More commonly known as the place to go to catch a Vols game at the University of Tennessee, or the hometown of comedian and entertainer Johnny Knoxville, the state’s third largest city is actually a spectacular place to hit the mountain biking trails. Knoxville has a variety of singletrack and doubletrack trails, many of which are constructed on or next to old roadbeds, and vary from short, smooth, and easy riding to the exact opposite—which makes the city a great mountain biking destination regardless of skill level. Home to the 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness, the sheer number of trails can be a little overwhelming, but we're here to make the decision a little easier for you with this list of some of the best of the best.
1. Haw Ridge
Along the banks of the Clinch River you’ll find nearly 30 miles of trails that make up Haw Ridge, just 12.5 miles outside of downtown Knoxville. One of the best things about this system of trails is that they’re bikeable in any season, each offering distinctly different scenery thanks to the city’s humid subtropical climate. Haw Ridge is open year-round, except for a couple weekends in the fall when it closes for hunting.
The park is ideal for beginners looking to hone in their wayfinding skills. It’s pretty impossible to get lost since everything leads back to the Power Cut Trail or the Middle Trail one way or another, both of which are main trails that offer an exit. If you want to keep things a little less extreme, the perimeter is for you, but for a challenge, the inner-park options boast black diamond classifications.
2. Baker Creek Preserve
Consisting of five multi-use trails that allow traffic in both directions and three downhill tracks that are designed to accommodate more advanced bikers, Baker Creek Preserve is just a stone’s throw outside of Knoxville proper and has just over seven miles of delicious trails to devour. The three downhill trails are just for bikers, but the rest are multi-use, so you can expect to encounter hikers or runners during your adventures. Connecting to the city’s Urban Wilderness system via pedestrian bridge, Baker Creek is home to one of the most sought after mountain biking trails in the country—Knoxville beat out Asheville, Oregon and San Francisco, California to receive a $100,000 grant to build the preserve’s .8-mile Devil’s Racetrack Downhill Trail.
3. Ijams Nature Center
If you’re less than expert but looking to improve your skills, Ijams Nature Center is the perfect spot for you. The center has nine miles of beginner to intermediate trails that are challenging but not all that difficult for learners, particularly suited for those who might not have their own bike yet. You can rent bikes at the visitor center at Ijams if you’re looking for a road bike, and mountain bikes are rentable at River Sports Outpost at the Ijams Quarry, both at reasonable prices. Once you’re ready to warm-up, hit the Flow trail, a quick, one-mile singletrack within the larger system. It’s also a great cool down after a day of riding—just don’t try it after a good rain because it’ll be a little too slick.
4. Forks of the River
Also part of Knoxville’s larger Urban Wilderness Urban Loop, Forks of the River trails are located within a wildlife management area just under 5.5 miles from the city. With easy to moderate offerings, the 8.4 miles of trails can be completed in just a couple of hours. While the trails here aren’t the most extreme you’ll ever try, the scenery that surrounds them is hard to beat. On these paths, you’ll zoom through hardwood forests as well as wide open meadows with views as far as the eye can see, brimming with wildflowers in the summertime. Like many other spots around the Knoxville area, there are closures during hunting seasons, so make sure to double check before you go.
5. Concord Park
Concord Park is a moderate trail system offering just under 10 miles of choices through what feels like uncharted wilderness, which means that there’s good chance you’ll encounter wildlife along your journey. Also popular with hikers and trail runners, expect to run into other people on the trail along with a pup or two as well, since leashed dogs are allowed. Rain makes everything on the trail a bit slippery, so use extra caution if the trail is wet and be prepared for scratched ankles in the summer, since the trail can become a bit overgrown.
6. IC King Park
A local favorite, these trails butt up against an inlet of the Tennessee River, making for some pretty striking backdrops. The eight miles of multi-use trails that you’ll find in IC King Park are shared by bikers, runners, and hikers alike, yet there tends to be plenty of room for everyone. Most of the trails are pretty mellow, but climb the ridge if you want a challenge on the way up and a steep trip back down. Don’t ride here when the trails are wet—it can really tear them up.