We’ve all felt the iconic “call of the wild,” even when it woos us from urban life for only a day or two. Fortunately, that’s all it takes when you live in Knoxville. With stunning state and national parks within 30 miles of the city, you may want to do a “Grizzly Adams” and never return to the concrete jungle. But you can have it both ways, delving into nature’s glory by day and fluffing up your crisp, clean city pillow by nightfall.
House Mountain State Park
Lace up your Teva’s for this one: a romp through nature’s glory at House Mountain State Park, a 500-acre natural area just 15 miles from the city limits. Ecosystems change in the blink of an eye, from chestnut oak and sugar maples forests to limestone cliffs, bubbling brooks, sandstone outcroppings and more than 100 bird species. Even if you’ve not yet discovered a love for birdwatching, you soon will at House Mountain. Traverse the hiking trails with binoculars ready for spotting everything from scarlet tanagers to wild turkeys, hawks, ruffed grouse, pileated woodpeckers and hundreds more.
Cherokee National Forest
You may want to spend more than a day at Cherokee National Forest, just because of its sheer magnificence (or its massive 630,000 acres). But you certainly can do it in a day, returning often to explore each of the 15 different recreation zones. The forest spans 10 counties in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Tennessee and separates into north and south sections by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The nearest entrance to the forest is at Gatlinburg, just 30 miles from Knoxville.
No matter which recreation zone you choose, hiking trails are a given, from the renowned Appalachian Trail to about 150 more trails that include everything from wildflower walks to 800 miles of untouched backcountry and an International Biosphere Reserve inhabited by families of black bears. The scenery in Cherokee National Park is like a Who’s Who of nature’s royal family: Mountains, waterfalls, valleys, pastures and vistas host wildlife, whitewater rivers and sparkling mountain lakes, including the Ocoee River, Watauga Lake and Tellico River.
Listing things to do in the forest and park can make your head spin, but here’s a start: bicycling, camping, fishing, horse riding, nature viewing, OHV riding, scenic driving, whitewater rafting, water sports and winter sports, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. You can also seek out more eclectic activities such as geocaching, letterboxing, gold panning and target shooting. If there are any hunters in your group of friends, they’ll be more than happy with the game animals in Cherokee National Forest, including white-tailed deer, black bear, ruffed grouse, wild turkey and wild boar.
With all the outdoor energy expended, you’ll be happy to relax in your Knoxville apartment home. If you haven’t already joined one of Pinnacle’s Knoxville apartment communities, call today for move-in specials and a free tour!