Enjoy the great outdoors near downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Outdoor recreational options abound in Knoxville, Tennessee: A local “Get Out And Play” guide boasts the city has “222 parks, trails and greenways to enjoy year-round!” As just one example, the “Urban Wilderness,” a preservation championed by Legacy Parks Foundation within city limits, offers “over 40 miles of multi-use trails, 10 parks, four Civil War sites and incredible views.”
On a short weekend visit, I didn’t have time to trot all Knoxville’s trails. I did, however, hike three different trails at Ijams Nature Center and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon—so, notably, did my husband. As we drove away from Knoxville, he said that Ijams Nature Center was the highlight of the trip for him; this is especially high praise from a guy who adores beer and also visited an excellent brewery on this same trip. (Alliance Brewing Co. is located near Ijams Nature Center; treat yourself after a healthy hike.)
Sprawling 300 acres, Ijams Nature Center is a wildlife sanctuary on the banks of the Tennessee River just minutes from downtown. The main building houses an array of nature exhibits and a museum store in addition to essential facilities. Nearby is an outdoor kiddie play and discovery area, but grownups can quickly escape that for the peace and quiet of the woods. There are over 10 miles of trails to hike, run and mountain bike. There’s also a quarry to fish, canoes and kayaks to rent (during summer months), 12 bolted rock climbing routes (rated from beginner to expert), and the Ijams Canopy Experience (a zip-line course by Navitat Canopy Adventures that offers more than 60 adventure elements on six tree-based trails).
Our hike looped through woods, around the quarry, along the waterfront boardwalk, and past wildlife viewing areas. It was invigorating training for my forthcoming AT hike.
Locals we met on the trails were friendly and helpful, ready to offer navigation advice to any fellow runner or hiker who got turned around.
Ijams Nature Center is certainly one of Knoxville’s treasures.
Ijams Nature Center
2915 Island Home Ave.
Where To Stay: Holiday Inn Knoxville World’s Fair Park
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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