One of the best ways to maintain zeal for your outdoor sport of choice is to connect with a community that shares your passion. It's also important to understand the threats to your outdoor playground and how to protect it for future generations. Many people work tirelessly behind the scenes to make East Tennessee a beautiful and exciting place to play, and they have a great time doing it. Below are Knoxville's best outdoor groups for all your favorite outdoor pursuits.
1. Student Multisport : University of Tennessee Outdoor Program
If you’re a student at the University of Tennessee, this is likely the beginning and end of your search for outdoor activities and community. UTOP is a well-rounded, multi-sport program headed up by Benjy Darnell. Under it’s umbrella are a wide variety of clubs, events, classes, clinics, weekend trips, and gear rental options available to students and faculty. Whether you’re looking for a way to dig into a specific sport on an undergrad’s budget or just want a sampling of several outdoor activities, you’ve found your home at UTOP.
2. Whitewater : Chota Canoe Club
Despite its name, Chota incorporates a host of self-propelled boating options for flat water and whitewater kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and touring canoes. Formally established in 1972 in response to the building of a controversial dam, Chota has maintained advocacy and education at its core ever since. They coordinate safety and beginner classes for new kayakers and lead boating trips throughout the year. With a strong legacy, diverse boating community, and a commitment to local aquatic advocacy, Chota is your best option for a well rounded boating experience.
If you’re more just looking for a local meetup, Knoxville on the Water meets regularly for nearby paddles as well as other outdoor activities around Knoxville
3. Mountain Biking : Appalachian Mountain Biking Club
Talk about building something from the ground up. A huge portion of the single track biking trails in Knoxville wouldn’t exist without the ongoing efforts of the Appalachian Mountain Biking Club . And they daily live up to their mission of promoting sustainable trail access by coordinating work days and fundraising events to benefit mountain bikers and everyone that uses the dense network of Knoxville trails. But AMBC’ers play just as hard as they work. Members tour the trails in the Urban Wilderness every Tuesday evening and bike Concord Park on Wednesday evenings, the latter typically concluding in a night of hanging/grilling out in Concord Park.
4. Hiking : Smoky Mountain Hiking Club
Few outdoor organizations can rival the legacy of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club . This year, SMHC celebrates 91 years dedicated to activism, fellowship, education, and, of course, hiking. They are a citadel of protection for our local trails and natural spaces, with a rich history of actively opposing what they call “short-sighted development in the Smokies and adjacent areas.” The collective wisdom and passion of its members has protected the park's natural beauty from threat for almost a century.
On the other side of legacy, of course, is innovation. And if you're looking to coordinate hikes on your own, or you're looking for like-minded amblers, Meetup.com has really revolutionized the way people collectively experience the outdoors. The Knox Outdoors Meetup posts over 1500 “adventurers” and has hosted almost 500 meetups, and there are smaller groups tailored to moms, faith groups, and more.
5. Fishing : Trout Unlimited
There are several chapters of Trout Unlimited near Knoxville, but the Little River chapter seems to be most active. They meet consistently and host the annual TroutFest banquet, which contributes all the funds raised to developing and protecting fisheries in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Check out the Little River Outfitters Forum for a more extensive list of clubs.
And if local bass fishing is more your angle, don't sweat it. This helpful guide to Knoxville bass fishing clubs can help you find the one that’s right for you.
6. Running : Knoxville Track Club
Whether you run on the road or on the trail, prefer endurance races or fun runs, the Knoxville Track Club will keep you going with an energetic community and puntastic race names like “I See a Trail that Can’t Be Concord” (So bad, it’s good, right?). They host a variety of races throughout the year, and provide runners with the resources necessary to stay active and healthy.
Another group that hosts a variety of races and events is Peak Mountain Sports, an environmentally responsible, trail-focused company committed to fostering the local trail running scene in Knoxville. Be sure to check out their Trash Race happening at Haw Ridge on April 2, 2015.
7. Climbing : East Tennessee Climbers Coalition
When it comes to rock climbing, the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition is the only game in town. ETCC hosts the Annual Adopt-a-Crag event at the Obed as well as ongoing re-bolting and trail day cleaning projects. They also partner with the Southeastern Climbers Coalition and the Access Fund to protect and preserve the best climbing destinations in the southeast.
For even more outdoor groups, check out Outdoor Knoxville.