A Legacy Parks Treasure
Ijams Nature Center is part of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness, a recreational, cultural, and historic preservation initiative championed by Legacy Parks Foundation, incorporating 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. Featuring 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. Ross Marble Quarry was the first land donated to the 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.
Just minutes from downtown lies an urban playground for hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, anglers and paddlers! Miles of diverse trails await you at Ijams Nature Center. The tranquil trails on the river side of the park wind through undisturbed woods where wildflowers carpet the path and songbirds twill. The Wildlife Sanctuary Trail System features almost 4 miles of hiking only trails. Across the street, the rugged terrain that was once home to a post-industrial landscape, has been redesigned into over 10 miles of multi-use trails that comprise the Quarry and Natural Area Trail System. The trails have been routed to enhance the distinctive features of this section — a sparkling quarry lake, unique rock formations, scenic overlooks and rugged terrain. The mature woodlands are home to a variety of wildlife and birds. Along the trails you'll spot caves hidden deep in the rocks, you'll wind past the historic Stanton cemetery and climb to the overlooks of scenic gorges. There's much to do and much to experience at Mead's Quarry! Check out our calendar for hikes, mountain bike rides, runs, paddles and rock climbing events.
Ijams Nature Center, teamed up with Legacy Parks Foundation and the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club (AMBC), to developed a network of multi-use trails through the old hickory forest adjacent to the Ross Marble Natural Area. This section of trail is part of the South Loop of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness which connects to the following trail systems: Forks of the River; Anderson School Trails; William Hastie Natural Area; Marie Myers Park; and Baker Creek Preserve.
To follow the 12.5-mile South Loop Trail look for the purple signs, tree blazes, or stencils on the road.
Bikes, Kayaks, and SUP Rentals: Ijams Nature Center, partnered with River Sports Outfitters, offers seasonal bike rentals for use on the trails and greenway, and kayaks and standup paddleboards for the quarry. Personal boats are not permitted.
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!
Quarry and Natural Area Trail System
Pink Marble Trail: Named after the pink Tennessee marble extracted from the quarry in its heyday, this scenic 0.3-mile hiking only trail hugs the quarry lake. Trail leads to the short Cave Loop and observation deck that offers expansive views of the 25-acre Mead's Quarry Lake. Hiking only.
Tharp Trace Trail: Winding up to the top of the ridge, this 1.0-mile hiking only trail climbs a few steep hills before reaching the overlook. Take a moment to catch picturesque views of Mead's Quarry Lake and see if you can catch a glimpse of Mt LeConte. The trail saunters back down through a woodland canopy and passes alongside the historic Stanton Cemetery where the gravestones date from 1870 to 1939 before looping back to lake level.
Imerys Trail: Named after the company that donated the Ross Marble Natural Area, this 1.1-mile multi-use trail connects to the quarry gorge and the other multi-use trails.
Ross Marble Quarry Loop: 1.2-mile trail flows along an elevated walkway to the top of the rock bridge where you'll glean panoramic views of the quarry gorge. Hike underneath the "keyhole" to witness the quarry's work with it's uniquely carved marble shelves and rock faces.
Hayworth Hollow: Short 0.10 mile multi-use trail travels along the quarry gorge to a pristine area of moss-cover boulders, sheer rock walls and caves. Note that the caves are gated to protect the native wildlife, especially the bats and berry cave salamander.
Flow Trail: 1.0 mile multi-use trail winds past the wetlands and through hickory forests.
Burnett Ridge: 1.5 miles of trail that twists and carves through the former quarry site.
Hickory Trail: 2.1 miles
Turnbuckle Trail: At the end of this 1.1 mile trail, you'll connect with the 1.75-mile Marie Myers Park Trail which links to the William Hastie Natural Area trail system.
Wildlife Sanctuary Trail System
The Wildlife Sanctuary Trails meanders around Ijams Nature Center providing 3.45-miles of pedestrian only trails. Among the native wildflowers and trees, a host of songbirds, owls, butterflies, and other critters make their homes in this beautiful wooded sanctuary.
Beech Trail: Short .08-mile trail acts as a connector for the Universal and South Cove Trail as it winds through a grove of beech trees. Pedestrian only trail.
Discovery Trails: Series of meandering trails that travel 0.4-miles between the Home Site and the Tennessee River, along the Fern Walk passing by the Lotus Pond. Pedestrian only trail.
North and South Cove Trails: This 0.5-mile combined trail creates a loop for the River Trail and makes a connection with the Tower Trail. This tranquil section of trail features woodland butterfiles and spring wildflowers. Note that the North Cove section of trail is hilly. Pedestrian only trail.
River Trail: Coming from the Will Skelton Greenway, this 0.7-mile trail strolls across the Wildlife Meadow and then contours the Tennessee River where the boardwalk hugs the cliff's rock face, exhibiting scenic riverside views and an up-close look into the gated cave. Pedestrian only trail.
Toll Creek Loop: Short 0.2-mile loop off the River or Tower Trail featuring a short boardwalk along the scenic Toll Creek where you might spy signs of a beaver dam! Pedestrian only trail.
Tower Trail: The peak of this 0.3-mile trail marks the highest point on the wildlife sanctuary — you'll have to do some climbing to get here but the overlook presents striking views from the rocky bluffs along the Tennessee River. Pedestrian only trail.
Serendipity Trail: Paved, wheelchair-accessible 0.3-mile loop lined with a diversity of labeled tree species, passes by the small ponds and the rock gardens that date back to the time of the Ijams family. Pedestrian only.
Universal Trail: On this 0.25-mile wheelchair-accessible trail you'll pass by the Invertebrate Inn and the Teenie Playhouse! Pedestrian only trail.