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. With over 40 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 7.0 miles of multi-use trails that comprise the Quarry and Natural Area Trail System with more trails on the drawing board! 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 events calendar for hikes and mountain bike rides.
Ijams Nature Center, teamed up with Legacy Parks Foundation and the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club (AMBC), has 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; Helix Trails; William Hastie Natural Area; and Marie Myers Park.
Wildlife Sanctuary Trail System
The Wildlife Sanctuary Trails are pedestrian only!
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 half-a-mile between the Home Site and the Tennessee River, along the Fern Walk passing by the Lotus Pond. Pedestrian only trail.
NORTH & SOUTH COVE TRAIL: 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 0.14 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 0.32 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 0.24 mile wheelchair-accessible trail you'll pass by the Invertebrate Inn and the Teenie Playhouse! Pedestrian only trail.
Quarry and Natural Area Trail System
PINK MARBLE TRAIL: Scenic 0.36 mile lakefront hiking only trail named after the pink Tennessee marble extracted from the quarry in its heyday. Trail leads to the short Cave Loop and observation deck that offers expansive views of the 25-acre Mead's Quarry Lake.
THARP TRACE TRAIL: Winding up to the top of the ridge, this 0.77 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: Starting at the parking area, this one-mile multi-use trail connects to the quarry gorge and the other multi-use trails.
ROSS MARBLE QUARRY LOOP: Short 0.2 mile trail 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 TRAIL: 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.
AMBER, FLOW, HICKORY, & TURNBUCKLE TRAILS: Built by AMBC, these multi-use singletrack trails welcome hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers. The 4.35 miles of trail twist and carve through the former quarry site and wind past the wetlands through hickory forests. At the end of the Turnbuckle trail there is a new 1.74 mile section of trail that winds through Marie Myers Park linking this trail system to the trails at William Hastie Natural Area.
SOUTH LOOP MOBILE MAP APP
The new mobile app for the South Loop's 42-mile trail system allows you to pinpoint your exact location on the trails, to measure distances by “drawing” a line on the map, to record tracks and report how far you have traveled, and will give you an approximate estimate on the elevation you have gained or lost. Click here for instructions on adding The South Loop 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!