For adrenaline junkies and those generally unsatisfied with earthbound sports, East Tennessee provides plenty of opportunities to try something new.
1542 W. Dumplin Valley Road
Dunlap, Tenn., 423-949-6093
1200 Matthews Hollow Road
203 Sugar Hollow Road
Pigeon Forge, 865-428-2422
Birdwatchers can expect to see songbirds coming and going in October and November, including a wide array of sparrows and warblers. There are 381 species of birds to be seen in this state, and early morning is always the best time to see and hear birds in action. Going bird-watching is also a good way to enjoy the colors of autumn trees.
Best East Tennessee Birding Sites:
Cove Lake [110 Cove Lake Lane, Caryville]
Eagle Bend [492 Mountain View Lane, Anderson County]
Frozen Head [964 Flat Fork Road, Wartburg]
Ijams Nature Park [2915 Island Home Ave., Knoxville]
Kyker Bottoms [1610 Big Gully Road, Maryville]
Kingston Fossil Plant [714 Swan Pond Road, Harriman]
Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum [2743 Wimpole Ave., Knoxville]
Standifer Gap Marsh [Hamilton County]
Sharp's Ridge Memorial Park [329 Sharp's Ridge Memorial Drive, Knoxville]
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge [Take Kodak Rd. to Kelly Lane, Knoxville]
• Chota Canoe Club of Knoxville holds paddling schools, rescue classes, and outings. Visit discoveret.org/chota/ for a complete listing of available classes, meeting times, and discussion boards.
• The East Tennessee Whitewater Club meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the crafts room of the Oak Ridge Civic Center. Attend for discussion of environmental issues related to waterways and help plan club activities; visit etwcweb.com for more info.
• The Knoxville Rowing Association advances the sport of rowing in Knoxville through instruction and the long-term development of its members. See knoxrowing.com for more info.
• The Tennessee Clean Water Network (tcwn.org) provides an e-newsletter that keeps members up-to-date on legislation and conservation efforts regarding the state's waterways.
Knoxville boasts a significant subculture devoted to rock climbing, both indoor and outdoor. For some, it begins in one of the several local high schools involved in the competitive climbing league; for others, the experience comes later, but local climbing enthusiasts describe the sport as an intensely physical and mental exercise but also a spiritual one. Maybe it's the suspension, maybe it's the concentration or the competition. Go find out.
The Climbing Center is your best bet for climbing in the area. Staff members are always available to assist novices and help climbers get off the ground safely. Among the services offered by The Climbing Center are a monthly "Women's Night" event, training sessions for individuals and groups, climbing parties, and a high school climbing league. The Climbing Center is open 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. through Fri., and noon to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Located at 2918 Sutherland Ave. [adjacent to River Sports Outfitters]; call 865-673-4687 for more information.
The Lilly Boulders at Obed Wild and Scenic River in Morgan County are said to be the best bouldering grounds in the area. Bouldering is a form of climbing done sans rope, low to the ground and often referred to as a grab-and-go sport, requiring only specialized climbing shoes, a "crash pad" in case of falls and a bag of chalk. Local experts also recommend a sense of humor.
Disc golf, or Frisbee golf, is played much like traditional golf minus the clubs, balls, dress code, and course fees. Knoxvillians are fortunate enough to have three large disc golf courses with varying terrain at their disposal, free of charge, as well as an actual disc golf league in place. Land your specialized rubber disc of chosen size and color in the chain-link enclosure in the fewest possible throws from the teeing point, and look, you're playing disc golf. Disc golf equipment is available at Pluto Sports [245 N. Seven Oaks Drive, 865-693-8990].
These websites can help you get started:
knoxvillediscgolf.org (courses, weekly events, tournaments, clubs)
pdga.com (Professional Disc Golf Association)
Knoxville parks with public disc-golf courses:
Morningside Park (1600 Dandridge Ave.)
Admiral Farragut (9950 S. Northshore Drive)
Victor Ashe Park (4901 Bradshaw Road)
The Smoky Mountains area is known fondly to local fly fishing enthusiasts as "Trout Country" and boasts miles of accessible waterways.
• Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World near Sevierville carries a broad selection of poles, waders, and other necessary gear. [3629 Outdoor Sportsmans Place, Kodak, 865-932-5600]
• Little River Outfitters is a fly shop and fly fishing school, as well as a fully-stocked sporting goods and gear store. Little River provides all levels of classes in this sport and the helpful website (littleriveroutfitters.com) features licensing info, "fishing reports," and tips for fly fishing specifically in the Smokies. [106 Town Square Drive, Townsend, 877-448-3474]
• Orvis carries just about everything for the outdoors enthusiast, from clothing to gear, and also includes plenty of fly fishing rods and accessories. [136 Apple Valley Road, Sevierville, 865-774-4162]
• Smoky Mountain Angler is your complete fly shop, carrying everything you need for your fishing trip, with locally hand-tied flies, professional guides, rental services, and even licenses and permits. [466 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg, 865-436-8746]
Why hike or run alone? Join these local clubs not only for insider info on the regional hiking and running scenes, but for camaraderie as well.
This club was founded in 1924 and consists of over 600 members in Knoxville and its surrounding area. The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club is a nonprofit organization and the $14 annual member fee goes to support the activities of the organization. The club conducts weekly group hikes and supports volunteer trail maintenance in the Smokies. Members also support local wildlife conservation causes. A listing of planned hikes for this month can be found on their website, as well as Appalachian Trail maintenance outings, general news announcements, and membership information.
The Sierra Club is a member supported, nonprofit organization that hosts outdoor outings and supports a plethora of environmental and conservation causes. The club hosts a large amount of overnight backpacking trips and day hikes. Membership is not required to attend Sierra Club events and a list of their outings can be found on their website.
The Knoxville Track Club is one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. and supports the majority of races and running/walking events in the area. Becoming a member gets you discounts to all KTC supported races as well as discounts at local stores. Members also receive the popular bimonthly magazine Footnotes. No membership is required for the daily scheduled group runs. KTC also supports many local volunteer groups and charities to give back to the community. This is a great club for recreational runners and walkers looking for community and friendship, as well as veteran competition runners.
Fall is a fine time for horseback riding; trotting slowly through the woods can be an excellent way to enjoy the autumn leaves and cool weather in the Smokies. Those interested in renting horses for guided rides will have to drive a ways from the city to find a stable, but it's worth it for the scenic vistas and hillier terrain.
These businesses specialize in taking customers on guided trail rides:
• Apple Valley Riding Stables [5641 Old Walland Highway, Walland, 865-448-8300]
• Cades Cove Riding Stables [10018 Campground Drive, Townsend, 865-448-9009]
• Deer Farm Riding Stables [470 Happy Hollow Lane, Sevierville, 865-429-2276]
• Douglas Lakeview Stables [1650 Providence Road, Sevierville, 865-428-3587]
• House Mountain Farm [8630 Washington Pike, Corryton, 865-687-8159]
• Oaks Riding Stables [1628 Parkway, Sevierville, 865-453-8644]
• Smoky Mountain Riding Stables [Hwy 321 @ E. Parkway, Gatlinburg, 865-436-5634]
• Triple Creek Riding Stables [1104 Jayell Road, Sevierville, 865-428-7506]
• Walden Creek Stables [2709 Waldens Creek Road, Sevierville, 865-429-0411]
Most stables charge by the hour and on average cost about $20 per rider per hour. Others offer half-day-long trips for more experienced riders. Don't be discouraged if you've never been on horseback before: Most stables (usually) have very gentle horses who are highly accustomed to taking the trails. It's always good form to tip your trail guide if you've had a good experience.
Mountain Challenge at Maryville College offers activities only to groups with reservations, but if you have a large party of outdoor adventurers this is a great way to have a new sporting experience with the aid of an expert guide. The activities that can be pursued at Mountain Challenge include:
• The Ropes Course—a fun and challenging activity for groups: Individuals must work together to get each member of the team through a series of rope obstacles.
• Constructed of wooden beams and climbing robes, the "Alpine" climbing tower is 60 feet tall.
• "Adventure Racing" program: You choose a combination of activities from among the ropes course, climbing tower, backpacking/hiking, rock climbing, caving, whitewater rafting, canoeing, and guided bike tours.
For more information on setting up a Mountain Challenge event, groups should call 865-981-8125 or 1-800-746-7791 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit mtnchallenge.com for photos and descriptions of all that this program has to offer.
For more athletically inclined seekers of high-impact workouts, mountain biking makes for a great way to connect with the wilderness. If you're just taking up the hobby, check out the message boards on the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club website (ambc-sorba.org). Meet-ups and outings are posted regularly, and the best trails are discussed on the forums; the club also conducts a group ride every Tuesday.
For more information and detailed reviews of the following trails and others, see Off the Beaten Track Volume IV: A Guide to Mountain Biking in East Tennessee by Jim Parham. And look for Off Road Trails by Elle Colquitt and Jon Livengood, available in area book and bicycle stores.
I.C. King Park Trails, Knoxville (varies depending on loop taken)
Panther Creek, Morristown
Haw Ridge: Lake Trail, Oak Ridge
Norris Trail, Norris
Black Mountain, Crab Orchard, Tenn.
Concord Park Trails, Knoxville
Haw Ridge: Ridges Trail, Oak Ridge
I.C. King Park Trails, Knoxville (varies depending on loop taken)
Lone Mountain, Wartburg
Pioneer/Trout Lily: Morristown
• Blue Ridge Mountain Sports [4610 Kingston Pike, 865-588-2638, brmsstore.com]
• Dick's Sporting Goods [221 North Peters Road, 865-531-2221, dickssportinggoods.com]
• Earth Traverse Outfitters [2815 Sutherland Ave., 865-523-0699, xgo1.com]
• Gander Mountain [11501 Parkside Drive, Farragut, 865-671-2790, gandermountain.com]
• Little River Outfitters [106 Town Square Drive, Townsend, 865-448-9459, littleriveroutfitters.com]
• Little River Trading Company [2408 East Lamar Alexander Pky., Maryville, 865-681-4141, littlerivertradingco.net]
• Mast General Store [402 S. Gay St., 865-546-1336, mastgeneralstore.com]
• NOC's Great Outpost [1138 E. Parkway, Gatlinburg, 865-277-8209, noc.com]
• River Sports Outfitters [2918 Sutherland Ave., 865-523-0066, riversportsoutfitters.com]
• Uncle Lem's Mountain Outfitters [9715 Kingston Pike, 357-8566, unclelemsmountainoutfitters.com]
For those seeking a lower-turbulence biking experience, road biking is the way to go.
• River Sports [2918 Sutherland Ave., 865-523-0066] hosts weekly greenway bike rides on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Bikers depart from the Sutherland Avenue location of the store. Call River Sports at 865-525-6921 for more information.
• Cycology [2408 East Lamar Alexander Pky., Maryville, 865-681-4183] lists local rides on its website cycologybicycles.com, or call for details.
• Knoxville Bicycle Tours offers rides that will introduce you to local attractions, from the Historic Site and Graveyard Tour to the Cades Cove Loop. Visit bikeknoxville.com for more info.
These local trails provide scenic rides without the rigor of mountain biking trails:
• Townsend Bicycle Trail: A 9-mile trail that runs parallel to Highway 321 in Townsend. The Townsend Loop (also River Road) is adjacent to this trail.
• Cades Cove Loop: A highly scenic 11-mile paved loop dotted with old cabins and churches. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Townsend; parking available at Cades Cove Store. Bikes are available for rental.
• Springwood Park: A 1.5-mile trail in Alcoa, this ride is good for families as it provides picnic tables and restrooms in addition to a lovely pond and trees.
• City of Knoxville Greenways: Visit ci.knoxville.tn.us/map/parksrec.html for a map of all greenways in the area.
• Numerous other Knoxville-area routes are mapped and cued in the book Bicycling Routes, by Elle Colquitt and Jon Livengood, available in area book and bicycle stores.
LOCAL BIKE SHOPS
The Bike Zoo [4445 Kingston Pike, 865-558-8455] bikezoo.com
The Bike Zoo's website provides a complete listing of local trails, with maps, as well as a few primers to match new bikers with the perfect road or mountain bike. This shop also provides full repairs and bike servicing.
Biketopia [7328 Norris Freeway, 865-922-1786] biketopia.biz
Biketopia carries bikes from Bianchi, GT, and Jamis, just to name a few. If you're looking for a trendy Dutch-style road bike, Biketopia carries a number of models.
Cedar Bluff Cycles [9282 Kingston Pike, 865-692-1010] cedarbluffcycles.net
Cedar Bluff Cycle's website features a special guide to bike purchasing for women, as well as a handy etiquette guide for biking in groups. They carry bikes by Trek, MirraCo, and Gary Fisher.
Cycology [2408 East Lamar Alexander Pky., Maryville, 865-681-4183] cycologybicycles.com
Located next to Little River Trading Company, Cycology is the perfect stop on your way for a ride in the Mountains via Townsend. They offer expert fitting and service to all of their customers.
Fountain City Pedaler [4620 Old Broadway Suite 102 865-357-1580] fcpedaler.com
FCP carries a wide selection of bikes from Marin, Diamondback, and Titus, and can work on any bike for repairs, parts installation, frame up-builds, wheel builds, or just a brake adjustment.
Greenlee's [1402 N. Broadway, 865-522-8228]
The oldest bike shop in town, Greenlee's specializes in bikes for everyday use.
Harper's Bike Shop [118 S. Northshore Drive, 865-588-5744] harpersbikeshop.com
Harper's is the only shop in town to sell Lynskey bikes. The website provides a monthly biking events calendar, and the shop provides upgrades and repair services.
Tennessee Valley Bicycles [214 W. Magnolia Ave., 865-540-9979] tnvalleybikes.com
TN Valley Bicycle's website provides a helpful and complete list of labor rates for all bike repairs and maintenance.
West Bicycles [11531 Kingston Pike, Farragut, 865-671-7591] westbicycles.com
West carries Day6, Look, Q Roo, Lite Speed, Giant, and Fuji bikes—and even electric bikes. Plus, they carry used bikes and rentals, and offer a complete service center.
Skiing may have connotations of being glamorous and involving extensive travel to remote powdery hills in Colorado and Switzerland, but this winter hobby can actually be pursued locally. The Appalachian mountains provide Knoxvillians with plenty of skiing opportunities as close as an hour away. Skiers willing to travel a little farther or just get in touch with the local skiing community can look to the Knoxville Ski and Outing Club (knoxvilleskiclub.org). This group hosts socials, ski camps, and trips both near and far. While you're saving up for that European ski vacation, check out these local options:
• Ober Gatlinburg (1 hour away)
• Cataloochee, Maggie Valley, N.C. (2.5 hours away)
• Wolf Laurel, between Johnson City and Asheville, N.C. (2.5 hours away)
• Scaly Mountain, south of Waynesville, N.C. (3 hours away)
• Sapphire Valley, near Cashiers, N.C. (3 hours away)
• Ski Beech, Beech Mountain Resort in Beech Mountain, N.C. (near Boone, N.C.; three hours away)
Ski & Snowboard Shops:
• Alpine Ski Center [7240 Kingston Pike # 148, 865-584-3614, alpineskicenter.com]
• The Boardroom [6513 Kingston Pike, Suite G, 865-851-7982, theboardroomknoxville.com]
• Pluto Sports [245 N Seven Oaks Drive, 865-693-8990, plutosports.com]