Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness

Urban Wilderness sign on tree with sunrise

The duo that dreamed up Yonder Backyard Adventures is geographically split–Tim lives in the West Knox area, and I (Meg) live in South Knox. The two areas are culturally a bit different, it’s true. West Knox tends to be more about shopping, and lake life, and there are definitely some cool greenways and parks in that region.

green grass with bright sun and blue sky

South Knox has the Urban Wilderness. It’s kind of an oxymoron, I admit, but it makes sense when you get here. The Urban Wilderness is 50 miles (and growing) of interconnected trails, lakes and quarries, natural areas, adventure playgrounds, and more. And it’s all right here in the city. For reference, it takes about 9 minutes to drive from the Baker’s Creek Preserve parking lot (ahem: which is approximately three hops, two skips and a jump over to one of our favorite Cali-Mexi chow spots, SoKno Taco!) to Market Square. It’s like having our own adventure park in our backyard.

If you’ve watched our videos, you’ve already seen part of the Urban Wilderness.

We visited Ross Quarry in this episode of Yonder Mountain Adventures, where you can climb around inside an abandoned quarry that now looks more like the set of an Indiana Jones movie. To get to Ross Quarry, we went past Mead’s Quarry, which is where the real fun is once summer comes around. At Mead’s Quarry, you can swim in the cordoned area, or rent stand up paddle boards (SUPs, if you want to be a cool kid about it.) There are other watercraft available, too. We’re dreaming of checking it out this summer! And, while we’re on the water, we’re going to keep our eye out: hopefully we’ll catch a glimpse of Mead’s Quarry’s freshwater jellyfish. I know, right? Knoxville really is full of surprises.

The Urban Wilderness trail system is a favorite of Knoxville’s mountain bikers and hikers. And runners, and birders, fishermen/women … basically, if you love an outdoor activity, you can find somewhere to love it in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

kids in bike helmets resting on log at Baker's Creek Preserve

I have two little kids (yup, that’s them in the picture), so the Adventure Playgrounds are some of my favorite things. Baker’s Creek Preserve and Jo’s Grove at Ijams are like second homes to us in the summer; they have play areas that look more like oversized bird nests and beaver fodder than traditional playgrounds. The kids balance on logs, run through hanging bamboo forests, ride their bikes on the bump track, and let their imaginations fly in woven branch structures. I admit, I join them on the playground from time to time. It’s very cool. Oh, and Baker’s Creek is a local favorite among mountain bikers; there are some seriously advanced trails on this 100-acre area.

We’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t at least mention the ziplining you can do at Ijams. There’s so much going on in the Urban Wilderness, you can definitely expect more videos and blogs about it … which means we get to go out and have adventures! Yonder. In our backyard, pretty much. (Get it?)

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