Situated a stone’s throw from the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville, Tennessee, is the perfect getaway for outside fun thanks to ample green space and an active community that prefers getting around by bike and their own two feet to the exhaust fumes of traveling by car.
Heading to Big Orange Country soon? Put these activities on your itinerary.
Training for mountain biking is a popular year-round pursuit due to Tennessee’s lack of snow, its high volume of trails and opportunities to participate in various group rides and events throughout the year.
The 100-acre Baker Creek Preserve is one of the hottest training grounds in town, with 7.1 miles spread across five multiuse and three downhill trails, including the extreme and adrenaline-inducing Devil’s Racetrack Downhill Trail, the only double black diamond in the southeast.
Concord Park Trails also lays claim to 13.7 miles of natural trail for hikers, bikers and runners, while the Urban Wilderness project has established 50 miles of multiuse trails through the South Loop Trail System, a 12.5-mile loop that connects a handful of the local parks and attractions.
If it’s rained recently, Sharp’s Ridge is a must-do with trails for all levels and drop-ins along the way; while there, technical bikers looking for a challenge can hit up Knight Fall, a black diamond that spans two-thirds of a mile. Want to bike within the Smokies’ borders? The famed 11-mile Cades Cove loop is just 45 miles south of Knoxville.
The beauty of many of Knoxville’s attractions, like the impressive, 315-acre Ijams Nature Center, is that they cater to a wide range of outdoor lovers with various offerings and price points.
In summer months, Ijams’ quarries attract swarms of families thanks to their enticing watering holes, which are free to visit — as are the woodland forest and botanical garden.
If you’re up for a little more adventure, purchase tickets to the Navitat Zipline Canopy Adventures, which includes treetop fun via climbing towers, obstacles and, of course, zip lines. Navitat at Night is offered seasonally in the fall months for those who want to experience the magic of the canopy beneath the twinkling stars.
Like any college town, Knoxville doesn’t suffer from a shortage of yoga studios, from those focusing on restorative classes to others targeting acrobats, like Breezeway, which offers a beginning AcroYoga series (AcroKnox lists all acro classes, workshops and jams citywide).
Start your morning at TVB Yoga every Wednesday and Friday for a sunrise class (6:15 a.m.). In typical Knoxville fashion, if you ride your bike, you’ll receive a discount.
Prefer your yoga with a side of beer? You’re not alone — Knoxville has a thriving brewing community (and even boasts its own ale trail) with several of the local breweries offering “yoga and beer” classes: Alliance Brewing Company on Mondays, Saw Works on Tuesdays and Hops and Hollers on Wednesdays. Ijams Nature Center also has outdoor yoga on select days in summer months.
Knoxville is bisected by the Tennessee River, which snakes its way through the city into Fort Loudon Lake. Water sports reign in warmer months, with paddleboarding an easy and cost-effective way for residents and visitors alike to enjoy Knoxville’s many waterways while also logging some cardio time.
Down on Volunteer Landing, Billy Lush Boards & Brew offers equipment rentals, leads group paddles and even has an indoor beer porch. For those who want to take their paddling to the next level, the company teaches SUP Yoga classes that will help you learn balance atop your board.
Rock Climbing and Bouldering
Knoxville’s rivers and bodies of water are rimmed by sandstone boulders and other outcroppings made for climbing; there are plenty of spots like Obed National Wild & Scenic River within an hour’s drive that beckon more experienced climbers.
In addition to Ijams Nature Center, Ijams Crag is another abandoned limestone quarry with bolted routes, sport and trad climbs of varying levels, and killer views.
Beginners also have their choice of indoor facilities to practice in before trying out the real things.
With more than 12,000 square feet of space, Onsight Rock Gym is the biggest in town (and arguably most beloved by locals), offering walls of varying skill levels, private instruction, children’s programs, a bouldering room, an even smaller practice wall with ample cushioning to fall on, and plenty more. Furthermore, the staff changes up the wall routes regularly so you never have to climb the same course twice.