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Wellness in the Outdoors: The University of Tennessee Outdoor Pursuits

If you’ve been looking for a new wellness routine but don’t know where to start, you have to check out the UT Outdoor Pursuits program. 

by Josh Elder


With the “new normal” affecting most aspects of our daily lives, it can be difficult to engage in something new or different. The barriers to entry have gotten higher than they once were just to learn a new skill, try new things, or simply go somewhere different. There are virtual options for learning new skills, and Zoom has really become an integral part of our lives for communication and education; but let’s be honest, we spend enough time on Zoom as it is. Fret not though, as there are still alternatives to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and engaging in the active pursuit of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Enter the University of Tennessee Outdoor Pursuits or UTOP for short.  

As a part of RecSports, UTOP is your go-to for on-campus resources in Outdoor Recreation. Offering guided outdoor adventure trips, extensive outdoor gear rentals, trip planning resources, bike shop, and even a rock-climbing wall, there are opportunities for everyone to learn, grow, stay well, and adventure. 

Photo of a student at the Vol Wall

Student at the Vol Wall

If you’ve heard about rock climbing from its introduction into the Olympics, but aren’t sure what it’s all about, check out the Vol Wall. Free to students, the Vol Wall climbing gym has tons of room to check out what climbing is all about. Free gear rentals and knowledgeable staff are available to get you started on your first climb or challenge the most experienced of climbers on campus.  

Short on time or just want to dabble in outdoor activities at your own pace? Check out the Outdoor Center to get an idea of what East Tennessee has to offer. Situated in the heart of outdoor recreation opportunities, the Knoxville area and its surrounding public lands offer something for everyone. In the Outdoor Center, you can rent gear for any type of outdoor adventure at an affordable price, get your bike serviced in the bike shop, or use our resource room to plan your own adventure.  

Photo of student biking on a trail

Student biking on a trail

The UTOP Adventure Trips program is a great way to engage your mind and body in something new in a safe environment. All trips are 100% beginner-friendly and can accommodate intermediates in all activities at the same time. Participants can expect transportation, gear, guides, and instruction with every trip. We even offer some local trips that have self transportation options. Maintaining physical and mental wellness during COVID times is extremely important, and an Adventure Trip is a great way to achieve both.  

Want to join in? It’s not too late, as we offer trips during fall, spring, and summer semesters. Check out our Adventure Trips Page for more information. 

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Josh Elder is the Outdoor Pursuits coordinator in the RecSports department. He has been with the University of Tennessee for three years now and has a masters in Recreation and Sport Management from UTK. When not in the office or teaching Outdoor Leadership for UTOP, he can be found on the many whitewater rivers and creeks throughout the southeastern United States. He loves his coffee black and is always willing to chat if you have a fresh cup in your hands. Visit Josh in the Outdoor Center, or reach him at jelder5@utk.edu.