Start Your Pedals (Knoxville, TN)

By TravelLightLaura | Aug 11, 2021
North America > United States > Tennessee > Knoxville

Ladies and gentlemen….start your pedals!
With a signature downhill mountain bike trail named the Devil's Racetrack, bikers, race fans, and lovers of speed and adrenaline take note. The Racetrack is just one of many sculpted dirt highways in Knoxville's Urban Wilderness network, where 50+ miles of trail are waiting. This unique outdoor adventure area features a canopied forest where you can bike, hike, paddle, climb, or just get lost in the woods, all within the city limits! Most of us are used to mountain bike trail ratings that feature color-coded symbols: green (easy), blue (more difficult), and black (expert/advanced). In Knoxville, there is only one rating.
Really Frickin' Fun.

Knoxville is fueled by fun and community spirit. It's my new favorite big, lil' city in the charming Smoky Mountains. Though, Knoxville takes a backseat to Memphis and Nashville in size. Still, this city of 200,000 is just right, not overwhelming to get around, yet chocked full of entertainment like live bluegrass, museums, theater, a thriving university, and world-class outdoor recreation. Plus, there are over 20 craft breweries and a bevy of distilleries, both brewing up adult beverages, aka recovery drinks. The craft food, beer, and spirit scene are refreshing, tasty, and, yup, RFG.
Really Frickin' Good.

The Devil's Racetrack in Knoxville's Urban Wilderness

The Devil's Racetrack in Knoxville's Urban Wilderness

Stay and Play (Urban Wilderness)

We picked the heat of summer for our visit. Still, even in 90-degree temps, the thick Appalachia foliage and tree canopy provided natural A/C and shade during forays around Baker Creek Preserve, Marie Myers Park, and Mead's Quarry. It's a bike-in, bike-out affair from downtown. It's so nice not to drive to go biking, so thank you, Knoxville. Each day, the Oliver Hotel staff gave us a wave as we donned helmets in their lobby and rolled toward Gay Street and over the Tennessee River to the trail system.

There's a lot of territory to cover, so we smartly had Alex from KNOT (Knoxville Outdoor Adventure Tours) lead us on a tour of the Urban Wilderness's greatest hits. We warmed up on the pump track at Baker Creek then followed Alex's Yee-haw into the woods. Going up, we chatted about Knoxville's history and growing mountain bike credentials. Then, rippin' down Cruze Valley or Barn Burner, it's hard not to hoot and holler. Next, we were formally introduced to the Devil on our tour and learned how the AMBC (Appalachian Mountain Bike Club) won a contest and a $100K to build the trail. “You gotta earn your rewards here,” Alex explained as we churned up a six-pack of switchbacks to the top. For an expert track, it's wider and more approachable than most, with an optional rock garden section and a blind bridge launch that will take your breath away. I skipped the great wall feature (It's over 10 feet tall), but I can say I slow-danced with the Devil and survived.

Knoxville has my vote for the best new mountain bike destination you may not have heard of. The city, its municipalities, and a band of dedicated volunteers believe in promoting and maintaining outdoor spaces for the local community and tourism industry alike. The Urban Wilderness concept has caught fire and continues to roll Knoxville forward. Don't take my word for it; several top mountain bike professionals call Knoxville home. Check out Dakotah Norton and Frida Helena Ronning next time you search around on the Google or Insta. These two can rip!

Dancin' with the Devil in Knoxville, Tennessee

Dancin' with the Devil in Knoxville, Tennessee

KnoxRocks, Bike & Beverage

Back at The Oliver, our suite overlooking Market Square was home base and put us in the epicenter of Knoxville's entertainment district. For post-ride sustenance in south Knoxville, we rolled up and racked our bikes at Alliance Brewing and neighbor Simpl Restaurant. I washed down spicy Brussels with a refreshing Czech Pilsner. SoKno (South Knoxville) is also home to SoKno Taco, also convenient for post-ride refueling. Their cheeky motto: Ride beer. Eat bikes. Drink Tacos.

On two feet, we strolled to Shulz Bräu Brewing for German fare and beers in an outstanding Bier Garten, strikingly reminiscent to a version in the mother country. Our pub crawl continued at nearby Crafty Bastard and Knox Brew Hub, and we also dedicated an evening to Knoxville's Old City. Post Modern Spirits anchors a terrific locally-owned hub of tasty food and beverage establishments. Try a whiskey flight and their signature Amaro liqueurs, including the Arancia and Artemisia! The Gin-Rita was our favorite cocktail which led us into dinnertime. The Kaizen Café, next to Pretentious Beer, served up Asian fusion delights like spicy noodles and bang bang shrimp. We devoured dinner, and only poor attempts at using chopsticks slowed the consumption down.

Try a Gin-rita at Post Modern Spirits in Knoxville's Old City.

Try a Gin-rita at Post Modern Spirits in Knoxville's Old City.

Navitat Canopy Adventure

The Urban Wilderness is more than a biker's paradise. Outdoor enthusiasts and forest-bathing junkies will find a home here. The thick green canopy is captivating and best taken in atop the expanse of tall-trunked specimens. Navitat serves up six tree-based trails with zipline and high-ropes elements to test your nerves and failing middle-aged core and arm strength. Don't worry; it's safety first, you are connected via a harness and ingenious clip system so you can move from one obstacle to the next. Great for families and or, in this case, adults on a mission to stay wild and young.

Navitat canopy adventure trails

Navitat canopy adventure trails

Knoxville stacks up the adventure opportunities, on the trails, in the trees, and in the city neighborhoods. If you like to be outside, explore new paths, go fast and get high, then the Urban Wilderness is ready to be your RFA playground.

It's Really Frickin' Awesome

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Written by Travel Light Laura
As an ambassador for life-work-play balance, my mission is to help YOU plan the trip you’ve back-burnered too long. Find ideas for your next active trip in my books and blog. Bike, hike, paddle, ski, golf, and play! Home base is the Mitten, aka Michigan. I am anxiously plotting the next trip because the best way to ward off (PVD) post vacation depression is to start planning the next one.

Thoughts? Questions?

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