Believe or not, Knoxville, Tennessee is an incredible outdoor town. Set in the ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains, this small city is booming with opportunities to hit the trails. I've watched the MTB scene grow since 2010 and I'm amazed about what this tight-knit community has accomplished in a short time. Here are my recommendations for a fun, action-packed and delicious weekend in and around Knoxville.
Start with a pre-breakfast coffee from Old City Java and then head to OliBea's for some sort of biscuit-based dish to pack on the energy. From there, pedal over to Tennessee Valley Bicycles to grab an extra tube and then head north on Central Ave via bike lane to Sharp's Ridge. On the way out you'll have a chance to preview a variety of snacks and post-ride venues upon your return. There's everything from 'steak in a sack' and Magpies (all butter all the time) to ice cream and an outdoor biergarten. Sharp's Ridge has a bit of variety itself with 5 miles of routes that range from tight traditional singletrack to downhill fun and flow.
Start the day slow with a mini-adventure to the cozy Sequoyah Hills neighborhood and the Plaid Apron where everything on the menu is good. Head back to South Knoxville, where can will find that the riding is one giant backyard adventure. It's just like when you were a kid and would play outside all day, only this time you're an adult exploring over 30 miles of singletrack through the woods, that can be done all together or just in parts. The Urban Wilderness is a combination of small parks and neighborhoods connected by quiet streets. Follow the giant white leaves stenciled on the ground. You can start from practically anywhere in the system. Ijams Nature Center or Anderson School are good places that have kiosks and parking. Afterwards, head downtown to Market Square for dinner. If you like burgers, Stock and Barrel is the place. For pizza lovers, try the Tomato Head. Balter Beerworks is also a great option and gives back directly to the local trails.
About an hour and a half north you'll find Big South Fork National River and Recreation area. Straddling the Tennessee/Kentucky state line, the area has some amazing backcountry experiences. Be sure to find your way down to the Charit Creek lodge for a rustic overnight in a cabin, complete with home-cooked meals.
Knoxville will soon open it's latest, and perhaps its most exciting project to date, the Baker Creek Preserve. The park will feature some exciting new gravity experiences, including the Devils Raceway, a big-hit jump trail built through a collaboration between The Legacy Parks Foundation, Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, IMBA and Bell Helmets.
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