5 things to do near Knoxville

July 13, 2016  |  Permalink


Knoxville, Tennessee, is no stranger to weekend adventures. While Big Orange and the Great Smoky Mountains get a lot of press, there are some state parks in the area that are well worth your time. Let’s take a look at 5 things to do near Knoxville that don’t involve tailgating or Gatlinburg.



Norris Dam (CCC Cabins)

Norris Dam State Park, located on the shores of Norris Lake, has 19 historic CCC cabins originally built in the 1930’s. These cabins are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and transport visitors back to the New Deal era. They are located in quiet, wooded settings and are equipped with electrical appliances, cooking utensils and linens.





Super wide sunset on the river.

Posted by J. Phillips Photographic on Thursday, June 16, 2016
1. Hike at Norris Dam State Park

Norris Dam State Park is 30 minutes north of Knoxville in Rocky Top, Tennessee. The park is one of three state parks on the banks of the Norris Dam Reservoir: Cokve Lake, Norris Dam Big Ridge. Norris Dam State Park maintains 15 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult. The trails include lots of hills and lakeside paths. The park also has mountain biking and horseback riding trails.For those who enjoy taking pictures, the park and lake make for some very compelling photography. Many mornings, mist will hover over the lake, as seen in the photo above. (Photo credit: J Phillips Photographic)


2. Spend a day on the lake at Big Ridge State Park

The 3,687-acre Big Ridge State Park sits on the banks of Norris Lake, just 35 minutes away from Knoxville. While many people enjoy hiking along the lake and ridgelines of the park, it’s also a great place to spend time on the water during the summer months. The sandy beach is perfect for swimming and includes a concrete-bottomed area for children. The park also rents canoes, paddleboats, tandem kayaks and rowboats.  You can even launch your own private boat on the lake for a nominal fee. Many visitors enjoy bringing their ski boats and wave runners out on the 49-acre lake.


3. Explore the frontier lands of Frozen Head State Park

Frozen Head State Park is about as close to uncut, frontier land that you will find in Tennessee. The park encompasses over 24,000 acres of wilderness area and has over 50 miles of trails.  Frozen Head is probably most infamous hosting the privately held Barkley Marathons, an ultramarathon trail race that has taken place at the park since 1977. It is also very close to Brushy Mountain Penitentiary, the state facility that held James Earl Ray after his conviction for assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr. Come hike at your leisure, visit historic sites and take in the beautiful scenery on the Cumberland Plateau.



A photo posted by Panther Creek State Park (@panther_creek_state_park) on

4. Lookout over Cherokee Lake at Panther Creek State Park

Just an hour outside of Knoxville is the activity-packed Panther Creek State Park. Whether you want to bring your horses out for a ride, shred some mountain bike routes, or hike the 30+ miles of trails in the park, Panther Creek can accommodate. Make sure to head up to the overlook observation deck on your visit. The view provides a sweeping panoramic of Cherokee Lake and the rolling hills of Northern Tennessee.


5. Observe natural beauty at Seven Islands State Birding Park

Our closest park to Knoxville, Seven Islands State Birding Park is one of the prettiest places you will ever encounter. This peninsula of land features more than eight miles of natural trails, rolling hills and views of the Smoky Mountains. The park comes to life in the summer with sunflowers and other flora in addition to swooping and singing of birds like the yellow-breasted chat, summer tanager, common yellowthroat, blue grosbeak and indigo bunting. It is ideal for a sunset stroll and anyone who enjoys nature photography.


About the author

Josh Gibson