Uniting the Urban and the Wild


Summer in the City and in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness feels like two different worlds though just minutes apart. Recently I walked several miles of trails in this great nature “destination,” which is nearby Downtown Knoxville’s lively Market Square and Gay Street. 

From the Tower Trail and Riverwalk at Ijams Nature Center, to Baker Creek Preserve, I felt immersed in the acres of protected forest that shelter outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you are coming to see Knoxville or you’ve been here a while, our trails and wooded spaces for bikers and hikers alike take us to amazing places in our hearts and minds. Just try wandering.

How big is the Urban Wilderness? Big. This heart-of-the-city 1,000-acre sanctuary for walkers, bikers, and paddlers is a pretty spectacular outdoor experience. More than 50 miles of trails and greenways connect you to a beautiful nature center, lakes, historic sites, dramatic quarries, playgrounds, five city parks, and wildlife areas. Whether you’re out for a stroll or a strenuous workout, there’s a park and a trail for you. And that’s one of the most special things about the Urban Wilderness. You can explore and find out more at visitknoxville.com/urban-wilderness

My walk began early in the morning at Ijams Nature Center where I headed uphill to the Tower Trail, down a steep stone stairway and then along the river on the boardwalk. I felt quietly nestled under the tree canopy, stepping lightly on the natural trail surface with my camera. (Head here to see first hand what the experience was like.)

Except for an occasional plane flying over from Island Home Airport and a distant train whistle, the woods are a cacophony of birds, cicadas, rabbits, and squirrels greeting the day. Midway, I followed a train of summer campers. Their voices would be the loudest sounds of my day.

The Riverwalk brings dots of light on the Tennessee River, darting fish and boaters quietly gliding across the water. In my distant view—an osprey and great blue heron. You can quite simply lose yourself in this world, my friends. 

My walk here took me up steep hills down to flatter terrain and back. As an avid bicyclist, I can attest that biking and walking are equally freeing, and this space would make for two very different – yet equally memorable – days doing either activity. 

Later, the woods took me to Baker Creek Preserve’s trails where cheery families walked, biked, and leaned back on playground swings. My gravel walk is part of this area’s 100 acres and was again as quiet as I wanted it amid the waning of summer wildflowers wonderfully lining some trails.

Cross over to the kid’s bicycle pump track, high on a hill, and your world changes from the sublime to the wild. 

As I walked, I learned of the incredible grace of these trails. I learned – again – what a gift they are and how being on any one of them can make me feel in the moment. It reminded me to simply be present. 

Whether you choose a brisk pace or a stroll, it’s exhilarating and calming. The bounty of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is an enduring gift to all who arrive here; it’s a grand front porch to our city.

So, let’s stretch and go. Let’s wander. Let’s take a walk.

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