A well-kept secret located in the Secret City itself, the 3,000-acre Black Oak Ridge Conservation Easement (BORCE) offers outdoor adventurers approximately 15 miles of hiking, running, birding and cycling trails. Located just 25 miles west of Knoxville on the Department of Energy Reservation, the trail systems pass through ridge-top woodlands, wetlands covered in mountain laurel, and creek-side habitats. Don’t expect your hike to include mountain vistas or waterfalls, but you will encounter a variety of wildlife and native plants, as well as remnants of pre-Manhattan Project settlements. The trails are nearly mud-free year-round which make them an ideal destination after inclement weather (post-snow day adventure, anyone?).
A group hike this weekend offers a great introduction to Oak Ridge’s rich history and trail systems. Join Chris Hamilton and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club on a 5.5-mile hike along the wheat trail. This easy hike will loop along wooded trails, venture through the old wheat farming community and visit the remains of a 100-year-old church and cemetery. The hike will depart from Books-A-Million in Oak Ridge this Saturday, Feb. 3, at noon.
If you are looking to explore on two wheels, the singletrack trails can prove challenging to maneuver with many small trees in the trail corridors and sharp turns. Use caution on the gravel roads, as they are generally hilly and steep; and while the roads are well maintained, inclement weather can create areas in need of gravel repairs that are often deep and loose.
Bird enthusiasts, mark your calendars for a spring visit to the easement, and you’re likely to be serenaded by 25 to 30 species of woodland birds, from field sparrows to woodpeckers, hawks and bobwhite quail. Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chuck-will’s-widow, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Wood Thrush, Yellow-throated Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, and Summer Tanager are found commonly in summer. Brown-headed Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, and other resident woodland birds are common year round.
When you do venture out, remember to dress in layers that are appropriate for the weather. Also bring water, snacks and any other trail necessities that you might need or enjoy.
For more activities and adventures outside visit outdoorknoxville.com.