It’s not hard to find a travel magazine or blog that hails the Scenic City as a top destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. In 2019, Investor Place ranked Chattanooga as one of the top 10 Best Small Cities to Visit citing its array of outdoor activities, and Livability notes the city contains an ideal landscape for recreation options. Not to mention, the city has been twice voted the Best Town Ever by Outside magazine.
With rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, and biking galore, it’s no wonder adventurers love Chattanooga. It’s estimated that 59% of Chattanoogans participated in outdoor recreation in some form over the last year. Thrive Regional Partnership estimates that outdoor recreation in Tennessee generates roughly $1.4 billion on an annual basis.
Parks and Greenways
Residents and visitors have easy access to six state parks around the Chattanooga area that collectively encompass over 50,000 acres of mountains, streams, rivers, canyons, and a plethora of facilities and amenities. Harrison Bay State Park boasts 1,200 acres and is located on Lake Chickamauga, while Booker T. Washington State Park provides 353 acres for visitors to explore. Apison is home to the 263-acre Red Clay State Historic Park and Blue Hole Spring, and to the southwest Cloudland Canyon State Park is ideal for hiking and cave tours. This Georgia state park spans 3,500 acres and features numerous waterfalls and wild caves. A short drive away is Prentice Cooper State Forest with its 25,000 acres, 35 miles of hiking trails, and access to rock climbing, camping, and more. Another outdoor expanse, South Cumberland State Park is located in Grundy, Franklin, Marion, and Sequatchie counties and offers plenty of options for hiking, backpacking, and climbing in its
For those who prefer greenways and paved paths, there are still plenty of options. Among crowd favorites is the Tennessee Riverwalk. This network of walking trails hugs the banks of the Tennessee River and stretches for 13 miles. Additional greenways and parks include the North Chickamauga Creek Greenway, the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway, Wolftever Creek, and Enterprise South Nature Park.
Hiking and Mountain Biking
In addition to the offerings of local and state parks, there are plenty of independent trails throughout Chattanooga that are great for hiking and mountain biking. These trails can provide easy recreation options or a true challenge. Boasting over 50 trailheads within 30 minutes of downtown, there’s always something new to try.
For hikes that are fun for the whole family, try the Cravens House atop Lookout Mountain, Moccasin Bend’s Blue Blazes Trail, Greenway Farm, Glen Falls Trail, or one of the many trails at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center. These trails are not strenuous, easy to access and navigate, and still have their fair share of beautiful characteristics.
Trail runners enjoy the Big Daddy Loop on Lookout Mountain, Stringers Ridge located in NorthShore, and Mullens Cave Loop at Prentice Cooper State Forest. Each year, several trail races take place along these paths.
For mountain biking, Raccoon Mountain is easily a crowd favorite and is only 15 minutes away from downtown Chattanooga. With nearly 30 miles of intermediate and advanced single tracks, this area is the crown jewel of biking for many enthusiasts in the area. Located near Cloudland Canyon State Park is yet another popular spot, Five Points, which boasts roughly 20 miles of manicured trails and rivals Raccoon Mountain for some locals.
If you’re looking for a scenic activity with exceptional views, try visiting one of the area’s many waterfalls including Lula Falls, Glen Falls, Falling Water Falls, and the Cherokee and Hemlock Falls in Cloudland Canyon. Favorites include Lookout Mountain’s Sunset Rock, Signal Mountain’s Edward’s Point, and Snoopers Rock at Prentice Cooper State Forest.