72,000 Acres of ATV and UTV Paradise
While the southwestern United States may have a reputation as the center of the off-road universe, there are plenty of amazing riding locations east of the Mississippi that offer endless fun for ATV and UTV enthusiasts. Windrock Park, near Oliver Springs, Tenn., is a privately owned off-road park that caters not only to ATV and UTV riders, but also motorcyclists, 4×4 truck drivers and mountain bikers.
Nestled about 45 minutes north of Knoxville, Windrock Park consists of over 300 miles of trails snaking through 72,000 acres of hilly terrain. Yes, you read that right; 72,000 ares. The park is owned and operated by The Coal Creek Company, originally a mining and manufacturing company founded in 1872. Its subsidiary, Windrock Properties, LLC., actively manages the trail system and oversees the use and development of the park’s elaborate camping facilities.
Most of the park is developed on rugged hilly terrain. At the base of the mountain you’ll find the Windrock General Store and a day use parking area. The General Store is the place to go for information about the park, trail maps, snacks and souvenirs. In the event you wreck your machine, they’ve got a fleet of UTVs available to rent so your long awaited vacation doesn’t have to be ruined.
Immediately behind the General Store is the main entrance and exit to the trail system. While the majority of the trails are on and around the mountain, you don’t always feel like you’re riding on a hill. Many mountainous riding areas can feel a tad claustrophobic where there is a bluff on one side and a cliff on the other. That’s not the case at Windrock. There definitely are some areas where a wrong turn could leave you tumbling of the mountain, but most of the trails give you plenty of room to open it up without an immediate threat of going over the edge. That’s also helpful as the trails are non-directional so you will more than likely encounter some traffic heading in the opposite direction.
A couple of popular destinations just a short ride from the General Store are the overlook and the wind farm. From up top you can get a bird’s eye view of the campground and a few nearby towns. Just a short ride away is a wind farm featuring over 20 massive windmills used to create energy. Although the immediate area beneath the windmills is closed, you can still get pretty close to these massive power generators.
Rock is in the name and with good reason. There are no shortage of rocks on the trails here, so under-vehicle protection is imperative. Some of the connecting roads are relatively smooth and allow for a faster pace, but most of the trails will keep you at a modest speed. That seems to be just fine for the throngs of people who visit the park every year, many of whom ride in large groups and caravan down the trail together.
Something else at Windrock that you usually aren’t privy to out west are water crossings. A number of streams flow through the Windrock property directly across the trail. The streams offer a bit of relief from the heat and definitely enhance the scenery. Due to environmental restrictions, most riding areas out west frown upon riding in streams and while we absolutely agree with being good stewards of the environment, the less scrupulous constraints at Windrock add to the overall experience.
One really unique aspect of Windrock Park is the designated event area called Windrock Hollow. It features a covered pavilion, open grass for vendors or concerts, mud bog, drag strip and even an obstacle course called the Windrock Challenge. The park hosts its own jamboree twice a year (Spring and Fall) and thousands of spectators cram the Hollow to watch the excitement. If you’re hoping to make a pass through the mud bog on any given weekend, unfortunately the Hollow is only open for jamborees and events. The good news is, you can rent it out for your own personal shindig and play in the mud all that you want. We were able to see several motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs make their way through the Windrock Challenge and it’s definitely no walk in the park. It features tires and boulders of varying sizes, large logs and even a teeter totter.
If you’re planning on staying for a while, the Windrock Campground is literally a home away from home. From remote dry camping to cozy deluxe cabins, you can stay and play at Windrock regardless of the size of your budget. The entire campground sits on 259 acres and features 17 regular and deluxe cabins, 39 full hookup RV sites and over 100 primitive camping sites. Two bath houses serve the RV and primitive camping areas while the cabins are available in a variety of configurations, accommodating from four to nine people. Windrock officials informed us they are continuing to develop the campground and plan to convert the smaller single-room cabins into mini deluxe cabins and have also begun construction on more deluxe cabins along the road into the park.
Because Windrock is a privately owned facility, every rider must acquire a use permit, available for purchase at the General Store. They range in price from $17 for a single day permit up to $88 for an adult annual permit. The park also has a strict no alcohol policy on the trails, which they actually do a good job of enforcing. That might frustrate some, but we appreciate the commitment to safety and this is one easy way to eliminate a lot of risk.
Windrock also holds a number of events throughout the year, including its own Spring and Fall jamboree. The jamborees attracts upwards of 6,000 people each year and events range from poker runs and mud bogs to drag races, raffles and even a short cross country race. The price of admission is just $15 (in addition to your trail use permit) and gets you access to all the festivities, vendor row and even a free bonfire cookout.
During our visit we met folks from all over the east coast and as far away as Michigan. More than 100,000 people passed through the gates in 2015 and as more and more people learn about this ATV paradise, we can only expect that number to increase dramatically. If you’ve never made it to Windrock, we strongly recommend adding it to your “must visit” list of riding areas. Get it on the calendar, book far in advance and plan on spending several days exploring the area. You’ll need it just to scratch the surface of this amazing place.