The 50 miles of hiking and bike trails in South Knoxville's Urban Wilderness are the main attractions that earned Knoxville the number nine spot on Outside magazine's list of the "26 Best Trips to Take Right Now."
"I've lived here all my life and I think Knoxville is just coming into itself and people found out we do have places like this and you don't have to drive miles to get to it. You're almost in downtown," said Richard Johnson, an East Tennessee native who has lived in South Knoxville most of his life.
Johnson - and thousands of others - love the trails that are close to downtown Knoxville, but feel like they're far away.
"We don't realize we're in downtown Knoxville. Right here we're in the mountains, woods and trails. It's close but you don't know it's close when you get here," said Barbara Naessig, who has lived in Knoxville since the '80s.
Outside's article specifically mentions the trails in the Urban Wilderness and the Devil's Racetrack Downhill Trail at Baker's Creek Preserve.
Director of the Legacy Parks Foundation Carol Evans says the reason Knoxville has become an outdoor destination is because it's so easy to be outside.
"To be in the Urban Wilderness and bike or hike 50 miles of trail within four miles of a downtown is incredibly unique and we hear that over and over again," said Evans.
Outside's list features outdoor destinations from all over the world. Knoxville outranked India, Sweden, Canada and Norway.
Evans says that speaks to the uniqueness of Knoxville's outdoors.
"We know that we feel it, we have it. It's great to be recognized on a national - or I should say international - level above some of the typical ones, which is great to know people are discovering us," said Evans.
The Urban Wilderness was created in 2013, and since then, its creation tourism numbers have increased.
"Outdoor adventure is a key pillar to how we're telling the story of why you should visit Knoxville and it's exciting," said Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville.
Bumpas says this year's tourism numbers are up and off to a great start.
"All our tourism numbers are up, we've come out of the gate in January and February in a way that has really outpaced every other year," said Bumpas.
Evans says they're continuing to work on the Urban Wilderness, and their goal for 2017 is to increase access to rivers throughout East Tennessee.
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