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Beauty in your backyard | City of Knoxville brings back guided greenway hikes

The free Thursday hikes are a way for Knoxvillians to learn about nature in their own backyard while getting exercise and making friends.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department makes getting fresh air easy. Every Thursday until February 24, guides take groups through city greenways.

The weekly hike is free and offers opportunities to learn more about what's in your own backyard.

There are hundreds of miles of greenways in Knoxville alone. That's why the parks and rec department is making it easier for you to explore them. 

Recreation specialists Grant Howard and Megan Gerlach guide groups through various greenways and trails.

"The design of this program was really to get people outdoors and in a wilderness setting, but not so scary that they're gonna be like, 'Oh, I'm lost, and I'm in the middle of the woods,'" Howard said. "You really get to experience the beautiful natural areas we have in the city."

This isn't the first time the groups have trekked through areas of Knoxville. There have been other sessions throughout past seasons both in the morning and at night.

Even though it's winter now, there's still plenty to learn, take in and admire outside. Howard and Gerlach point out indigenous plants and fauna along the way and don't skip over the historic significance of certain areas

On top of that, you also get good exercise and breathe in the fresh air.

"Being outside in nature just boosts your mood and gets your legs moving, gets you out of the house," Gerlach said. "With this program, we also have the opportunity to make new friends."

Until February 24, the guided groups will meet at 10 a.m., with the hike starting around 10:15 a.m.

There will be a brief hiatus of the guided hikes after that February finish date March. Once the sun starts setting later, the parks department will add more evening hikes in conjunction with the morning hikes. 

Howard and Gerlach agree, there are plenty of opportunities to get moving and explore the city.

"You really are only a 10 to 15-minute drive to an urban wilderness natural area anywhere in the city," Howard said. "You have beautiful green space right outside your door."

The hikes vary in difficulty and length. There are some that are easier, while others are moderate to strenuous. The guides will never leave you stranded on a trail, though.

Credit: City of Knoxville

"We are very adaptable to your needs if you need to take a break," Gerlach said. "If you need water, we usually bring water, we bring first aid, but no one's ever had any incidences, and people always come back and say it's very fun."

The beauty of the program is they take you through hikes and walks in all seasons of the year. You get to discover places you may not have even realized were in your backyard.

The next hike is planned for February 3 at 10 a.m. It's at Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville. It's classified as an easy to moderate hike.

The parks department also hopes to implement some water recreation into the guided hikes. The staff is working on getting certified to do that in the future.

There are other programs and events the parks department hosts. Click here to learn more.

Credit: City of Knoxville