17 Nature Loving Adventure Seeking Artsy Things To Do In Knoxville Tn

Sunsphere Knoxville Tn

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Knoxville, Tennessee, is a nature-loving-adventure-seeking-artsy-kinda town with plenty of fun things to do.Downtown, Old City, World Fair Park, and the UT campus are very walkable and stacked together like a yummy urban sandwich.

Just south of town is the Tennessee River and then the South Knoxville urban wilderness, which includes five parks, 60 miles of trails, and a 600-acre wildlife area.In between, there’s live music, romantic hotels, delicious food, colorful galleries, public art, and friendly people. It’s no wonder it was recently rated top ten in CNN Travel’s America’s Best Towns to Visit 2024!

Whether you’re nature-loving, adventure-seeking, or just a little artsy, this is your kind of town! If you’re all three, it’s a win, win, win!

Mountain Bike the Baker Creek Trail System

Knoxville Urban Wilderness Knoxville Tn
Knoxville Urban Winderness Knoxville Tn

The Baker Creek Trail System is the poster child for incredible riding opportunities throughout the South Knoxville Urban Wilderness, with a specialty bike park, a brand-new pavilion, and loop rides for every skill level. There are also Bear Paw Bikes for rentals and anything else you might need for your ride, Crafty Bastard Brewery to quench that post-ride thirst, and 71 South fueling you up with delicious food from a converted church adjacent to the bike park. It’s a one-stop bike spectacular, but it doesn’t have to stop there.

The Urban Wilderness has well-maintained, purposefully built trails extending in all directions with enough riding for an entire weekend of two-wheel fun. I’d love to come back and write a detailed guide with full pictures and descriptions, but my ride notes will have to suffice for now.
For more details, click around the interactive map in this post or into the MapMyRide links below. You can also double-check the trails on Trailforks to see current trail conditions
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Here are 11 ride plans connecting the best mountain trails in Knoxville:

  • Baker Creek Green Loop (2.81 mi): An easy loop around Baker Creek featuring Floyd Fox up and Cruz Valley Downhill.
  • Baker Creek Blue Loop (1.83 mi): An intermediate loop around Baker Creek featuring Red Bud up and Barn Burner Downhill.
  • Baker Creek Double Black Loop (1.33 mi): A thrilling ride down Devil’s Racetrack with big jumps, tables, drops, berms, and lots of flow if you dare.
  • Year Round Get Down Loop (2.08 mi): A loop with Party in the Woods and Victor Ashe and connections to Baker Creek, William Hastie, and Ijams.
  • Hastie Loop (3.78 mi): A loop with the best trails of the William Hastie Natural Area with connections to Year Round Get Down (Marie Myers Park) and the Helix Trails.
  • Helix Trails (5.15 mi): Connect from Hastie to the Forks of the River along Lost Chromosome with an optional lap on AC/DC or alternate connection via the Far East Ramble.
  • The Far East Ramble (5.03 mi): Bonus miles have never tasted this good as you use Transfarm and Far East as an alternate to Lost Chromosome to travel from the Helix Trails to Forks of the River.
  • Forks of the River Loop (6.75 mi): Use Whaley or West Perimeter together to form a big loop or aconnector between the Helix Trails / Far West and Ijams.
  • Ijams Loop (5.62 mi): A bicycle-friendly loop through a popular hiking area with connections to Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area and Year Round Get Down.
  • Baker Creek—Fort Dickerson Connector (2.58 mi): Heading west out of Baker Creek, there are many connectors, ranging from gravel trails to paved greenways, neighborhood streets, and just a little bit of trail riding in Lippencott Park.
  • Fort Dickerson Loop (2.22 mi): A loop around Augusta Quarry and past Civil War breastworks.
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Take a Hike in the Urban Wilderness – Ijams Nature Center

Hiking Ijams Knoxville
Hiking Ijams Knoxville, Tn

If hiking is your jam, you’re going to be an Ijams fan. Like any good hike, you have to start with a plan, but don’t worry; I’m your Ijams plan man!

Ijams is a 318-acre urban greenspace divided into two sections by Island Home Road: Quarryside and Riverside. The Ijams Nature Center is in the Riverside section and has restrooms, snacks, and some exhibits. You can also pay your $5 daily parking fee there or online in the parking lot. One of the most popular hikes in the area is the River / Tower Trail loop, which is just over a mile long with fabulous views of the Tennessee River from the River Boardwalk.

Continue to Ijams Quarryside

Imerys Trail to Ross Marble Loop Knoxville Tn
Imery's Trail (the Keyhole) Knoxville Tn

Most, but not all, of the Quarryside Trails are open for bikers and hikers. Two notable hiking-only exceptions are the Rock Bridge Trail to the Keyhole and Tharps Trace / Pink Marble, which circumnavigate Meads Quarry.

Keyhole is an old marble quarry with fascinating rock features that’s about 1/2 mile down Imerys Trail. It’s a great combo with exploring Meads Quarry, either by trail, waterside, or both.

Make a Splash at Mead Quarry

Imerys Trail to Ross Marble Loop Knoxville Tn
Kayaking Mead Quarry

There’s no better way to cool down after hiking Ijams than playing in Mead Quarry. There’s a swimming area and kayak / SUP rentals from River Sports Outfitters.

Cool off at the Augusta Quarry

Trail to overlook Augusta Quarry Fort Dickerson
Augusta Quarry Knoxville, Tn

Augusta Quarry in Fort Dickerson Park is another local favorite swimming hole. It’s currently (2024) undergoing a $3.6 million improvement project to add restrooms, a new overlook, a renovated pedestrian pathway, and new floating beach and swim platforms. You can follow this link for construction updates, but the upper entrance with access to the overlook is open now.

Zip Down Navitat at Night

Navitat at Night Knoxville, Tn
Navitat at night Knoxville Tn

Navitat is a zip line / ropes course within Ijams. Some of the signage confused us initially, but the check-in is next to the Ijams Welcome Center. In total, there are six courses (adventure trails) in the woods. Each adventure trail consists of 8-12 elements, including zip lines, bridges, swings, nets, climbs, and more. The easy trails are easy enough for anybody, but the progress up so that even the most ardent and fit adventurer will feel challenged.

If you’re up for an even bigger challenge with a magical vibe, try Navitat at Night. Some lights are strung through the trees, but you’ll still get those butterflies in your belly as you zip out into the relative darkness.

See also
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Bike the Greenways

Bikers at Sunsphere- Worlds Fair Park Knoxville Tennessee
Biking Knoxville's Greenways

The riverfront, UT Campus, and downtown are very bikeable, and there is a collection of short greenways that can be strung together into a 20-plus-mile ride.

We did this ride and loved cruising through World’s Fair Park, along the riverfront, and around the old homes of Sequoyah Hills. Some of the connections weren’t intuitive, so we had to do a little route-finding, and there were definitely some hills in Sequoyah Hills that will make you earn your Plaid Apron pit stop.

Kayak the Tennessee River

Kayaking Knoxville

Another way to get some great riverfront views is to rent a kayak or SUP from Knoxville Adventure Collective. You can paddle from the shop for views of downtown, or they can arrange custom shuttle trips down the river. They even rent bikes if you’re looking for a set of wheels to try out the greenways.

Explore the Old City Galleries

First Friday Knoxville Tn
Art Gallery Knoxville, Tn

The Old City is a highly creative neighborhood around the old train depot. It’s also a sneaky way to find free parking for a day of exploring downtown. It’s also home to the First Friday Art Walk, part block party, party gallery walk, and entirely a good time.

Notable businesses include:

All Hail the Ale Trail

Hi-Wire Brewing Knoxville Tn
Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

The Pretentious Beer Company is just one of many breweries in the Old City. Other watering holes include Xul, Crafty Bastard, Next Level, and Gypsy Circus. Go a little further and you’ll find Hi-Wire and Schulz Brau, Knoxville’s first beer garden that happens to be in a German castle. You’d think there should be an Ale Trail in Knoxville, and you’d be correct. Follow the link and check in to win prizes.

Gallivant Down Gay Street

Gay St. Downtown Knoxville Tn
Downtown Knoxville Tenneessee

Gay Street traverses the heart of the city. It was on the original 1791 plan of Knoxville and the city’s first paved street. If you download the Visit Knoxville walking tour, it takes you down Gay Street from the Visitor Center to Blount Mansion, the birthplace of the state of Tennessee. Along the way, you can stop in for ice cream at Cruze Farm, stop into the East Tennessee Historical Society and Museum, or snap a photo of the historic Tennessee Theater blade.

Find Your Muse at a Museum

Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Knoxville, Tn
East Tennessee History Center Knoxville, Tennessee

Blunt Mansion and the Tennessee Historical Society are just two of Knoxville’s museums. Other notable museums are:

Enjoy Market Square

Market Square Farmers Market Knoxville Tn
Market Square Knoxville Tenneessee

Your walking tour of downtown can return along Market Street, which ends at the pedestrian-only Market Square, home to the Market Square Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons in season.

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Find Out Why This Town was Named CNN Travel's - America’s Best Towns to Visit in 2024

Be sure to pop into Yassin’s Falafel House, once named the nicest place in America, and the authentic French Market Creperie. Of course, you will notice the statues in Krutch Park.

Surprise Yourself in Strong Alley

Strong Alley Knoxville Tn
Dolly mural Knoxville Tn

Strong Alley is sandwiched between Market and Gay Street. If you weren’t looking, you might not notice it, but you’d be missing out. It’s a 500-foot-long graffiti gallery filled with larger-than-life works. Megan Lingerfelt’s glamorous Dolly Parton mural is a local favorite, but there’s art for everyone in Strong Alley.

Try the Blue Plate Special

Visit Knoxville Visitor Center
WDVX Blue Plate Special at Knoxville Visitor Center

Before you leave downtown (or maybe as a reason to come), you owe it to yourself to experience The WDVX Blue Plate Special®. It’s a live performance radio show at the Knoxville Visitors Center (or Fridays at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria). Besides being live, local music, the production quality is remarkably good because it’s also a radio broadcast.

Wander World ‘s Fair Park

Sunsphere- Worlds Fair Park Knoxville TenneesseeSunsphere- Worlds Fair Park Knoxville Tenneessee
Sunsphere Knoxville

World’s Fair Park is the former fairgrounds of the 1982 World’s Fair hosted in Knoxville. It’s home to the Sunsphere (which was closed when we visited) and the Tennessee Amphitheater, the two remaining structures from the exposition. It’s also home to a family-friendly splash pad. Even if you don’t climb the Sunsphere, it’s still a great place to walk, relax, and see how many unique ways you can photograph this iconic building.

Feed the ‘Gram

Sunsphere- Worlds Fair Park
Water tower art Knoxville, Tn

We’ve already introduced you to Knoxville’s street art, iconic architecture, sweeping nature scenes, and sculpture gardens. If that’s not enough to get you feeding the ‘Gram, I have one more idea. We could put the best photo ops onto an interactive map to make it just that easy.

Relax on a Rooftop

The Radius Rooftop Bar Knoxville Tennessee
The Radius Rooftop Lounge Embassy Suites Knoxville Tn

Radius Rooftop Bar is for anyone who thinks “Up on a rooftop click, click, click” is about photography. I’m not one to say no to an Espresso Martini, but theirs were exceptionally good. The sunset views were also fabulous. It’s a great way to end your nature-loving-adventure-seeking-artsy-kinda day in Knoxville or for us to end our Knoxville post. So cheers to you, and we hope all your sunsets are stunning!

Disclosure: A big thank you to Visit Knoxville for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more Knoxville travel inspiration, check out their InstagramFacebook, X, and YouTube accounts.

As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.

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Knoxville Sunsphere
Flower bouquet at Market Square Farmers Market
Hiking jams Nature Center
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Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman aka Coleman Concierge. In a nutshell, we are a Huntsville-based Gen X couple sharing our stories of amazing adventures through activity-driven transformational and experiential travel.

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Meet Ed & Jenn

Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman, and together we are Coleman Concierge. It is our goal to inspire you to get out, expand your world, and to seek adventure, even in your own backyard.

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