Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville TN

This past week my family took a quick road trip to Knoxville, Tennessee to the Ijams Nature Center. Located only 3 miles from downtown, this is a must see on any family vacation destination. It’s still amazing to me when I find these ‘hidden jewels’ that don’t cost a penny and offer so much to my family. Whether you’re looking for a place to hike in the woods, discover nature, stretch your imagination, learn about wildlife or find great family photo opps, Ijams delivers!

Ijams Nature Center

Nature Center

There is an interactive indoor nature center with animals, exhibits, tanks, and things to explore.

Ijams Nature Center

Make sure you check out the birds eggs collection, and the activity table.

Ijams Nature Center

Hiking Trails

Ijams Nature Center is a 275-acre wildlife sanctuary and natural area featuring 10 miles of natural surface trails plus a stretch of the Will Skelton Greenway. All of the trails are hiker friendly, although 3.5 miles incorporating Mead’s Quarry and the Ross Marble Natural Area serve both hikers and mountain bikers.

The trails are well developed. There is a gentle hike down through the woods and beside the river. It is about a mile loop trail; you could probably even take a stroller. There are a few areas where they have added wooden ‘speedbumps’ to help you navigate some of the trails that are not level. You wind through the woods down to the river.

Ijams Nature Center

Jo’s Grove

A nature playscape designed just for children to imagine, explore, and find whimsy and merriment; a special place for children to touch the earth, and in turn be transformed by it. The annual fairy house and gnome home competition is held here.

Ijams Nature Center

This is the most creative playground area I’ve seen in a long time. It is completely natural with houses made of sticks, stepping stones from tree trunks and a small cabin to play in. Our kids loved this area.

Mead’s Quarry

Once the murkiest spot in all of Knox County, this important Tennessee Marble Quarry, and later illegal dump, has been transformed into a rugged post-industrial natural area with 25-acre Lake and gorgeous views. Stone from Mead’s was used in numerous local national buildings and monuments.

This is a much more ‘natural’ undeveloped part of the Nature Area. There were hiking trails and beautiful views. But it is not as developed or well marked as the other section of Ijams. We were disappointed that we couldn’t find the Keyhole that is pictured on the site, but loved our time over near the quarry. We just ran out of time to keep exploring. It was a beautiful area.

Have you been to Ijams? I’d love to hear your favorite part!

Cost for admission: free ( donations are accepted)

Monday -Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

About Sharon Williams

Sharon Williams is a mom of 3 who loves to read, travel, take pictures, work in the flowers and spend time with family. When she's not blogging, she's probably out enjoying life so she'll have something fun to blog about tomorrow!


  1. says

    Even the indoor part is free? This is incredible! I haven’t picked a route yet to go through TN this summer and I think I’ll have to definitely make sure it goes by here! Thanks for sharing!

  2. says

    How kind that someone from the park was able to assist you. It’s that sort of special attention that brings me back, time and again, to visit. What a great thing they’re doing!

  3. says

    We just read your blog and we’re so excited that you enjoyed your time here! We, too, are disappointed that you couldn’t find the keyhole; it is a truly special part of the park. If you decide that you in the mood to explore more of Ijams Nature Center, be sure to stop in at the front desk and one of our helpful docents will be sure to point you in the right direction to ensure you find your way!

  4. says

    EVERY city should have something like this, especially with free admission! That way you could visit your city’s site, and the surrounding sites as well. It would draw a lot of people (especially those trying to entertain kids!) :)

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