Best of Knoxville 2013: Knoxville (Outdoors) Life

Best Urban Hike

Best Park in Knox County

Ijams Nature Center
The Ijams family may have lived on an idyllic farm, but their plot of land is now our little piece of paradise not quite in the middle of the city. The most bizarre, and definitely the best, part of the Ijams Nature Center is that you can walk through a forest by the Tennessee River, through a quarry that looks more like ancient Mayan ruins, and then you can go kayaking in a quarry lake. That's not to mention the bike trails you can traverse. Judging by the number of cars in the parking lots at Ijams, South Knoxville's best-kept secret is out. (P.H.)
Best Urban Hike Runners Up: Knoxville greenways, South Knoxville Urban Wilderness, UT Arboretum/

Best Park in Knox County Runners Up: Cove at Concord Park, Sequoyah Hills Park, Victor Ashe Park

Best Bike Ride

Third Creek Greenway
You've got wheels, and you've got greenways—there's nowhere in this fair city you can't go. Third Creek Greenway, which connects the Bearden and Sequoyah greenways with Neyland Greenway, is a remastered marvel. Repaved and polished up, this 4.5-mile stretch of asphalt is the ideal spot to take your 10-speed (or BMX) for a spin. Midway, it intersects with the revamped Tyson Park and Knoxville Skatepark, where you can take advantage of the public facilities or just hop off your bike and sit by the creek for a spell. In the mood for a meander instead of a ride? Bicyclists share the road with power walkers and Sunday strollers, all enjoying green-friendly harmony. (T.H.J.)
Runners Up: Concord Park, Ijams Nature Center, South Knoxville Urban Wilderness

Best Swimming Hole

The Sinks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Sinks, near Metcalf Bottoms near the Blount County entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural Park, is a unique spot that combines a powerful 15-foot-waterfall with deep natural pools, and nothing looks more appealing on a sunny summer day. Recognizing its popularity and convenient location, the park service spent considerable time and money a couple of years ago expanding the parking area and fitting out the rocky overlook with more safety features than it had naturally. In the official park verbiage, the Sinks is a "popular roadside waterfall," and while it's okay to wade or dogpaddle around, jumping off the rocks into the water is a big no-no, as are other kinds of horseplay. You heard it from us: Swim responsibly. (And yes, we know, the Sinks is not in Knoxville proper, but Knoxvillians have been claiming the Smokies as their own since the park opened, so we let the tradition continue.) (T.H.J.)
Runners Up: Ijams Nature Center, Melton Hill Lake, the Y—Townsend

Best Fishing Spot

Tellico Reservoir/Lake
Let us count the ways in which Tellico Reservoir, or Tellico Lake, is our 2013 Best of Fishing Spot: There's black bass, largemouth bass, spotted bass. White crappie, black crappie, speckled trout, rainbow trout, channel catfish, mudflat catfish... You get the idea. The reservoir is a linchpin of the Tennessee Valley Authority's waterways, connecting to both Fort Loudoun Reservoir and the Little Tennessee River, and its 357 miles of shoreline and 33 miles of lake bed are beloved to water-recreation and fishing enthusiasts. There are conveniently located boat ramps, picnic facilities and a fishing pier for your enjoyment, as well as a couple of historic sites that inform visitors about the cultures of native peoples that once flourished here. (T.H.J.)
Runners Up: Bridge on S. Northshore Drive, Crystal Lake, Norris Lake

Best Marina

Concord Marina
At Concord Marina, you could dine in style at the Lakeside Tavern, enjoy the charming views across the water or frolic with family and friends at the lakeside park. But did we mention how ridiculously easy Concord Marina makes it for you to put your boat in and let it ride on area waters? And then equally as easy to get it back out again? Having met the number-one criterion for what you want from your marina, Concord keeps piling on the attractions. There's on-site security, a staff that's knowledgeable about all things boat-related, a dock shop to browse nautical knickknacks and friendly fellow boaters to meet and mingle with. (T.H.J.)
Runners Up: Choto Marina, Duncan Boat Dock, Fox Road Marina

Best Golf Course

Fox Den Country Club
There are great country club communities that also offer golf, and then there are great country club communities that are also true golf destinations. Fox Den Country Club in west Knoxville is one of the second. A private golf course with limited memberships available to non-residents, its 18 holes have been the site of PGA tour stops and numerous local tournaments. The longtime favorite opened in 1969 and was renovated in 2004 without a grumble from the players who enjoy its beautiful woods, greens and waters or the real sharks who relish the challenge of its more difficult holes. Members also enjoy a roomy club facility, a well-stocked pro shop and the services of some of the area's top club pros. (T.H.J.)
Runners Up: Cherokee Country Club, Dead Horse Lake Golf Course, Holston Hills Country Club

Best Footrace/Triathlon

Color Me Rad
Runners Up: Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, Jingle Run, Secret City Half Marathon

Best Outdoor Make-Out Place

World's Fair Park
Is this really the best place in Knoxville to make out? I can't say, since I stopped making out in public places round about the time I graduated from high school and got my own place. But this is what our readers voted for, and it makes sense, I guess.

Say you're a high schooler, maybe one who can't yet drive. You get your parents to drop you off downtown at the movie theater, so you can "meet your friends for a movie." Instead, you and your sweetheart decide to skip the movie and sneak away for some heavy petting. Where else can you go? Krutch Park isn't very private. The alleys are surprisingly well-lit. But World's Fair Park is a quick stroll from the heart of downtown, and there's plenty of nooks and crannies for you and your main squeeze to get all smoochy without bringing too much attention to yourselves.

You go, high school kids making out all summer long. Keep living the dream. (C.W.G.)
Runners Up: Cove at Concord Park, Market Square, my back porch

Back to the full list of Best of Knoxville 2013 winners!