Of all the places to enjoy the outdoors in Knox County, topping the list in terms of the height is House Mountain.
The state recreation and natural area features overlooks at around 2,100 feet, making it the tallest peak in Knox County. Despite its physical stature, the park is often overlooked.
"I think there are a lot of people who don't know we have this wonderful facility here," said Ellen Blasius with Knox County Parks and Recreation. "It's such a beautiful area and a huge amount of space. You feel like you're out in the middle of the Smoky Mountains or somewhere really far away, but it is just a few minutes from Knoxville."
The state owns the more than 500 acres that make up the House Mountain natural area, but Knox County maintains the park and its trails.
"We have more than four miles of trails here. We've had so many hikers tell us they never knew this was here. There are a couple of trails to the top and some smaller loops at the bottom of the mountain, so you can make your hike as long or short as you want it," said Blasius.
There are two main trails to the top of House Mountain. One trail reaches the rocky overlook on the western end of the mountain top in about 1.5 miles. There is a shorter route to the overlook that is less than a mile, but the trail is steeper and a more strenuous climb.
"There is about a 1,000 foot climb from the bottom to the top of the mountain," said Blasius. "From the top you can see about 30 miles away and it is just a beautiful open area. You can see the Clinch and Cumberland Mountains."
In the early 1970s the public area on House Mountain was private property. Its owner became interested in turning House Mountain into the home of a new park. Several members of the public asked the state to purchase the property in order to preserve an unspoiled and undeveloped area.
The trails and peaks of House Mountain are now a favorite spot for bird watchers and hikers who enjoy its scenic vistas and sandstone rock formations. The peak is also where you will find the roots of the mountain's name.
"Several people ask us about why it is called House Mountain. We are not sure about an answer, but there is a legend about it." Blasius continued, "Settlers were moving into the area in the late 1700s. When they came through and saw the big peak, they said it was shaped like a house-top. So that's why we call it House Mountain. It is sort of shaped like a gable at the top when you see it in the distance."
The best vantage point to see the house shape is from the northwest towards Blaine. The silhouette of the mountain top can look like a roof with chimneys on each end.
"The people who come out here really discover a jewel. It really is close to Knoxville. From downtown, it only takes about 15 minutes to get here," said Blasius. "It is just a wonderful opportunity for people to get out in nature, see lots of different plants, wildflowers, birds, and butterflies. And there are just some really great views from the top."
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