Hiking - Forks of the River

Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness

We have accessed and connected our green spaces to create a 1,000-acre urban playground.

Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, a recreational, cultural, and historic preservation initiative championed by Legacy Parks Foundation, incorporates 1,000 forested acres along downtown’s south waterfront. It creates an exceptional recreation and historic corridor inviting residents and visitors to experience the special character-defining assets of our city. With nearly 50 miles of multi-use trails, 10 parks, four civil war sites, incredible views, and unparalleled natural features, this unique area provides a premiere outdoor experience.

Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is made up of three areas: The South Loop Trails, Baker Creek Preserve, and the Battlefield Loop. Eventually joined by trails, these three unique areas will stretch from Alcoa Highway on the west to Ijams Nature Center on the east, connecting downtown, neighborhoods, schools, and existing and emerging businesses.

The Urban Wilderness is an incredible economic benefit to the community. Over $6 million in recent real estate transactions can be attributed directly to homeowners who want to live near trails. A 2015 study by UT’s Baker Center reports $14 million in current economic benefit from the Urban Wilderness. As it becomes a regional draw that benefit increase to $26 million, and as a national destination the benefits exceed $51 million.


South Loop Trails

Hiking - Forks of the River

Over 42 miles of multi-use natural trails, perfect for hikers and mountain bikers of all skill levels, are included in the South Loop trail system. The main South Loop is 12.5 miles, and over 30 miles of secondary, single-track trails lead off the main trial for a variety of routes and difficulty.

Urban Wilderness South Loop Map
Anderson School Trail Map
Baker Creek Preserve Trail Map
Forks of the River Trail Map
Ijams Nature Center/Quarry Trail Map
William Hastie/Marie Myers Trail Map

Urban Wilderness Mobile Map App
The mobile app for the Urban Wilderness 50-mile trail system allows you to pinpoint your exact location on the trails; measure distances by “drawing” a line on the map; record tracks and report how far you have traveled; and give you an approximate estimate on the elevation you have gained or lost. Click here for instructions on adding The Urban Wilderness trail map onto your mobile device. Once the free app is downloaded, these simple step-by-step instructions will guide you through setup. After the map is downloaded to your mobile device, read the “Getting Started” section to learn about the various features available. This is a great resource for all who set out to explore Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness! Mobile Map App includes the new trails at Baker Creek Preserve!

Five trailheads offer parking and access to the South Loop Trails, and four have individual trail maps: Anderson School, Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, Ijams Nature Center/Quarry, William Hastie Natural Area/Marie Myers Park.

To follow the South Loop Trails, look for the logo signs, tree blazes, or stencils on the road.



Baker Creek Preserve

Baker Creek Preserve

The new Baker Creek Preserve, 100 acres of hilltop views, wooded valleys, giant sycamore trees, and a beautiful creek is becoming a recreation asset for outdoor adventurers of all interests. With 7.1 miles of trail, including the Bell Helmets $100,000 expert downhill trail, a kids only bike loop to introduce the young to mountain biking, and five multi-use hiking and biking trails, the area offers opportunities for outdoor activity at any skill level. Printable map

The Baker Creek Preserve trails connect to the South Loop Trails via a pedestrian bridge over Redbud Road.

Baker Creek Preserve adds amenities that enhance the area’s reputation as an outdoor recreation and mountain bike destination.

Baker Creek Preserve is connected to South Doyle Middle School by way of the new Baker Creek Trail and intersecting Cherokee Trail. Both trails connect the school directly into the Urban Wilderness and adjacent neighborhoods. These trails and boardwalk over Baker Creek create not only a recreational amenity for the students but also provide a safe walkway to the school.


Battlefield Loop

Fort DickersonPark

Under development is the Battlefield Loop section of the Urban Wilderness that will provide a historic element to the recreational experience. The Battlefield Loop includes three civil war forts, a civil war battle site and acres of beautiful forests and views. These culturally and historically important sites will eventually be linked to the south waterfront development and the South Loop Trails to complete Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

The Battlefield Loop contains:

River Bluff property, recently donated to the city by Legacy Parks for a public park, and the site of the Battle of Armstrong’s Hill. The River Bluff is not yet open to the public.

Fort Dickerson, a city park with one of the best preserved earthen forts from the Civil War era, just across the river from downtown Knoxville. Fort Dickerson is open dawn until dusk.

High Ground Park, owned by the Aslan Foundation, this lush tract is the site of Fort Higley, the western anchor of the Federal line. High Ground Park is open dawn until dusk.

Fort Stanley, a wooded parcel including both the Union’s Fort Stanley and Gobbler’s Knob, the tallest and closest hill to downtown. Fort Stanley is not yet open to the public.


Parkwest Patch

parkwest patch Hike all trails in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness’ South Loop and earn the new Parkwest Urban Wilderness Patch! Enjoy the changing colors along the trails while keeping track of your miles trekked on the Trail Checklist. Once you’ve completed all the trails, submit the form along with a check or credit card payment of $10 to Legacy Parks Foundation to receive the Parkwest Urban Wilderness Patch and a certificate.

Congratulations to these members of the Parkwest Urban Wilderness Club!

Amy Brown-Oakley, Adam Caraco, Arthur Caraco, Jeffrey Groah, Terry Jenkins, Steve Magocs, Richard Newman, Tedi Newman, Ashley Rex


Urban Wilderness Event Request

Any event scheduled on the South Loop Trails must be approved by Legacy Parks Foundation. Please complete the Event Request form.

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Outdoor Knox web pic

Outdoor Knoxville

Get Out & Play!

Outdoor Knoxville is an initiative to make Knoxville’s incredible natural amenities and recreation assets an economic driver for our region. Led by Legacy Parks, the effort aims to increase our outdoor amenities, create better access to recreational areas, and promote greater participation in outdoor activities.

Health and quality of life are now key determining factors in where people and businesses choose to locate. Because of our amazing resources and outdoor recreation opportunities, we can compete with any area in the region, and are drawing visitors from around the world and attracting new businesses and services.

Two key anchors make up the Outdoor Knoxville initiative:

Comprehensive information about our outdoors and activities


This robust, comprehensive website lists all recreational activities, venues, organizations, events, and resources in East Tennessee. Updated daily, the site includes a calendar of activities, contact information, photos, maps, and directions.






The Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center

A place to gather and get out and play


Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center - Legacy Parks Foundation_opt


Adjacent to downtown, the Tennessee River, and the Neyland Greenway, the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center provides a central location for outdoor activities, events, product demonstrations and rentals, and meeting space.

It is the home of the Legacy Parks Foundation office and the Billy Lush Board Shop, where canoes, kayaks, standup paddleboards, and greenway bikes may be rented seasonally.

Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center
900 Volunteer Landing Lane


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Increasing Access to Our Rivers

OKF-GroupPaddleLegacy Parks is helping to increase public access along our three rivers, the Holston and French Broad that form the Tennessee River. Our goal is to create free, public river access at five-to-seven mile intervals from Douglas and Cherokee lakes to downtown Knoxville. In partnership with Tennessee State Parks, TVA, TWRA, and local governments, Legacy Parks will focus on access in Knox and Sevier Counties. Preliminary research indicates that four additional access points are needed along both rivers.

The new Mutton Hollow Landing access on the south side of the French Broad River from Seven Islands State Birding Park is the first of four access points in the current plan. The other three are:

New access south of Highway66 bridge,

New or improved access at the Forks of the River Industrial Park section, and new access across from Huffaker Ferry.

Several aspects of the project are underway or in the planning stages. Legacy Parks will assist with confirming key access points, meeting with landowners and stakeholders, developing and securing purchase and/or lease agreements, funding, and acquisition of property.

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G&O Rail-with-Trail

Legacy Parks Executive Director Carol Evans recently announced a new three-mile multi-use trail to be built along the G&O Railway in South Knoxville from Chapman Highway to Mead’s Quarry and the South Loop Trails of the Urban Wilderness.

“Just like New York’s High Line and Atlanta’s BeltLine, this trail can be just as iconic for Knoxville,” she said.

Working with Pete and Linda Claussen of Gulf & Ohio Railways, the new trail will run adjacent to the working tracks – a ‘Rail with Trail’ as opposed to a ‘Rail to Trail’ – which turns abandoned railways to trails. The G&O trail will provide both a commuter and a recreational route and is another key connection in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

In addition to the recreation benefits, the new trail should revitalize some areas that have been vacant and underdeveloped. “What we’re going to see is neighborhoods connected, businesses connected, businesses that incubate along the rail line because people will love to sit on a patio and bike from spot to spot,” Evans said.

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Get Out & Play! Bike Rentals

BikeRental-Announcement-news 2Knoxville is known as a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” and a new partnership makes rental bikes available at two locations downtown to take advantage of that friendliness in the city center. Legacy Parks Foundation, Regions Bank, Billy Lush Board Shop, and Visit Knoxville provide Get Out & Play! bike rentals at the Outdoor Adventure Center (900 Volunteer Landing) and the Knoxville Visitors Center (301 S. Gay Street). Other locations will be added soon.

A new map outlines three distinct routes in the downtown area and highlights locations including World’s Fair Park, Market Square, parks, museums, UT, and other points of interest.

Two-hour rentals cost $19 for adults, $15 for teachers and military personnel, and $12 for youth under 17. Rentals are available online or at the Adventure Center and Visitors Center.

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Harrell Road

Harrell Road Stormwater Park

Knox County’s new Harrell Road Park project converted a derelict tract of land into a sustainable, passive public park incorporating best practices in stormwater management and providing a classic example of green infrastructure techniques.

In 2009 Legacy Parks Foundation was given an abandoned tract of land by a local developer. The property, located at 7221 Harrell Road in northeast Knox County, was a remnant from previous development and consisted of floodplain along Beaver Creek that had been used for soil mining and a barrow pit. It was mostly exposed clay and scrub growth and was considered unbuildable. Forming a partnership with Knox County Stormwater Management and Knox County Parks and Recreation, Legacy Parks received a $5,000 grant for a concept plan by the East Tennessee Community Design Center. After several public meetings the concept plan was approved and work began on the county’s first stormwater management park.

The park consists of both naturally occurring and manmade wetlands, lowlands, and ridges. A rain garden was constructed to capture runoff from the parking lot that features porous asphalt, pervious concrete, and pavers (which, unlike paved surfaces, allow some water to be absorbed back into the earth). more details

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Seven Islands WMA

Seven Islands State Birding Park

Seven Islands is the East Tennessee region’s largest wildlife sanctuary with more than 360 acres of forests and fields, eight miles of natural trails and greenway, access to the French Broad River, and spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains and rolling farmlands. Legacy Parks Foundation managed Seven Islands before turning it over to the State of Tennessee to become the 56th state park and first official State Birding Park.

Situated on the eastern edge of Knox County, Seven Islands features a rich natural habitat with over 180 species of birds including a pair of nesting bald eagles. The French Broad River borders the park and holds over 50 species of fish – more varieties than found on the entire European continent. Hiking trails wind up the ridges and down to the waterfront. A non-motorized boat launch allows easy access to the river.

Seven Islands State Birding Park is a model for observing how well-established land management practices can both protect and reestablish the native wildlife in an area. Seven Islands has a strong academic and research partnership as a field school for the University of Tennessee. more details

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Oates View 17

Land Conservation

Working in collaboration with Foothills Land Conservancy, Legacy Parks Foundation has helped permanently protect nearly 1,000 acres of forest and farmland in East Tennessee. The 500-acre Bluff Mountain in Sevier County, farms in Blount and Knox counties, two future park sites and a historic spot along Beaver Creek will forever remain in their current natural condition through the establishment of conservation easements on the properties.

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows the property owner to continue to own and use their land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs. Foothills Land Conservancy and Legacy Parks Foundation’s role is to assure that the terms of the easement are followed on a long-term basis. For more information about conservation easements contact

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Path thru the trees


Trails are a natural amenity in East Tennessee. Our ridges and valleys, lush forests, and abundant waterways can easily be explored and appreciated on simple, multi-use trails. Legacy Parks is working to establish recreational trails throughout East Tennessee, including a fifteen-mile equestrian trail in east Knox County.

We are grateful to Jack Rose, Jim McCormick, and Kenneth Ross for sharing their beautiful photography with all of us.

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