Salute the best cyclists – and our flag

Carol EvansOur Town Outdoors

Heading into the big holiday week, you can participate or spectate at some top-notch outdoor events.

Today is Day 2 of the USA Cycling Pro Road Nationals visiting Knoxville. You can watch some of the best cyclists around as events continue through Sunday.

Featured today are the U.S. Pro Criterium Championships. The Para-Cycling National Championships are on Saturday, and the Pro Road Race is on Sunday. Fun, food and brew await!

Need to learn some basic outdoor skills? Head to Seven Islands State Birding Park at 10 a.m. Saturday (6/29). Ranger Stephanie will teach you things like how to read a map and use a compass, how to set up a tent and how to tie some useful knots.

Instead of scaring pets and annoying neighbors by setting off fireworks, channel your energy into some spirited activities to celebrate Independence Day, courtesy of the Knoxville Track Club. The Pilot Fireball Moonlight 5K and Firecracker Kids Mile will start and end at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine on Neyland Drive. The kids get going at 8 p.m. Wednesday (7/3) with the 5K following at 9 p.m.

Keep running, if you’d like, at the Farragut Freedom Run 1 Mile & 2 Mile on Thursday, July 4. Runners will start at 9 a.m., ahead of the annual Farragut Independence Day Parade. Runners and walkers of all ages are welcome.

If you want to get out on the water at the end of the day, head for the Fourth of July Sunset Canoe Float at 7 p.m. at Panther Creek State Park, six miles west of Morristown. Relax on Cherokee Lake and enjoy the East Tennessee sunset.

Sunflowers at Forks of the River WMA (Photo from the TWRA Facebook page)

Another sun celebration starts at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 6. The Sunflower Run with RunKnox will take you through the amazing sunflower fields at the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area. Staging is at Mead’s Quarry at Ijams Nature Center. There will be options on distance, and all paces are welcome. A potluck brunch will follow.

We’re so close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that a lot of folks forget that we also have the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area just a couple of hours away from downtown Knoxville. Aside from all the things you can do on your own, there are some great programmed activities.

Coming up the next two Sundays (6/30, 7/7), Big South Fork will offer a Healthy Hike to the Gentleman’s Swimming Hole from the Rugby Visitor Center. It’s a moderate 2.3-mile hike that follows Clear Fork Creek and takes you to the swimming hole, the Meeting of the Waters, Witch’s Cave, Buck’s Mill site and unusual rock formations.

Gentleman’s Swimming Hole (Photo from

Other upcoming “Healthy Hikes” will be June 30 to the Twin Arches Loop (moderate to strenuous) and July 7 to the O&W Bridge, the only whipple truss style bridge remaining in Tennessee.

The O&W Bridge (Photo from

On Saturday, July 6, park rangers will host “Animals of Big South Fork” at the Bandy Creek Campground. More than 60 species of fish and numerous animals, including the white-tailed deer, black bear, elk, bobcat and gray fox, make their home in Big South Fork.

For details on these and many more activities coming up, check out the Outdoor Knoxville calendar, hosted by Legacy Parks Foundation.

Carol Evans is executive director of Legacy Parks Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to ensuring that our community enjoys exceptional recreational opportunities, natural beauty and open spaces, and that those assets exist for generations to come.



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