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Guide to Knoxville Quarries

Guide to Knoxville Quarries

Two Quarries? No Worries!

One of my (Caitlyn’s) favorite things about moving to Knoxville can be summed up in one word: water 🤩

There is so. much. water. in Knoxville and it makes this Atlanta girl’s heart so happy. We’re talkin’ endless lakes, the Tennessee River flowing through the city, and some of the coolest gems Knoxville has to offer: Quarries!

Knoxville has a good handful of water-filled quarries, but we’re going to highlight two of the most popular ones. Mead’s Quarry at Ijams and Fort Dickerson Quarry are both situated in South Knox, a part of the Knox Urban Wilderness route, rich in history, and still stunning to this day! These beautiful limestone and marble quarries are surrounded by walking/biking trails, and can be thoroughly enjoyed in the warm months by paddle boarding, swimming and kayaking.

Guide to Knoxville Quarries


Augusta Quarry is located in Fort Dickerson Park, the historic site of the Civil War battle over Knoxville. At the top of the park, you can see cannons pointing down towards the city where Union soldiers staked out the highest lookout point in Knoxville.

The Augusta Quarry was added to Fort Dickerson park a good century later,  in the late 1900s. City officials saw potential in the giant pool of water, stating that it could be “Knoxville’s largest swimming pool” in the future – and they were not far off in their vision!

Fort Dickerson Quarry

Image by @zerepardnaxela via Instagram

In the last couple years, the park has been renovated by the Aslan Foundation and City of Knoxville. It now features a grand entrance off Chapman Highway, complete with a finished gravel parking area at the bottom entrance off of Blount Ave. There have been rumors of expanding the park and adding in bathrooms and concessions in the near future… so stay tuned for any updates on those future plans!

You can experience this quarry in all its “quarry-glory” on sunny days when the sun is high in the sky, illuminating the blue-green water like a tropical oasis. Music echoes and bounces off of rocks from portable speakers brought by groups of friends. You can almost always spot an Eno or two. Fort Dickerson may be “Knoxville’s largest swimming pool” but it’s often also “Knoxville’s biggest impromptu party!” And best part? Admission is free?

Fort Dickerson park is also pup friendly so bring your furry friend along to enjoy the cool water and take a dip with you after enjoying the surrounding trails.


Mead’s Quarry can be found just slightly down from the main parking area at Ijams Nature Center. This former limestone and marble quarry used to provide marble to prominent buildings all over the United States – including the JP Morgan Library in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C (hence why Knoxville is sometimes referred to as “the marble city”!). A few decades and a few hundred volunteer hours of cleanup later, Mead’s is the perfect spot to bring friends visiting the city.

Rent a paddle board or kayak from the River Sports Outfitters post and head down to the water. If there is a wait on rentals (or you simply want to go the free route), take a swim in the sectioned off swimming area of the quarry. (We also suggest jumping in after a long hike through the nature center.) However you choose to enjoy the water, end the experience with a beer from The Outpost for ultimate summer vibes?

Meads Quarry

Pro-Tip: Mead’s is even home to tiny freshwater jellyfish that rise to the water’s surface in the hot summer months. Don’t worry – they’re only about the size of a quarter and way too small to sting you!

So grab some friends and make some plans to adventure down to one of the Knoxville water quarries – then let us know your favorite way to chill out on the water!


Check Them Out:

Augusta Quarry:
610 Augusta Ave, Knoxville, TN 37920

Ijams Nature Center:
2915 Island Home Ave, Knoxville, TN 37920

Guide to Our Favorite Balds

Guide to Our Favorite Balds

Get to Know Max Patch & Black Balsam Knob

Need some weekend plans? Good news: we have a *chefs kiss* perfect activity for you. Get outside and take a visit to one of the magical outdoor balds in our surrounding area!

What is a bald?

Great question. (This is, in fact, not a guide to our favorite hairless men.) A bald is actually a mountain summit with a large grassy opening – perfect for picnics, frisbee, and most importantly, incredible views. Believe it or not, balds are unique to our area. Found mostly in the southern Appalachians, these are areas where you would expect heavy forest growth, but instead, find vast openings! The reason for such openings is a bit of a mystery. Some say it was through natural ecological formation or through the clearing by humans; but generally, the origin of Appalachian balds is still unknown. All we do know is if there are countless of these unique landmarks in our backyard, then you should definitely take advantage of them!

So where do we recommend?

Our two favorite ¨bald spots¨ are Max Patch and Black Balsam Knob. Both are around a two hour drive from Knoxville and located just past the Tennessee line in North Carolina. Pack a lunch and spend the day staring at the clouds or head out to see the sunset plus a starry sky. (Pro-Tip: Bring your pups and camp to experience both!)

Guide to Our Favorite Balds
If there are countless of these unique landmarks in our backyard, then you should definitely take advantage of them!

Max Patch:

Max Patch is by far one of the most popular outdoor spots in our area (and for a good reason!). To get to this gem, head towards Asheville on I-40 and follow your GPS to take a somewhat adventurous road for about six miles to the trailhead. Because so many people say they get lost, here are simplified directions: Take a left off Harmon exit until the road ends – about 6 miles. Take another left on Max Patch Road and it will be on the right in about 2 miles. At the Max Patch trailhead, there is both a small parking lot and street parking available. Once you’ve parked, walk straight up a very short trail to the summit – a clearing of 350 acres! The 360-degree views include the tallest peak this side of the Mississippi (Mount Mitchell) on the eastern horizon and the rolling mountains of our very own Great Smoky Mountains on the southern horizon. If you want to work your legs some more, take the 2.6-mile loop around the bald that intersects with the Appalachian Trail. (Does this mean you can say you’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail? We think yes.) The massive clearing means there is a lot of wind, so dig out your kites and windbreakers. Also, since it’s such a short hike (we are talking 5-10 minutes), this is the perfect place to get your star-gazing on before the quickest jaunt back to the car! Unfortunately, the overwhelming amount of trash left at Max Patch made the news this year. While efforts have been made to clean the area, let’s continue to do our part to take care of this space by taking our trash away with us! If you’re still unconvinced of the magic of Max Patch, head to the “Max Patch” location tag on Instagram to get blown away by great shots from local photographers. Oh yes, did we mention this is an epic spot for your next photoshoot?

Guide to Our Favorite Balds Multi Images

Black Balsam Knob:

Black Balsam Knob is another local fave. It’s located in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina and is about a 2 hour 20-minute drive. On your way, there is a gorgeous lake that you should plan to stop at – Lake Junaluska is uniquely stunning, and the perfect picnic stop. As you continue to the Knob, the cell signal stays pretty strong, so we trust you can find your way to the street parking on Black Balsam Knob Rd. You do want to be sure to take the Art Loeb Trail and not the Sam Knob Trail. The first marker on the right is the one you want for the Art Loeb Trail (Sam Knob is farther down at the end of the road). As you begin the hike, the path takes you into an alluring dense grove of balsam fir trees. Literally, it feels magical with the sweet scent of fir and the sunlight glimmering through the evergreen trees. Then you will pass ¨through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, and through the sea of swirly twirly gumdrops…¨ (*wink*) After the magical balsam grove, you will be greeted by a rocky landscape – it’s treeless and open to the sun (or stars!) with wildflowers and berries depending on the time of year. As you ascend, the view gets wider and wider to a 360-degree panorama at the top. Over 6,000 feet high with a wide vista of surrounding mountains, you will surely have a breathtaking moment! It is an easy one-mile walk to the bald and there are so (so, so, so) many spots to set up camp or chairs for great views. Enjoy your own little private area or you can walk towards the highest clearing for a more communal experience. We recommend bringing a jacket and hot cocoa to watch the sunset and take in the incredible starry sky! Can’t get enough of bald spots? We get it! There are tons of other adventures you can have in our backyard. For instance, you can explore the nearby Gregory Bald in the Smokies which has world famous azaleas blooming in mid to late June. Or you can drive farther and check out the wild ponies at the bald of Grayson Highlands! Head a little past Johnson City to the Roan Highlands, home to the longest stretch of grassy bald in the Appalachian Mountains (starting at Carvers Gap, you get to travel to 3 balds – Round, Jane, and Grassy Ridge). Then, for the absolute perfect Saturday, hit up Yeehaw Brewery and White Duck Taco on the way home. Don’t want to travel quite that far this weekend? We got you! Why not take on a local hike and great view just 10 minutes from downtown or jump into some local quarries instead? However you choose to explore, we know you’ll have a great time outside in East Tennessee!