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
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.
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, and Burnett Creek Road.
To follow the South Loop Trails, look for the logo signs, tree blazes, or stencils on the road.
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 eight miles of trails, 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 will offer opportunities for outdoor activity at any skill level.
The Baker Creek Preserve trails will 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.
The Baker Creek Trails are set to open later this spring and additional amenities – including a bike park and adventure play structures to encourage fun, challenging physical activity, are planned.
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.
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.