Birding at Sharp’s Ridge
When spring migration begins, the perfect place to start your birding journey in Knoxville is Sharp’s Ridge Veterans Memorial Park, which is just a 10-minute drive north from downtown. Most birding at Sharp’s Ridge is done by walking or driving Sharps Ridge Memorial Drive, the road along the top of the ridge. You will find several knolls with picnic tables to sit and watch, as well as an observation deck offering great views of the Knoxville skyline and the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. It is common to record 15 or more species of wood warblers, and on occasion, 20 or more warblers. Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, thrushes, tanagers, Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and orioles are all frequent. Bring some binoculars for the best results!
In North Knoxville, Baxter Gardens is a well-kept secret of spring! The private residence opens its gardens at the top of Black Oak Ridge in Fountain City to the public during the month of April as part of the Dogwood Arts Festival, offering fourteen gardens which can be toured with the assistance of a printed guide or the QR code provided onsite. You will find a beautiful Dogwood Ramble and an Azalea Garden blooming at their fullest during April, as well as many other gardening styles including an Asian Garden. Please be mindful of children, dogs and staying on the trails to minimize impact on the sensitive plantings.
Wildflowers at William Hastie Natural Area
Just a few miles from downtown, the trails at William Hastie Natural Area provide hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers with 6.3 miles of singletrack trail, combined with a few old gravel roads. Many people don’t know that this park is a hotspot for spotting wildflower blooms during spring! These beautiful trails weave through heavily forested property and range from easy to moderate, with many native wildflower species popping up throughout the park. You will find yellow trillium, blue phlox, yellow troutlily, and many other flowering plants nestled under flowering dogwood trees.
The Sequoyah Greenway becomes one of the most scenic places to exercise in town during the spring blooming season. This grand neighborhood is a horticultural wonderland with overflowing flower beds and lush landscaping. There are many flowering tree species planted along the boulevard, including a heavy concentration of Flowering Dogwoods, Eastern Redbuds, and Japanese Flowering Cherries. The 2.6-mile crushed stone path that winds along the median is perfect for walkers and runners, while cyclists ride the paved boulevard.
Hike House Mountain
Only 30 minutes from downtown Knoxville, the House Mountain trails lead you up a fairly steep ascent to Knox County’s highest point featuring overlooks from the 2,100-foot crest. In early spring the views are magnificent, with no canopy of leaves to obscure the parallel mountain ranges of the Unakas and Cumberlands, some 30 miles away. The 5.8 miles of trail are moderate in difficulty as you climb through heavily wooded terrain dotted with impressive rock outcrops. On the summit, the Crest Trail stretches the length of the mountain from the West End Overlook to the East Overlook offering exceptional views on both sides. The West End Overlook presents views of the Cumberland Mountains to the north, the Smoky Mountains to the south, and a glimpse of downtown Knoxville on the horizon. The views from the East End Overlook feature the Clinch Mountain range which runs northeast all the way into Southwest Virginia.