Chattanooga’s Outdoor Attractions Draw Admirers From Far And Wide
Bordering the Tennessee River and tucked between the Cumberland Plateau and the Appalachian Mountains, Chattanooga attracts seasoned athletes and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. Offering breathtaking views and adrenaline-rush activities, the Scenic City keeps calling visitors back year after year.
(above) photo courtesy of Chattanooga CVB
Countless outdoor and travel magazines mention Chattanooga as a top destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. In 2018, Travel Pulse listed Chattanooga among its 30 cities for outdoor enthusiasts, describing it as “an outdoor lover’s dream spot for hiking, climbing, paddleboarding, and more.” In the article “The World’s 10 Best Destinations for Backpackers,” TripSavvy encourages adventure travelers to check out the Scenic City for its climbing, kayaking, and hang-gliding scene. And Bike magazine recently featured Chattanooga’s ever-expanding network of riding trails, calling the area a “mountain-bike utopia of the South.”
Parks and Greenways
Six state parks offering more than 50,000 acres of mountains, canyons, and streams surround the Chattanooga area. Booker T. Washington State Park, with 353 acres, and Harrison Bay State Park, with 1,200 acres, are located on scenic Lake Chickamauga. Near Apison, the 263-acre Red Clay State Historic Park is home to the Blue Hole Spring, among other natural attractions. On the western edge of Lookout Mountain sits Cloudland Canyon State Park, spanning 3,500 acres with waterfalls, wild caves, and cliffs – ideal for hiking and cave tours. Prentice Cooper State Forest, just a short drive from Chattanooga, offers 25,000 acres, including 35 miles of hiking trails, camping areas, rock climbing, and more. South Cumberland State Park is located within four Tennessee counties; the park has approximately 30,845 acres and some of the best hiking and backcountry camping in the region.
Chattanooga offers walking and biking paths throughout the city, including the popular Tennessee Riverwalk, which stretches 13 miles along the Tennessee River. Other parks and greenways include the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway, the North Chickamauga Creek Greenway, Wolftever Creek, and Enterprise South Nature Park.
(above) Ruby Falls ZIPStream, photo courtesy of Ruby Falls
Hiking and Mountain Biking
Ranging from easy to strenuous, there’s no shortage of hiking trails in the Chattanooga area. In fact, more than 50 trailheads can be reached within 30 minutes of downtown. Several trails lead hikers to beautiful waterfalls, including Glen Falls, Lula Falls, Falling Water Falls, and Cherokee and Hemlock Falls in Cloudland Canyon. And the scenic views at Sunset Rock (Lookout Mountain), Edward’s Point (Signal Mountain), and Snoopers Rock (Prentice Cooper State Forest) can’t be beat. Family-friendly hikes are found at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, while Stringers Ridge, Big Daddy Loop, and Mullins Cove Loop are popular destinations for trail running and iconic trail races.
Considered the crown jewel of Chattanooga mountain biking, Raccoon Mountain provides a network of intermediate and advanced trails only 15 minutes from downtown. Another favorite spot, Five Points boasts nearly 20 miles of well-groomed biking trails.
Rock Climbing, Caving, and Deep Water Soloing
According to Lonely Planet, the Scenic City has some of the best rock climbing in the country. Lookout Mountain’s highly sought-after Sunset Rock offers dozens of routes for traditional rock climbers. The Tennessee Wall – called the T-Wall by climbers – is known for its more than 600 documented routes. Just a short drive north from Chattanooga, Stone Fort (or Little Rock City) has garnered international attention for its sandstone and primo lines. It’s also the site of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series.
Caving enthusiasts have ample real estate to explore, as there are more than 7,000 caves surrounding Chattanooga. Raccoon Mountain Caverns, home to Tennessee’s highest rated cave, has over five and a half miles of underground passageways. A Chattanooga gem, Ruby Falls is a 145-foot waterfall beneath the surface of Lookout Mountain.
Lake Nickajack is a hotspot for deep water soloing, a favorite activity during the sizzling summer months. The lake provides a 50-foot limestone cliff that towers over the deep water below. Foster Falls, a 45-minute drive from Chattanooga, features a 60-foot waterfall perfect for a deep water soloing trip.
(above) Ocoee White Water Rafting, photo courtesy of Chattanooga CVB
Water and Air Adventures
The Tennessee River Blueway snakes through Chattanooga from Chickamauga Dam to Nickajack Dam. Easily accessible from boat launches along the river, the gorgeous water is just waiting to be navigated via kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. With miles of challenging class III and IV rapids, the Ocoee River – only an hour from Chattanooga – is a premier destination for whitewater rafting. Avid fishermen will enjoy the selection at Chickamauga Lake, which claims the title of second-best bass fishing lake in the U.S. by Bassmaster magazine.
Adventure in Chattanooga isn’t limited to the ground. Since 1978, Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding has been offering tandem flights and flight training for thrill seekers, who are rewarded with a bird’s-eye view of the valleys below. Tandem skydiving is offered at Chattanooga Skydiving Company, located in the stunning Sequatchie Valley.