. Another sunny route.
This Greenway will take you along Alcoa Highway and across the Tennessee River into South Knoxville, specifically Cherokee Farm which is a part of the UT Agricultural Campus. The mostly flat greenway skirts the river and offers beautiful views but not much shade (slather on the sunscreen again). This route ends at Marine Park with a view of Sequoyah Hills Park along the opposite shore. This flat route makes a great ride for kids on bikes!
Third Creek Greenway
This long greenway has many access points; we’re going to start at its eastern-most point at the University of Tennessee Gardens. These gardens are simply stunning and certainly worth planning a visit with Fido or kiddos in tow. From where we started, you’ve got about a mile until you hit the first landmark – Tyson Park. This park has a huge playground, a skatepark, lots of tennis courts, and pavilions and picnic tables. The greenway winds through the park, crossing – yep, you guessed it again – Third Creek multiple times. Much of this greenway is shaded and private feeling with neighborhoods behind the trees on either side with connectors scattered throughout. After about a mile and a half, you can continue, or go through the Laurel Church of Christ/Historic Westwood parking lot to connect to the Sequoyah Greenway.
Westwood is the “youngest” of Knoxville’s historic homes, having been built as a glorious Victorian in 1890. The mistress of the home, Adelia Armstrong Lutz, was an artist –and a wonderful spot to be inspired (put some crayons or simple watercolors in your bag and give yourself an art break). If you chose to continue, you’ll shortly face another split; go right for the Sutherland Avenue connector with a good place to park (explore Sutherland Avenue more here), or go left to continue – and it’s sunny from here on out. Both options essentially will go around the UT RecSports Complex. As you near the end of the Third Creek Greenway, stop to enjoy Everly Brothers Park, a unique passive park that pays tribute to the rock and roll duo with Knoxville ties, located at the corner of Kingston Pike and N. Forest Park Blvd. Before you know it, you’ve reached the Bearden Greenway.
This half sun/half shade path is an absolute gem, named after the Cherokee scholar who invented the Cherokee alphabet. This two-and-a-half-mile route is a mostly unpaved gravel path in the center of a scenic boulevard that graces one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city. You’ll see Sequoyah Park that stretches along the Tennessee River, and stunning homes and landscaping (an annual favorite Dogwood Trails neighborhood). Spring is full of azaleas, rhododendrons, and dogwoods on every corner. There’s opportunity to put in your kayak or SUP at the park, and lots of space for a picnic. You can even learn about some history here; about a mile in from the western-most point you’ll be going up a slight hill – this is a Native American mound from the Late Woodland period (500-1100 AD). For more recent history, explore Talahi Park, a 1920s design with some interesting features. While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t forget to have a meal at the Plaid Apron.
The eastern-most entrance to this rather straightforward greenway is at the parking lot mentioned above at the Sutherland Avenue Connector. Once on the path, you’ll continue west, passing West High School (where the Everly Brothers attended in the 1950s) and the UT RecSports Complex. Neighborhoods flank both sides of this dappled sidewalk route. Along Highland Memorial Cemetery look down – you’ll see a few inlaid stones with historic information. All told this greenway is about 2 miles when you finish at Bearden Elementary on Kingston Pike.
Jean Teague/Cavet Station/Ten Mile Creek Greenways
These three greenways are a bit west of Bearden and not connected to any aforementioned greenway. Jean Teague starts at Middlebrook Pike and goes through West Hills Park (shaded and lovely), before connecting to Cavet Station (a route that will take you back up to Middlebrook Pike), and Ten Mile Creek (goes through both Walker Springs Park and Ten Mile Creek Greenway Park. Be on the lookout for a mural somewhere near the latter. Much of the surrounding area is neighborhoods and office complexes but the greenways themselves are mighty fine here and decently shaded.
Calling all shoppers! This greenway goes behind the Turkey Creek shopping area. You’ll find boutiques to big box stores and all kinds of dining here. This one is sunny and a bit loud with I-40 nearby, but the surrounding amenities more than make up for it. Don’t get this one confused with the Turkey Creek Greenway, which is actually in Anchor Park in Farragut.
There are many more snips of greenway here and there but these are the major routes (check out this map – best viewed on desktop). We hope this helps plan your next visit to another wonderful outdoor outlet in Knoxville!
*Examples include Tommy Schumpert Park in northeast Knox County, Adair Park in north Knoxville, Holston River Park in east Knoxville, Victor Ashe in northwest Knoxville, Lakeshore Park in west Knoxville, Concord Park in west Knox County, and Seven Islands State Birding Park in east Knox County amongst others. Head here to explore more parks and greenways in Knoxville.