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.
Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is comprised of three key sections with parks, historic areas and amenities within each section — the South Loop, the Connector, and the Battlefield Loop. Downloadable pdf map of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness South Loop
Eight recently acquired properties provided key connections for creating the South Loop, an 11.5-mile multi-use, natural trail system that now connects five parks/natural areas. This loop includes unique rock features, mature forests, working farmland, and views of the Tennessee River.
A 300-acre wildlife sanctuary and environmental learning center providing community-wide education, conservation and recreational experiences and includes Ross Marble Quarry and Meads Quarry. Mead's Quarry was the first land donation to Legacy Parks Foundation. The 104 acres of abandoned quarry is now a beautiful addition to Ijams Nature Center, boasting miles of natural walking and biking trails and an abundance of wildlife.
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.
This 75-acre city park is just minutes from downtown, providing four-plus miles of natural trail for hikers and mountain bikers. The newly built trail winding through Marie Myers Park, offers a connecting link to the Quarry Trails at Ijams Nature Center.
Leaving William Hastie Natural Area, the trail briefly travels along a quiet neighborhood street to Anderson School. Here trail users will pick up the main South Loop trail that will travel through a wooded valley into the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area. This trail crosses private property and provides access to the Helix Trails which were made accessible by easements granted by the landowners..
Partnering with TWRA and AMBC, we are expanding the current trail system and manicuring the existing trails that traverse this beautiful Wildlife Management Area. When the work is completed, the new trail system will boast 10-13 miles of trail. The Will Skelton Greenway winds along the contour of the Tennessee River and travels from Island Home Park through Ijams Nature Center to the Forks of the River WMA.
The Connector is comprised of existing roads and sidewalks that allowed for bike and pedestrian connection of both loops. Key elements of the Connector are:
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 email@example.com 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.
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge is the East Tennessee region’s largest wildlife sanctuary with more than 400 acres of forests and fields, eight plus miles of natural trails, access to the French Broad River and spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains and rolling farmlands. It is managed through collaboration among Knox County Parks and Recreation, Seven Islands Wildlife Foundation and Legacy Parks Foundation. Situated on the edge of east Knox County, the sanctuary features a rich natural habitat with over 170 species of birds including a pair of nesting bald eagles. The French Broad River, which borders the park, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.