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Knoxville's Urban Wilderness Featured

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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 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.

Just three miles from downtown, Knoxville's Urban Wilderness presents a unique urban playground for hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners! The first phase of the project, 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.

Read about the ecosystems found in the Urban Wilderness in this excellent article on exploring urban ecology written by the Appalachian Son.

The vision for Knoxville's Urban Wilderness includes the addition of the Battlefield Loop in the western section which will provide an historic and recreational experience featuring three Civil War forts and a city park: the River Bluff; Fort Stanley; Fort Higley; Loghaven; and Fort Dickerson Park. We encourage you to help us make this vision a reality by becoming a Friend of Legacy Parks.

The recent acquisition of 100 acres, generously donated by the Wood Family to Legacy Parks Foundation, will provide a key connection between the existing parks and trails within the Urban Wilderness’ South Loop Trail System and South Doyle Middle School and its Outdoor Classroom. It will also connect additional neighborhoods into the system. The plans for the property call for a variety of trails and features, including a one-mile introductory mountain bike trail for riders of all ages, a skills/play area, 3.5 miles of mixed-use trails featuring two overlooks and three creek-crossing structures.

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Bikes, Kayaks, and SUP Rentals: Ijams Nature Center is partnered with River Sports Outfitters to offer seasonal bike rentals for use on the trails and greenway, and kayaks and standup paddleboards for the quarry.

View South Loop Map online

Download a printable pdf

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!


parkwest-patchThe Parkwest Urban Wilderness Patch is now available for all hikers/runners that have traversed all 42 miles of trail in Knoxville's Urban Wilderness' South Loop. The trail system features a variety of terrain from rocky outcrops to rolling fields and farmland with trails that range from easy to more difficult. Participants can start at any of the 4 trailheads — Ijams Nature Center, William Hastie Natural Area, Anderson School, or Forks of the River A pocket-sized trail map is available at local shops and at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center or use the links above to download and print maps. Keep track of your miles trekked on the Trail Checklist Form. Once you’ve completed all the trails, submit the form along with a check or credit card payment of $10 to Legacy Parks Foundation to receive the Parkwest Urban Wilderness Patch and a certificate. Your name will then be added to the Parkwest Urban Wilderness Club. Proceeds benefit Legacy Parks Foundation.


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). Neither water nor other public amenities are available on the South Loop Trails.

To follow the 12.5-mile South Loop Trail look for the purple signs, tree blazes, or stencils on the road.

View Map online
Download a printable pdf
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.

View Map online
Download a printable pdf
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 Ross Marble Quarry 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.

View Map online
Download a printable pdf
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.

The following video by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel, features a 4-mile hike starting at Anderson School for their Hike of the Month.

View Map online
Download a printable pdf
The trail system within the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area combine trails created over time by wildlife and hunters with those constructed more recently by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club. The paved Will Skelton Greenway is also found within the WMA along the river boundary and connects the WMA to both Ijams Nature Center and the natural surface trails. There are multiple trails to experience within the WMA, all of varying degrees of difficulty, views, and topography. The South Loop main route begins on the paved Will Skelton Greenway, continues along the river’s edge and meanders through forests and fields. The internal trails pass through open fields, hardwood forests, and hedgerows — all home to an abundance of wildlife and songbird activity. The paved Will Skelton Greenway, follows the river back to Mead's Quarry and then continues its course through Ijams Nature Center to Island Home Park.

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. Walking, running, and biking on the paved Will Skelton Greenway is permissible year-round. Be aware that hunting is allowed in the fields next to the greenway during legal hunting seasons. Walking, running, and biking is permitted on the unpaved trails with certain restrictions during hunting season. A complete list of regulations and more information about TWRA are available at http://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife.html.

Hunting Dates for 2015: The interior trails are closed to all non-hunters during the following times:
Sept. 6, 2014 through Feb. 28, 2015: all day on Tuesday and Thursday and before noon on Saturday and Sunday
April 4, 2015 through May 17, 2015: before noon every day
Note that the Will Skelton Greenway and perimeter trails (Augie’s Run, Bluff and southeast Dozer) remain open at all times.

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.

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.



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