Situated in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville, Tennessee, has developed a reputation as a dog-friendly gateway to the outdoors. It’s easy to understand why it was ranked it as one of the best cities for dog owners in 2017. This town caters to dog lovers with no shortage of pet-friendly hotels, trails, dog parks, swimming holes, and even restaurants. Whether you’re a visitor or a seasoned local, here are some best-bets for having fun with fido around Knoxville.

Dining with Your Dog


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Just getting into town? Check into one of the dozens of hotels that allow pets before heading downtown to explore the center city. But there’s no reason to leave your K9 behind. Stroll around the famous Market Square on-leash before enjoying a bite or a pint at a local restaurant. The city maintains a long list of restaurants that welcome dogs on their patios (though not inside the actual eateries). Just around the corner from Market Square, boutique pet supply store CitiFid-O carries an assortment of gourmet dog treats and premium pet products, and the city’s most central dog park is just a short walk to the corner of Summit Hill Drive and South Central Street.

Go Off-Leash at a Dog Park

Unclip the harness and let dogs be dogs. Knoxville’s seven dog parks are engineered to do exactly that. No matter what part of town you’re in there’s likely a dog park nearby, and some of them are worth a 20-minute drive across town. Most of the dog parks are situated inside larger city parks, which means you can let the dog wear itself out off-leash before hooking up to explore nearby trails and green spaces. The city’s newest dog haven, Concord Dog Park west of town, even has a dock and swimming area opening up into Fort Loudoun Lake, playing host to a local chapter of DockDogs.

Explore Urban Greenways and Trails


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In Knoxville, you’re never too far from outdoor adventure—even right downtown. More than 80 miles of paved greenways and untold lengths of trails crisscross the city, offering chances to get out explore in all parts of town. A popular segment of the Neyland Greenway skirts the banks of the Tennessee River downtown, connecting with the sprawling World’s Fair Park and University of Tennessee campus. In South Knoxville, the Will Skelton Greenway offers a stroll along to south bank of the Tennessee River before feeding into trail at the Ijams Nature Center and Urban Wilderness, a growing network of more than 50 miles of inner-city trails. Sharp’s Ridge State Park in the north of town has zig-zagging paths cut into a ridge that offers great views of the downtown skyline and, on clear days, the western peaks of the Smokies. Sprawling West Knoxville is home to several greenways that connect with larger parks and other parts of town. The Third Creek Greenway is probably the main artery. It ties into downtown’s greenways via Tyson Park and has offshoots to Sequoyah Park and other neighborhoods, making it a great place to start.

Cool Off in a Quarry

A not-so-well-kept secret, Knoxville’s two abandoned quarries offer unique hikes and also a picturesque place to take a splash during the summer months. Mead’s Quarry at Ijams Nature Center is the most accessible with parking nearby (along with kayak rentals and local adult beverages for sale). Work up a sweat on a short hike to an overlook above the quarry before trying out one of the city’s most popular swimming holes. Fort Dickerson Quarry is accessed by a one-mile hike and offers a bit more secluded, if less developed, place to kick back. There are also plenty of other swimming holes worth checking out.

Head for the Hills


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While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park prohibits dogs on most of its trails, there are dozens of nearby state parks, national forests, and natural areas to seek out with your furry companion. Top picks include hikes up House Mountain to breathtaking views from the highest point in Knox County, going off-leash on the East Lake Shore trails at the Tellico Reservoir, and hitting the mountainous backcountry in Frozen Head State Park, host of the annual Barkley Marathons. There’s no shortage of options to get out and explore the great outdoors in East Tennessee, and no reason to leave the pooch at home.

Originally written by RootsRated Media for Visit Knoxville.