Being in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains certainly gives Knoxville a leg-up when it comes to opportunities for outdoor recreation. Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, Knoxville has become a destination for paddling—both flat water and whitewater. Its downtown Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center at Volunteer Landing shows you just how seriously the town takes outdoor recreation.
The facility is a place for athletes to rent boats (and stand up paddleboards) and bikes, plus offers maps and information on all kinds of outdoor adventures. Trail runners and mountain bikers have an abundance of trails to choose from both in town and in the nearby National Park. The city is the host to a major marathon (The Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon) and triathlon (Challenge Knoxville) that bring in endurance athletes from across the country.
Trails: Knoxville has plenty of great choices for hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers and trail runners. Abrams Falls, located in Great Smoky National Park, features a trail that takes you along Abrams Creek from the crossing on the Cades Cove Loop Road and follows the beautiful rushing water for 2.5 miles to the thundering falls. The Cucumber Gap Loop is a great option for someone wanting to see a little bit of everything the Smokies have to offer. With only a 6 mile loop, hikers can have riverside scenery and mountainside forests all in one afternoon. Hastie Park offers hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers about 5 miles of great single track trail through lush forests full of creek crossings and wildflower meadows. Hastie is connected to the Urban Wilderness Corridor, so if you want more mileage, there are lots of great extensions.
Water:Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge is one of the most beautiful paddles in the Knoxville area, and it's only 20 minutes from downtown, taking advantage of a very calm, pristine section of the French Broad River. Panther Creek State Park on the Cherokee Reservoir is a great spot to paddle out to one of the many islands that dot the water.
Rock: Located along the Cumberland Trail, Black Mountain is a wonderful place to get started as a climber. At 2,900 feet, it's also one of the highest points on the Cumberland plateau, offering fantastic views. The Red River Gorge is one of the best outdoor destinations in the country for sport climbing.