Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness begins with the 1,000-forested acres along Knoxville’s downtown waterfront that includes ten parks, more than forty miles of recreational trails, four civil war sites, incredible views and unparalleled natural features. Legacy Parks Foundation is championing this unique asset as a premier outdoor experience for visitors and residents alike by creating trails, connecting and expanding parks, creating an easily-navigated system of signs and kiosks, programming events and promoting opportunities for everyone to get out and play.
For more information and directions to trailheads, visit OutdoorKnoxville.com.
The recent acquisition of 100 acres, generously donated by the Wood Family to Legacy Parks Foundation, will provide a key connection between the existing parks and trails with the Urban Wilderness’ South Loop Trail System and South Doyle Middle School and its Outdoor Classroom. It will also connect additional neighborhoods into the system. The plans for the property call for a variety of trails and features, including a one-mile introductory mountain bike trail for riders of all ages, a skills/play area, 3.5 miles of mixed-use trails featuring two overlooks and three creek-crossing structures.
The South Loop Trails create a unique 42-mile trail system on city, county, state, and private land that connects parks, neighborhoods, schools and natural areas. This trail system is a part of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness - 1,000 acres of parks, trails, forests and historic sites within the heart of Knoxville that is championed by Legacy Parks Foundation along with other collaborative groups. These trails are perfect for hikers and mountain bikers of all levels of experience. The South Loop is the 12.5-mile main route that will bring you back to your starting point. The trails that comprise this main route are easy to moderate. The majority of the South Loop Trails are single-track and natural surface trails. There are three street crossings and short segments that travel on paved greenway, road or sidewalk. There are approximately 30 miles of secondary trails that lead off of the South Loop main trail. The map shows the degree of difficulty for each trail.
There are four trailheads within the South Loop – Mead’s Quarry, William Hastie Natural Area, Anderson School and Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area. A kiosk with maps and parking are available at each trailhead. Restrooms are only available at Meads Quarry and Ijams Nature Center. There is no water or other public amenities on the South Loop Trails.
Trails in this area are a combination of shale and undisturbed soil and heavily manipulated soils and rock. The Turnbuckle Trail is built through a section of the former limestone quarry where undesirable stone was discarded. Trail builders have utilized this rock to create a unique trail experience. Several easy bridge crossings will enhance your way through the Ross Marble Natural Area.
This passive wooded parcel was an integral connector for Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. The 1.7-mile trail through Marie Myers Park provides trail users the opportunity to travel off-road from Ross Marble Quarry to the Hastie Natural Area.
The natural surface trails in the William Hastie Natural Area contain a wide array of surfaces and unique challenges and provide hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers four miles of singletrack trails. Winding through the heavily forested property and circling the perimeter of the park, the trails — at times — traverse across off-camber rock seams and loose shale. The gravel double-track through the park, shown as Margaret Road, is the easiest way to navigate through the park. William Hastie Natural Area connects to Ross Marble Quarry on a flowing, fun trail through Marie Myers Park. Enjoy the surprising entry at View Park Drive.
The trails beginning at Anderson School descend through a wooded valley over an easy grade into the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area. The trail crosses private property made accessible by easements granted by the landowners. Please respect the private property and stay on the trail. Look for wood ducks and the occasional Great Blue Heron in the pond on your left if you are heading towards Forks of The River WMA. Please remember that Anderson School has students present during school hours. Limited parking is available during weekdays. Be sure to stay on the trail on school property.
The trail system within the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area combine trails created over time by wildlife and hunters with those constructed more recently by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club. The paved Will Skelton Greenway is also found within the WMA along the river boundary and connects the WMA to both Ijams Nature Center and the natural surface trails. There are multiple trails to experience within the WMA, all of varying degrees of difficulty, views and topography. The South Loop main route begins on the paved Will Skelton Greenway, continues along the river’s edge and meanders through forests and fields. The internal trails pass through open fields, hardwood forests, and hedgerows — all home to an abundance of wildlife and songbird activity.
Please be aware that the WMA is an active hunting area managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. Special conditions apply to this property and are listed below. This Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area is managed for hunting and habitat conservation by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. The TWRA works collaboratively with Legacy Parks Foundation, Appalachian Mountain Bike Association and the Knoxville and Knox County Parks Departments to provide for non-motorized, recreational mixed-use within the WMA. Walking, running and biking on the paved Will Skelton Greenway is permissible year-round. Be aware that hunting is allowed in the fields next to the greenway during legal hunting seasons. Walking, running and biking is permitted on the unpaved trails with certain restrictions. A complete list of regulations and more information about TWRA are available at http://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife.
Hike all 42 miles of trail in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness’ South Loop and earn the new Urban Wilderness Patch! Start at one of 4 trailheads — Ijams Nature Center, William Hastie Natural Area, Anderson School, or Forks of the River. The trail system features a variety of terrain from rocky outcrops to rolling fields and farmland with trails that range from easy to more difficult. A pocket-sized trail map is available at local shops and at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center or use the links above to download and print maps.
Enjoy the exceptional fall colors along the trail while keeping track of your miles trekked on the Trail Checklist Form. 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 Urban Wilderness Patch and a certificate. Your name will then be added to the Urban Wilderness Club listing on Outdoor Knoxville. Proceeds benefit the Legacy Parks Foundation.
The West Loop provides an historic and recreational experience with the potential for shops and restaurants located along a major highway and the south waterfront. The loop contains three Civil War forts and a significant city park.
This 70-acre tract originally slated for condominium development was recently purchased by Legacy Parks Foundation. This property is significant as the most expansive view of greenspace and the ridgetop from the city side of the river. It contains two ponds, an abundance of wildflower and mature hardwoods, and the most breathtaking view of Knoxville. It is the site of the Battle of Armstrong’s Hill, a key Civil War battle in the defense of Knoxville. Named in honor of Natalie Haslam, Natalie’s Garden is an interpretation and celebration of the abundant wildflowers found on the property.
This 22-acre wooded parcel off Chapman Highway contains the Civil War fort where Union troops protected the southern approaches to Knoxville. Fort Stanley was built a few weeks after the construction of the larger Fort Dickerson. Gobbler’s Knob, standing 360 feet above the river, was the tallest and closest hill to downtown Knoxville.
This 85-acre historic city park is one of the best-preserved earthen forts from the Civil War era. Resting on a high knob just across the river from downtown, the full northern view of the city stretches all the way to the high ridges beyond Fountain City. To the south, the foothills and high peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains are visible. Scenic trails wind from the high point of the park down the turquoise waters of the 350-foot deep Quarry.
This 7-acre parcel served as the western anchor of the Federal line, protecting the city from Confederate troops stationed on Cherokee Heights.
This lush, 95-acre tract is rich with historical significance and an abundance of mature hardwoods and native species. If the Corridor property is assembled, the owners, Aslan Foundation, will include the Log Haven property in the Urban Wilderness.
Working in collaboration with the City of Knoxville and Knox County, Legacy Parks Foundation will continue to assemble the lands, funds and partners to create Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. To contribute to the effort, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Become a Friend of Legacy Parks.
Partners on Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness include Tennessee Department of Tourism, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee, Knox County, City of Knoxville, Knox Heritage, Foothills Land Conservancy, The Civil War Alliance, The Civil War Roundtable, The East Tennessee Community Design Center, the McClung Museum and the Center for Excellence for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University.
The Outdoor Knoxville initiative is championed by Legacy Parks Foundation as a major step towards putting Knoxville on the map as a premier outdoor recreation community. Launched in 2012, the three-pronged project capitalizes on the exceptional outdoor recreational assets found in and around Knoxville. It includes a new Adventure Center, a website and a three-day festival showcasing Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.
The most visible presence for Outdoor Knoxville is the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center, housed in the City-owned Gateway Pavilion Building at Volunteer Landing. The Adventure Center serves as the recreational hub for not only Knoxville but also the entire region. It is centrally located with easy connections to downtown Knoxville, the University of Tennessee, I-40, and all the trails and greenways on both sides of the river.
The second element of the Outdoor Knoxville initiative is OutdoorKnoxville.com, a robust, comprehensive website for all outdoor recreational activities, venues, and events in our region. OutdoorKnoxville.com showcases the abundance of parks, trails, greenways, activities, and amenities that we enjoy in Knoxville. The year-round activity calendar makes it easy for everyone to Get Out & Play.
Outdoor KnoxFest is the third key element in the initiative. Outdoor KnoxFest is a three-day outdoor festival showcasing Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness and promoting a variety of outdoor recreational venues encouraging people of all levels to get out & play. The festival is a signature event of the Dogwood Arts Festival, a nationally renowned, month long celebration of the natural and cultural beauty of East Tennessee. Outdoor KnoxFest benefits Legacy Parks Foundation and will be held on Friday, April 25 through Sunday, April 27, 2014 at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center.
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge 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. The Legacy Parks Foundation and Knox County Parks and Recreation currently manage the Wildlife Refuge, which is situated on the eastern edge of Knox County. The sanctuary features a rich natural habitat with over 183 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. There is a non-motorized boat launch that allows easy access to the river.
The Refuge is a model for observing how well-established land management practices can both protect and reestablish the native wildlife in an area. Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge has a strong academic and research partnership as a field school for the University of Tennessee. The properties’ rich history nearly equals its natural assets. The six historic structures on the property tell the story of the settlement of our region. Evidence of early industry still remains on the river’s edge and throughout the property are reminders of our origins as a community. Given its historic and natural significance, a second phase of planning is underway to make Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge a signature educational, recreational and research haven of national stature.
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge will become Tennessee’s 56th State Park and most notably the first state birding park. Knox County will transfer the property over to the state in 2014 and the Tennessee State Parks will start managing the Seven Islands State Birding Park in July.
Construction has begun on Knox County’s first park designed to demonstrate good stormwater management practices. Located in the Karns community, this Park is being built through a partnership of Legacy Parks Foundation, Knox County Parks & Recreation, the Beaver Creek Task Force, Knox County Stormwater Department, the University of Tennessee’s Tennessee Water Resources Research Center, and the East Tennessee Community Design Center. The Park will be a model for stormwater management practices such as rain gardens, wetland ponds and riparian buffers. The project will transform land donated to Legacy Parks Foundation by a local developer from an illegal dump site to a refuge-style nature park with wetland ponds, abundant native plants, flowers, and trees and a natural surface walking trail around the perimeter of the eleven acres. Funding for the project came from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture 319 Program and dollars raised by Legacy Parks Foundation. After completion the parkland will be an addition to Knox County's parks system.
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 County, 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 email@example.com.
Trails are a natural amenity for east Tennessee. Our ridges and valley, lush forests and abundant waterways can easily be explored, appreciated, and protected on simple, multi-use trails. Legacy Parks Foundation is working to establish recreational trails throughout Knox County, 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.