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A Mountain Biker’s Guide to Knoxville, Tennessee

Photo over front of mountain bike handlebars of leaf-strewn trail in Tennessee with lake through the trees

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With mountain biking blowing up all over the country over the past few years, there are places that have really embraced the sport but aren’t widely known within the mountain biking community. I feel like Knoxville, Tennessee is one of those places.

I visited Knoxville for a 10-day housesit and I was honestly kind of blown away by the trails and mountain bike scene. It’s way cool!

There are dozens – if not hundreds – of miles of purpose-built trails for all levels and styles of riders from intro jump lines to rough and rowdy natural trails (especially if you head up to Windrock Bike Park). And the community seems to be fully onboard.

Knoxville is also really beautiful. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knoxville has definitely left a great impression on me.

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Read on to learn more about the mountain biking around Knoxville and trips for planning your trip!

Important things to know

Don’t ride muddy trails

Riding wet, muddy trails is very destructive. It leaves ruts that are hard to fix and is a waste of trail crew time and resources. Please don’t ride Knoxville Trails if they are wet. There are lots of signs to remind you of this 🙂

Consider making a donation

There are signs throughout the trail networks asking for riders to make a donation to the AMBC (Appalachian Mountain Bike Club) to help them continue building and maintaining the trails. If you like what you’re riding, consider tossing them a few dollars.

To make a donation you can visit the AMBC website or text AMBC to 44321

Trailside water fountain and bottle filler in Knoxville Urban Wilderness in Tennessee
Your donations will go toward things like trail-side water fountains!

E-bikes are allowed (I think?)

I actually couldn’t find anywhere that said whether e-bikes are allowed or not on Knoxville trails, so I’m assuming they are? I did see several electric bikes on my rides, so there you go.

Best Time to visit

I visited Knoxville in November and the temps and weather were actually really nice in the mid/high 50s and low 60s. You can ride here year-round here, but just be aware that winter does bring rain and occasional snow (remember, you can’t ride muddy trails).

Summer temperatures can be hot and humid, but still a great time to visit. I actually really want to come back to experience the trails when everything is lush and green!

Trail through ivy covered trees in Knoxville Tennessee
This was November and there was still green (although I’m sure those vines are not good for the trees…)

Mountain biking guide to Knoxville, Tennessee

The mountain biking in Knoxville is mainly centered around the Knoxville Urban Wilderness area, which has dozens of miles of trail spread out over several networks that can all be linked together either by singletrack or short stretches of (quiet) paved road.

Outside of Knoxville, there are several other networks to ride within an hour’s drive, making it a great destination with over a week’s worth of riding. I was there for 10 days and didn’t even get to a few places I wanted to ride.

Below are the networks in order of their distance from the city:

  1. Baker Preserve & Knoxville Urban Wilderness
  2. Sharps Ridge
  3. I.C. King Park
  4. Concord Park
  5. Haw Ridge
  6. Windrock Bike Park
  7. Loyston Point & Norris Watershed

Note: I did not have time to ride I.C. King Park, Concord Park, Windrock Bike Park, or Loyston Point and Norris Watershed, so I didn’t include them in this guide. I’ll update this post as I explore more of Knoxville!

Knoxville Urban Wilderness

What a fun place to ride! I knew Knoxville had some great mountain biking, but I was kinda blown away by Baker Preserve and Knoxville Urban Wilderness located just outside of town.

There are actually five(ish) mini-trail networks that make up the Knoxville Urban Wilderness area. Each could be ridden on its own or linked together depending on how big of a ride you want and/or what kind of trails you’re seeking.

As for which trails to ride, they’re all fun. I actually didn’t ride one trail I didn’t like. They’re all built really well and made for mountain bikers so you really can’t go wrong at Knoxville Urban Wilderness.

The networks include:

  • Baker Preserve – definitely the ‘new school’ network with plenty of buffed, smooth flow trails and jump lines. There’s also a large paved pump track and skills area at the base.
    • Don’t miss:
      • Floyd Fox (intro jump line)
      • Barn Burner (intermediate jump line)
      • Devil’s Racetrack (advanced jump line)
  • Marie Meyers Park – home to a good mix of trails for all skill levels. Similar to Baker Preserve but takes it up a notch.
    • Don’t miss:
      • Party In The Woods (intermediate natural trail)
      • Giddy Up (advanced natural trail with a ton of rock work)
      • Soups On (intermediate jump line)
      • Murphy’s Law (advanced jump line)
  • William Hastie Natural Area – has most of the more challenging downhill trails with mostly natural terrain and few manmade features.
    • Don’t miss:
      • Shadow Run (beautiful xc trail)
      • Third Circut (advanced natural trail – I really liked this one)
      • Sugar and Rum (advanced natural trail)
  • Ijam’s Nature Center & Meads Quarry – Located next to a quarry with a network of beautiful cross-country trails.
    • Don’t miss:
      • Ross Marble & Burnett Bridge (beautiful xc trails with lots of flow)
      • Flow (beginner-friendly xc trail)
  • AC/DC network – this is the network farthest from town with AC/DC being the main trail. It’s moderately fun, but wasn’t my favorite (although it’s beautiful!)
    • Don’t miss:
      • AC/DC (beautiful xc trail with a cool bridge section)

I loved them all, so if you have a few days to explore, definitely plan on checking out each of these mini-networks.

Map showing five different mountain bike networks circled in red in Knoxville, Tennessee
Each network can be ridden on its own or linked up for a bigger ride
Paved bike park pump track and skills area at Baker Creek in Knoxville, Tennessee
The paved pump track and skills area at Baker Creek

Knoxville Urban Wilderness route recommendations

>> #1 Knoxville Sampler

Whether you only have a day or two to explore or you want to get a feel for all of the trail networks in the Knoxville Urban Wilderness, this route covers them all. It starts in Baker Creek Preserve and then makes its way all the way out to AC/DC.

The riding is mostly cross-country and it never really feels like you’re climbing too much. I really enjoyed this ride because it gave me a better idea of which trails and networks I wanted to revisit.

  • Route difficulty: Intermediate
  • Trail network: Knoxville Urban Wilderness
  • Route type: Out and back with loops
  • E-bikes? Yes
  • Mileage: 13 miles
  • Elevation gain/loss: 1,484 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Baker Creek Parking > Red Bud Crest > Victor Ashe > Toll Road Connector > Marj McClean > Shadow Run > Margaret Road > Sidney Belle > Redwood Road > Centeroak Drive > Lost Chromosome > AC/DC > Lost Chromosome > Centeroad Drive > Redwood Road > Sidney Belle > Hardwood Up > Third Circuit > Sprinarn > Mitchie’s Way > Marj McClean > Toll Road > Red Bud Crest > Barn Burner

Make it shorter: Skip the AC/DC loop. It’s a long pedal out there and honestly, it wasn’t my favorite (although it is beautiful).

Make it harder: There are so many ways to customize this ride and make it harder. If you skip the AC/DC loop, you’ll have more time (and energy) to hit some of the more challenging trails like Murphy’s Law (jump line) and Sugar and Rum (natural/jump line).

Wooden footbridge through forest in Knoxville Urban Wilderness in Tennessee
Cool boardwalk section on Shadow Run

Knoxville Urban Wilderness route recommendations

>> #2 Marie Myers from Baker

This route covers Baker Preserve, William Hastie, and Marie Myers for an intermediate ride with plenty of options to make it harder and longer.

I recommend taking Soups On instead of Rendezvous for the first descent.

  • Route difficulty: Intermediate
  • Trail network: Knoxville Urban Wilderness
  • Route type: Loop
  • E-bikes? Yes
  • Mileage: 10 miles
  • Elevation gain/loss: 1,193 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Baker Creek Parking > Red Bud Crest > Rendezvous (or Soups On – recommended) > Campground Connector > Toll Road > Marj McClean > View Park > Mitchie’s Way > Margaret Road > Sinkhole > Margaret Road > Remedy Hill > Sugar and Rum > Sprinarn > Mitchie’s Way > Marj McClean > Toll Road > Red Bud Crest > Cruze Valley > Sycamore Loop

Make it longer: Add a run down Party in the Woods in Marie Myers Park

Make it harder: This loop is perfect for intermediate riders, but if you want to take things up a notch, there are plenty of ways to do that. I would skip Sinkhole and do a descent down Third Circuit instead. I’d also add a run down Murphy’s Law and do Barn Burner and Devil’s Racetrack at the end.

Metal bridge over mountain biking trail at Baker Preserve in Knoxville Tennessee
Metal bridge on Party in the Woods in Marie Myers Park

Sharps Ridge

Sharps Ridge is located north of town and it’s a fun place to visit if you’ve already spent a few days at Knoxville Urban Wilderness. The trails here are built on a long, narrow ridge so there is a lot of sidehill pedaling. But despite the steep ridge slopes, the trails are well-built and ride really well.

Sharps Ridge is a veterans memorial park and there’s one trail – Independence – that is specifically built for adaptive riders, which is awesome to see.

Best trails to ride at Sharps Ridge:

  • Beginner: Lincoln, Independence
  • Intermediate: Sharp Shin
  • Advanced: Knight Fall, Pitch Black
Trailhead with trail sign saying Sharps Ride Veterans Memorial Park with map
Entrance to Independence trail at Sharps Ridge

Sharps Ridge route recommendations

>> Tour de Sharps Ridge

This is a fun tour of Sharps Ridge with a little bit of everything including mellow pedaling, some steep (short) climbs, flowy downhills, and a jump line on Knights Fall.

There were a lot of hikers when I visited Sharps Ridge, so please be kind and courteous and stay in control.

  • Route difficulty: Intermediate
  • Trail network: Sharps Ridge
  • Route type: Loop
  • E-bikes? Yes
  • Mileage: 6.7 miles
  • Elevation gain/loss: 1,197 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Dill Street Trailhead Parking > Lincoln > Sharp Shin > Sharps Ridge Memorial Park Drive > Independence > Lincoln > Push Line (may be a hike-a-bike for some) > Fire Break > Knight Fall

Make it longer & harder: Add a lap on Pitch Black after Knight Fall

Haw Ridge

Haw Ridge is located about 30 minutes outside of Knoxville. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of trail conditions and actual fun-ness factor, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed my ride here.

The riding is definitely cross-country, but there is enough interesting terrain and pretty views to keep it from being monotonous, unlike a lot of other cross-country routes. There are flowy stretches, narrow sidehill, steep (short) descents, and a few hike-a-bikes.

I only explored the outer loop, but there are a ton of trails in the ‘interior’ as well. However, I don’t think these trails are ridden as much as the outer loop, so if you do check them out, be prepared for some extra adventure.

Best trails to ride at Haw Ridge

  • It seems like the outer loop (see route recommendation below) is really the most popular way to ride Haw Ridge. I do recommend adding a lap down Washing Machine at the end, though. It’s really fun!
Bike propped up next to tree on wooden bridge at Haw Ridge trail network in Tennessee with lake through the trees
The 7-mile loop around Haw Ridge is really beautiful!

Haw Ridge route recommendation

>> Kim’s Fave

This route follows the outermost trails in the network for a 7+ mile loop. I really enjoyed it – there’s some flow, beautiful woods, great views of the water, and a few punchy hills, narrow sidehills, and hike-a-bikes to keep things interesting.

  • Route difficulty: Intermediate
  • Trail network: Haw Ridge
  • Route type: Loop
  • E-bikes? Unknown
  • Mileage: 7.3 miles
  • Elevation gain/loss: 521 ft
  • Map/GPS: TrailForks

Route directions: Haw Ridge Parking > Lake Road > Twister > Red Shore > South Shore > Pond > East Shore > East Edge > Mikes Trail > Soccer Trail

Route notes: Most of the trails are marked with yellow signs and there are intermittent trail map kiosks, however, I highly recommend having TrailForks downloaded to your phone.

Do more: I added Washing Machine at the end. This is a steep, fast, downhill trail that was pretty fun. There’s nothing overly technical about it aside from a few steep pitches. To access Washing Machine, climb up Low Gap North Flow to Ridge Trail.

Windrock Bike Park

I haven’t (yet) ridden at Windrock Bike Park, but it’s high on my list. It’s supposed to be awesome, but also quite gnarly. When I visited Knoxville, I was by myself and I don’t like riding super challenging terrain solo for obvious reasons.

Windrock does have full or half-day guided tours, which I might sign up for if I visit by myself again.

Windrock Bike Park is open 7 days a week year-round (depending on weather and conditions). They have a shuttle bus, a campground, bike rentals, and a restaurant. Bring your full face!

Learn more about Windrock Bike Park here.

Other mtb trail networks in Knoxville

There are several other mountain biking networks around Knoxville that I did not have time to explore. They are:

  • I.C. King Park
  • Concord Park
  • Loyston Point and Norris Watershed.

I don’t know much about these networks other than that several people I met highly recommended Loyston Point and Norris Watershed.

If you’ve ridden these areas, leave a comment to let us know what they’re like!

Trail through bamboo forest in Knoxville Urban Wilderness in Tennessee
A bamboo ‘forest’ heading out to William Hastie network from Marie Myers

What to pack

For a complete packing list, head over to my Mountain Bike Trip Packing List post. Here are a few recommendations specific to riding in Knoxville:

  • Hydration powder: If you plan on visiting in the warmer summer months, be sure to bring lots of water and maybe some hydration powder like Tailwind Endurance. It’s easy to do big days here, so you want to stay hydrated!
  • Knee pads: There aren’t a whole lot of super technical trails in Knoxville, but there are several jump lines and a paved pump track/skills area. Protect your knees with some knee pads.
  • Waterproof Car Seat Cover: Protect your car seats from post-ride sweat with these waterproof seat covers, especially if you visit in the summer!

MTB Gear I Love

Trip planning resources

Bike shops & rentals

  • Tennessee Valley Bikes (service & repair)
  • F.C. Pedaler (service & repair)
  • Bike zoo (service & repair, bike rentals)
  • Harper’s Bike Shop (service & repairs)

Guided tours & lessons

  • Knoxville Outdoor Tours

Mountain bike clubs

  • Appalachian Mountain Bike Club: offer group rides and other events throughout the year including a fall festival and trail work days. They seem like a super involved mountain bike club, which is great to see!

Best places to eat

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any restaurants in Knoxville because my housesit was about 45 minutes from town and I had a dog to get back to post-rides. But here are a few places that get great reviews:

  • Stock & Barrel – great burgers
  • Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar – for southern eats
  • Hard Knox Pizza – love the name!
  • Smoky Mountain Brewery – local brews & food
  • Wild Love Bakehouse – amazing looking pastries

Where to camp & stay

I don’t have any specific recommendations on places to stay, but one place I’m excited about is the Drop Inn, which will be offering a variety of camping options basically in Knoxville Urban Wilderness in 2023.

Gravel parking area with signs for Drop Inn at Knoxville Urban Preserve in Tennessee
The future site of Drop Inn at Knoxville Urban Wilderness

I hope this post gives you all the info (and inspiration!) you need to start planning your mountain bike trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. I was really impressed with the trails and trail networks here and I think you will be, too.

Looking for more fun things to do?

Check out these popular tours in Knoxville

Have you ridden in Knoxville? What are your favorite trails and networks? What questions do you still have? Leave a comment below!

Related posts:

Knoxville, Tennessee has some of the best mountain biking in the east! Use this guide to plan your visit with route recommendations & more
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