A Legacy Parks Treasure
Knoxville Urban Wilderness, a recreational, cultural, and historic preservation initiative championed by Legacy Parks Foundation, incorporates 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 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.
Just three miles from downtown, Knoxville's Urban Wilderness presents a unique urban playground for hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners! The South Loop Trails, are on the east end of the Urban Wilderness offering 42-miles of natural surface trails that connect five parks, neighborhoods, schools, and natural areas creating an unparalleled outdoor venue! The main 12.5-mile South Loop connects Ijams Nature Center, Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, Anderson School Trails, William Hastie Natural Area, and Marie Myers Park. The main loop offers easy to moderate trails for all users and the approximately 30 miles of secondary trails accommodate users from beginner to advanced on dozens of trails of varying terrain.
The recent addition of the Baker Creek Preserve, a 100-acre property donated to Legacy Parks Foundation by the Wood family in 2013, is a major addition to Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. The preserve features hilltop views, wooded valleys, giant sycamore trees, and a beautiful creek. It is quickly becoming a recreation asset for outdoor adventurers of all interests. With 7.1 miles of trail, including the Bell Helmets $100,000 expert downhill trail, a kids only bike loop to introduce the young to mountain biking, and five multi-use hiking and biking trails, the area offers opportunities for outdoor activity at any skill level. Baker Creek Preserve adds amenities that enhance the area’s reputation as an outdoor recreation and mountain bike destination.
Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is made up of three areas: The South Loop Trails, Baker Creek Preserve, and the Battlefield Loop. Eventually joined by trails, these three unique areas will stretch from Alcoa Highway on the west to Ijams Nature Center on the east, connecting downtown, neighborhoods, schools, and existing and emerging businesses. We encourage you to help us make this vision a reality by becoming a Friend of Legacy Parks.
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!
BAKER CREEK PRESERVE
Baker Creek Preserves features five multi-use, two-way trails, and three designated mountain bike downhill trails for more experienced riders, providing 7.1 miles of hiking and biking opportunities for beginners to extreme adventure mountain bikers! The Preserve connects into the existing 42 miles of trail in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness by way of a pedestrian bridge over Redbud Road. Baker Creek Preserve is connected to South Doyle Middle School by way of the new Baker Creek Trail and intersecting Cherokee Trail. Both trails connect the school directly into the Urban Wilderness and adjacent neighborhoods. These trails and boardwalk over Baker Creek create, not only a recreational amenity for the students, but also provide a safe walkway to the school.
SOUTH LOOP TRAILS
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. These trails are perfect for hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers of all levels of experience. The South Loop is the main 12.5-mile 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. 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, Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, and Anderson School – and parking is available at all. A kiosk with maps is also at each site. Restrooms are only available at Mead’s Quarry and Ijams Nature Center (a short distance off the main trail). Water is not available on the South Loop Trails. There are restroom facilities at Meads Quarry and Ijams Nature Center during operational hours.
To follow the 12.5-mile South Loop Trail look for the purple signs, tree blazes, or stencils on the road.
IJAMS NATURE CENTER, ROSS MARBLE & MEAD'S QUARRY
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 Quarry. In addition to the multi-user trails, there are hiking only trails that take you past the historic Stanton Cemetery to the top of the ridge for an overlook of the turquoise Mead's Quarry Lake. More wandering around the old quarry will take you past gated caves and uniquely carved marble shelves; over the rock bridge and underneath the "keyhole" before looping back to the main trail. The tranquil trails on the riverside of Ijams Nature Center wind through undisturbed woods and along the boardwalk where the Tennessee River flows below. These trails are open to hikers and trail runners.
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.
WILLIAM HASTIE NATURAL AREA & MARIE MYERS PARK
The natural surface trails in the William Hastie Natural Area contain a wide array of surfaces and unique challenges for hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. Winding through the heavily forested property and circling the perimeter of the park, the trails — at times — traverse 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 the Ross Marble Quarry trails on a 2-mile flowing, fun trail through Marie Myers Park. Users will enjoy the surprising entry at View Park Drive.
Note: there is no parking area for access to Marie Myers Park.
ANDERSON SCHOOL TRAILS
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.
FORKS OF THE RIVER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
Forks of the River trails are part of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness. The South Loop trail is multi-use for the enjoyment of hikers and cyclists at all skill levels. Users will be exhilarated by the views looking out over the river atop high bluffs. The trails here have been created over time by wildlife and hunters and more recently by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club. There are multiple trails to experience within the WMA, all of varying degrees of difficulty, views and topography. The South Loop main route winds from the Ijams Nature Center and Quarry Trails along the paved Will Skelton Greenway skirting the Tennessee River and the fields of the WMA. The greenway ends at the woods edge and merges onto the singletrack Whaley Trail which snakes along the river to the Anderson School Trails. The WMA internal trails traverse through open fields, hardwood forests, and hedgerows — all home to an abundance of wildlife and songbird activity. Mark your calendar for the July explosion of color when the sunflower fields are in bloom, aiming their bright yellow faces towards the sun.
NOTE: Forks of the River Special Use Permit: All trails on the area used for bicycling require the High Impact Habitat Conservation Permit, except the Will Skelton Greenway and Whaley Trail (formerly known as Auggies Run and Bluff Trail) to the Burnett Creek parking area. Will Skelton Greenway and Whaley Trail is open year round. No hooved animal riding or motorized vehicles allowed.
Hunting: Please be aware that the Wildlife Management Area 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 Club, and the Parks and Recreation departments of both the City and County of Knoxville to provide for non-motorized, recreational mixed-use within the WMA. TWRA regulations for Forks of the River WMA are as follows:
Forks of the River Hunting Seasons for 2016:
Note that the Will Skelton Greenway and Whaley Trail remain open at all times.
From Sept. 4 - Feb. 28, area closed to non-hunters except as noted. On Sat. and Sun., area closed to non-hunters until noon, except as noted. During Spring Turkey season (Apr. 1 - May 15), area closed to non-hunters till noon, except as noted.
Shotguns, Muzzleloader and Archery equipment only.
Area closed one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise, except for raccoon and opossum hunters and scheduled events.
Paintball guns and accessories prohibited.
All animals accompanied by a non-hunting person are required to be leashed.
Big thanks to the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club and all the volunteers that helped build these beautiful trails!
Riding any of the trails during wet conditions is damaging to the trails. Avoid riding when trails are wet.
Leave no trace - please pack out your trash.
Please respect parklands and wildlife habitats by staying on the trail at all times.
Pets must be leashed and kept under control at all times.
Don't wear headphones or earbuds — you won't hear other use warnings.
Some trails may cross streets - regular traffic laws apply.
BICYCLISTS RULES OF THE TRAIL
Downhill riders yield to uphill riders, unless otherwise posted. Be considerate of novices and family groups.
Bikers yield to pedestrians unless otherwise posted. Call out "Rider Up" when approaching pedestrians or ring a bell for warning.
Portions of the trail may contain sections that exceed your skill level or posted difficulty rating. Cyclists should dismount and walk if necessary.