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Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness

Posted by Molly Gilbert on February 20, 2017
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The City of Knoxville has one of the most unique features anywhere in the United States: lots of greenspace practically downtown. With 50 miles of trails located only a couple of miles from downtown Knoxville, mountain bikers and hikers are being drawn to our city as a destination for a premiere outdoor experience.

Urban Wilderness

The Knoxville Urban Wilderness is a recreational, cultural, and historic preservation initiative incorporating 1,000-forested acres along downtown’s south waterfront.

With 10 parks, four civil war sites, incredible views, and unparalleled natural features, this unique area provides an exceptional recreation and historic corridor to experience the special character-defining assets of our city.

Relocate South of the River

Of course, the Urban Wilderness trails are an asset to our residents as well. Many people are relocating “South of the River” to live closer to the parks and trails. In particular, Millennials are looking for a more balanced work and social life and they are finding affordable housing as well as plenty of great outlets for outdoor activities.

South Knoxville has 60% tree coverage (more than anywhere else in the city) and neighborhoods have latched onto the idea of this tourism asset because property values increase when near a park.

Trails Are Good for You

“Trails are good for you and the economy,” said Legacy Parks Executive Director Carol Evans. “A study by U.T.’s Baker Center valued the current economic impact of the Urban Wilderness Trails at $15 million annually. If the trails become a regional destination that value grows to $21 million, and grows to $52 million if it becomes known as a national destination.”

As a mountain biking destination unparalleled in the Southeast and with the promise of greater economic reward, locals and visitors are all eager to help support Legacy Parks, the nonprofit organization spearheading the Urban Wilderness. Visit their website at Outdoor Knoxville to see the event listings and the variety of outdoor experiences available in downtown Knoxville.

More About the Urban Wilderness

Outdoor Knoxville explains the Urban Wilderness in this way:

Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is made up of three areas: The South Loop Trails, Baker Creek Preserve, and the Battlefield Loop (in progress). 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.

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.