Knoxville is right next to "the great outdoors." But, even so, many are not sure precisely how to get there. Enter: RootsRated, a startup website dedicated to providing people with the best outdoor experiences.
Founded in the summer of 2012 by Fynn Glover, RootsRated utilizes the knowledge of local specialty retail stores like Knoxville's own River Sports Outfitters to curate the very best hikes, climbs, rides, trail runs, paddling routes and more.
Jake Wheeler, a 2013 UT graduate in graphic design and the creative director at RootsRated, said he sees himself as a liaison between people and what they'd love to do outside.
"We're trying to solve a problem," said Wheeler. "One of the hardest things to do, wherever you are, is to find somewhere to get outside. It might take tons of Yelp reviews and searching through Google, and by the end of that process you're overwhelmed and don't even want to go outside anymore.
"We're really trying to harness the expertise of the outdoor industry in the most dead-simple way possible."
Beyond providing access to outdoor experiences, RootsRated also connects the user to the best local eateries. Presently, RootsRated is active in 55 U.S. cities, with 3,330 outdoor destinations curated by 518 local experts across the country. RootsRated is now in the process of acquiring brand sponsorship for each city. To date, the company has arranged sponsorships for 13 cities, including Knoxville.
Chaco makes Knoxville's guide to the outdoors possible.
Unlike most review sites, RootsRated does not use crowd-sourced reviews.
"Specialty retailers such as River Sports are really the town centers for local outdoor knowledge," said Wheeler. "We hire a writer and a photographer, who are introduced to the specialty retailer store. They talk with the representatives of the store, and are given insider info on all of the best locales for outdoor recreation. The writer and photographer then spend a few months trying all of these experiences, writing about each one for the website."
This relationship is mutually beneficial. RootsRated gets content for their website; the outdoor shop gains visibility.
Laura Jones, general manager at River Sports Outfitters, said her store's work with RootsRated has boosted marketing and social media.
"What's really cool about RootsRated is that they are able to showcase a lot of different areas of Knoxville that a local would know about, but visitors who are coming to the Smokies or coming through Knoxville would not," said Jones. "Then these people will bring their business to River Sports. If you were to go to a Knoxville tourism site, it would mention World's Fair Park, the nature center, and how we're 40 minutes from the Smokies. It wouldn't mention the 40-mile trail running site, the climbing center, and the hundreds of miles of blueway within Knoxville.
"RootsRated gets down to the nitty-gritty, to the local level. That's what it's all about."
After creating the outdoor guides for RootsRated, the writer-photographer team maintains an ongoing blog about each city's outdoor community.
"After the team fleshes out the destinations for each city, they'll write a continuing story about the location," Wheeler said. "That way there's a local writer on the ground. It's very important to have that network of authenticity."
This April, the RootsRated team will also be releasing a "native app."
"Our mission can be summed up in three words: simple, local and useful," said Wheeler. "I love being able to connect people to these experiences. When you're in college, you have the ability to go out and experience the world on your own time.
"Get outside and seize the day."
To find your own adventure, visit rootsrated.com