10 Best Parks and Outdoor Recreation Areas in the Knoxville Area

The city of Knoxville is becoming a nature-lovers paradise as it continues to launch more public projects to increase the number of acres dedicated to preserving the land. Visitors to Knoxville will find 81 parks within the city limits, and the surrounding area features world-famous outdoor attractions, like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or – slightly more under the radar-- the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.

The city of Knoxville's most iconic park is the World's Fair Park, home to an amphitheater, Sunsphere, and giant, playful water fountains. There's always something going on down at Ijams Nature Center, part of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness, a 1,000-acre park system with plenty of trails. Pet lovers can bring their dogs to Concord Park, one of many pet-friendly parks that are great for human's too! Visitors can take a stroll along the waterfront at Volunteer Landing, or for another scenic vista, head to Sharp's Ridge around sunset for some unbelievable photo opportunities. 

For a weekend break out of the city (without quite as many crowds), Big Ridge State Park and the Cherokee National Forest are two alternatives to the big-name national parks. Mountain biking, hiking, swimming, tennis, golf and wildlife viewing are just a few of the many activities available in and around Knoxville.

So, pack the picnic basket and head to one of these top 10 parks in the Knoxville area.

In West Knoxville, just along the riverfront, this sprawling, 87-acre park is situated in a quiet, residential neighborhood. The park has three different entrances, as well as three baseball/softball fields and numerous jogging trails. A...  Read More

This under-the-radar gem is located about a 30-minute drive from Knoxville. While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park hogs the spotlight, the Big Ridge State Park is a quieter alternative for campers. The 3,687-acre park is located in the...  Read More

Airport - Tys
World's Fair Park
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

Knoxville was the host of the 1982 World's Fair that drew 11 million people, making it the last successful World's Fair. Decades later, the area where the fair was held is still a top draw for visitors. Attractions include The Candy Factory, a...  Read More

Located 50 miles southeast of Knoxville, this vast 625,000-acre national forest offers great outdoor opportunities to people for miles around. It is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee and adjoins other national forests in Virginia,...  Read More

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

This historic park covers 21,000 acres, making it the largest National Historic Park in the country. Located 60 miles north of downtown, this is still a popular destination because of its numerous offerings, such as scenic picnic areas and...  Read More

Volunteer Landing Park
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

This 3-acre, paved waterfront park on the banks of the Tennessee River is a picturesque stroll past the Three River Rambler near Calhoun's restaurant (which serves amazing barbecue). Kids will love the small playground and splashing in several...  Read More

As one of Knoxville's newest dog-friendly parks, Concord features water fountains for pets, four acres for them to play, and even a dog shower. There's also a dock and idyllic boat marina, restrooms, picnic areas and plenty of space for a...  Read More

This 111-acre park boasts the highest elevation point in Knoxville and is located just 10 minutes outside of downtown. Views of the mountains and skyline make this a peaceful place to meditate, read a book, birdwatch, or just soak it all in. The...  Read More

This is the most visited national park in the country, and one glimpse at it lets you know why. The park includes more than 520,000 acres, 735 miles of streams, and 800 miles of some of the most scenic hiking and biking trails in the world. The...  Read More

Knoxville's Urban Wilderness
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

This 1,000-acre, trail-blazing project is helping to define Knoxville as a cultural center for outdoor enthusiasts. Located three miles from downtown, this dedicated area is perfect for hikers, bicyclists, dog-walkers, and those seeking a quiet...  Read More


Meet Amber Nolan

Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite...  More About Amber