You’ve seen it once or twice: Knoxville is a nature-loving-adventure-kinda-town. So let’s focus on the nature part and head to the great outdoors with all options from casual to extreme!
We’ll start off easy… with options to go walking along the river, through a park or on a trail. Take a self-guided walking tour for an urban experience, or head to UT Gardens or Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum for some native East Tennessee flora to admire. If Civil War history piques your interest, explore the cannon-laced trails at Fort Dickerson or relax in the iconic red Adirondack chairs at the end of the path at High Ground Park.
Kick it up a notch and lace up those hiking boots – stable ankles are a must while exploring the rocky trails at Ijams Nature Center. Explore the Imerys Trail to the keystone to understand why Knoxville was once known as “The Marble City” or take Tharp’s Trace for a sharp incline overlooking the quarry. For one of the best bird-watching places around, head to Seven Islands State Birding Park in east Knox County, the only birding park in the state. Want more of a challenge? Head to House Mountain, the highest peak in Knox County.
Walkers and cycling enthusiasts alike can enjoy Knoxville’s extensive Greenway system. Cruise for miles or stop at nearby attractions. The paths are virtually endless in this cycling-loving town. Don’t have your own bike? Rent one from the friendly folks at Knoxville Adventure Collective (KAC) at Volunteer Landing. You’ll notice cycling lanes along prominent thoroughfares including Gay Street – plan your routes using this helpful map.
While you’re at KAC, consider renting a SUP or kayak to go paddling on the beautiful Tennessee River. Paddle during the day, catch a sunset, or enjoy the city lights at night on the water. If you’re a newbie to paddling, Mead’s Quarry at Ijams has glasslike water, so anyone can rent a SUP or kayak from RiverSports Outfitters (RSO) and glide with ease. Mead’s is also a great swimming spot!
For those into climbing, RSO also has an indoor climbing wall at their Sutherland location. Or choose one of the more than 30 bolted routes ranging from 30-60 feet at the Ijams Crag. For another aerial adventure, the whole family (ages 7+) will love Navitat – think obstacle course and zipline amongst the treetops!
Now for some real thrills – Knoxville is a mountain biking mecca. The Appalachian Mountain Bike Club is very active, maintaining over 90 miles of trail networks in the area. Ask any mountain biker around, and they’ll direct you to the trails in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness in South Knoxville. the trailhead at Baker Creek Preserve, all skill levels are welcome, from the beginner pump tracks to the expert-only double black diamond rated Devil’s Racetrack – complete with wall ride, rocks, gap jumps, big berms, and stomach-flopping drops. Nearby Marie Meyers Park (aka Year-Round Get Down, so named for being great in winter and wet weather friendly) offers more gnarly downhill action. Visitors can rent bikes and even hire expert guides through Knoxville Outdoor Tours. In North Knoxville, Sharp’s Ridge Veteran’s Memorial Park offers additional multi-use trails and even adaptive mountain biking trails – with a great view of Knoxville’s skyline.
No matter which direction you venture, you’ll find authentic (and pet friendly) outdoor experiences both miles and minutes from the heart of downtown.