The Best Dog-Friendly Outdoor Places and Activities Around Knoxville

Walking the fur babies along the Lakeshore Greenway.
Walking the fur babies along the Lakeshore Greenway. Kevin Humphrey Photography
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What fun is a family outing without your fluffy four-legged furball tagging along? After all, most pet owners see Lucky or Fido or Biscuit—or whatever the name of the beloved canine—as part of the family. Fortunately for dog lovers, there are plenty of places and adventures near Knoxville where the pooch is more than welcome, whether it’s off-leash trails and dog parks or grabbing a beer on a restaurant patio afterward (owners only, of course, for the drinking part).

Here are some of your best bets for getting out and active around Knoxville with your dog in tow.

1. Concord Park

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Just west of Knoxville proper, Concord Park is home to a top-notch dog park that’s worth the 30-minute drive from downtown. Fully fenced with water dishes for the pooch, the four-acre dog romping area also has a dock with river access (note: the water area is not fenced, so make sure Fido comes when you call). In addition, you can take advantage of nearly 10 miles of walking trails surrounding the dog park, many of which wind through the woods or follow the water’s edge along Fort Loudoun Lake. Leashes are required on trail.

2. East Lakeshore Trails (off leash)

One of the few trail systems near Knoxville that welcomes (well-behaved) dogs off-leash is just 35 miles south of town along the banks of the Tellico Reservoir. Thank the Tennessee Valley Authority for the often-overlooked oasis of East Lakeshore Trails. Ten trails crisscross the natural area complete with 28 bridges over river crossings, and boat landings are also available for seaworthy locals who’d rather make the trip via the water.

3. Petsafe Downtown Dog Park

A favorite downtown haunt for many inner city Knoxvillians, the Petsafe Downtown Dog Park is located at the crossroads of Old City and downtown proper. The prime location means it’s within easy walking distance to the city center, and there’s ample (metered) parking along South Central Street. With a few park benches for dog parents to sit back and relax, plus fenced play areas for large and small dogs, the grassy oasis can be quite popular on sunny weekends. In addition, there are three other great dog parks throughout the city; check Visit Knoxville for details.

4. Tubing with the River Rats

Let your waterdog take a splash in the Little River while floating along and soaking up the serene scenery on a warm summer day. Furballs are welcome in the water crafts, from tubes (both open- and closed-bottom tubes available) to kayaks, launching from Townsend just west of Pigeon Forge. Be sure your pooch stays on leash and is comfortable in and out of the water. And perhaps consider a doggie life jacket for those spirited pups who like to jump. Check the Smoky Mountain River Rat website for river conditions, times, and rates.

5. Ijams Nature Center

Don’t make the mistake of driving all the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park looking for a woodsy adventure with your dog: Pets are not allowed on the trails in national parks. Instead, stay in town and head to Ijams Nature Center, where furry four-legged friends are welcome year round. The natural area has more than 12 miles of trails that feed into the expansive network of the Urban Wilderness, and also a place to take a splash at Mead’s Quarry. Leashes are required throughout.

6. Doggywood at Dollywood

Planning a trip to Dollywood? Well, pets aren’t allowed inside the Pigeon Forge theme park (except for service animals), but you can put them up at "Doggywood." The themed dog kennel offers daily accommodations, but no overnight boarding. The digs are perfect if you’re staying in the area overnight and don’t want to leave the pooch cooped up in a hotel room all day. Prices start at $25 for a 4x6-foot dog run or $35 for a bit more spacious 5x6-foot “cottage.”

7. Post-Adventure Pints with Your Pup

If there’s any way to gauge Knoxville’s enthusiasm for the family friend, it may be the list of restaurants that welcome dogs on their patios. More than 60 restaurants around town are happy to host dogs in outdoor eating areas, from downtown staples like Bistro at the Bijou and Urban Bar, to trendy Hops & Hollers in the north, and out west at a variety of eateries including the Bearden Beer Market and Gourmet’s Market. Check out the full list to find a furry-friendly eatery in your neck of the woods. And be sure your dog’s table manners are in check: A canine companion is great for a post-adventure pint and bite, but only if he or she isn’t causing a commotion for other patrons.

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