Some people call Knoxville the “Boulder of the South.” And for good reason. Like its Colorado namesake, this scenic city at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains is bursting with recreation options -– much of it outdoors. There’s a four-season reason that active folk find life in Knoxville so satisfying. Within half a tank of gas from home, there’s an outdoor adventure waiting, summer, fall, winter or spring.
Recreation for all Seasons
Summer days are never too hot for hiking in the Great Smokey Mountains. Seven area lakes offer swimming, boating, water skiing and fishing opportunities. There are no closed seasons on TVA waterways, which offer 266 square miles of water surface. River rafting is also a popular area sport. And serious boaters find that the Tennessee River connects with a passage north to the Great Lakes or south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Fall calls out to Knoxville’s sportsmen. The Tennessee trapping and hunting guide coordinates autumn dates for hunting waterfowl, deer and wild boar in several managed wildlife areas. Bow hunting is favored sport for skilled outdoorsmen. Trout fishing is prime in mountain streams. Winter comes with the opportunity for snow skiing and ice sports.
In the mountains, limited bear hunting is permitted. In the spring trail riders saddle up and hit the Smoky Mountains horse trails, and the great mountain forests call to city dwellers to come walk among the wild flowers and fresh green ferns. Dedicated botanists know that there are more than 120 different species of trees in the Great Smoky Mountains, a variety unmatched in all the forests of Europe.
Recreation for the Daring
In that same hour’s drive from Knoxville, a number of even more challenging adventures beckon. There’s an abundance of opportunities for rock climbing, mountain climbing and cave exploration.
For those of hardy disposition and soundness of body, an ambitious trek up Mount LeConte leads to LeConte Lodge, one of the ancient mountain’s enduring memory-makers. Here the highest guest lodge in the Eastern United States hosts 40 to 50 hikers each night. The wilderness lodge’s rustic ambience dates back to the 1930s. The view is so fantastic that guests don’t seem to mind the absence of electricity.
No matter what the season of the weather, “cavers” happily pursue their sport of preference in East Tennessee. Since Tennessee has more caves than any other state (over 6,000), and considering that half of those caves are within close proximity to Knox County, it’s easy to understand why Knoxville’s East Tennessee Grotto of the National Speleological Society serves as a Southeastern hub for cavers. From the top of the world to “down under,” and with 800 square miles of forests, 600 miles of trout streams, 3,425 miles of lake shoreline, and over 3,000 caves, there’s hardly an adventure that can’t be had by "Knoxvillians" with a day to spend and a fun-loving spirit.
Good ole' Rocky Top
When someone mentions Knoxville, sports fans think of that recognizable orange “T.” The University of Tennessee and its formidable football and basketball teams are almost always national contenders. The men’s tennis and golf teams have also been strong and look to be competitive in National Collegiate Athletic Association play. UT is the only venue in town for major sporting events, and it has helped the Big Orange develop its loyal following.