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From outdoor adventure to art to incredible dining, Chattanooga’s got it all. Our job? Curating the city’s array of events and attractions so you can get the most out of your visit. (Of course you can always stay longer. We won’t mind.)

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6 Best Hikes on Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain rises above Chattanooga like a sleeping giant. Two rock outcroppings, Point Park and Sunset Rock serve as perfect destinations for viewing the local landscape.

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6 Best Hikes on Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain rises above Chattanooga like a sleeping giant. Two rock outcroppings, Point Park and Sunset Rock serve as perfect destinations for viewing the local landscape. A climb to these destinations rewards you with views of Georgia and North Carolina mountains, Watts Bar’s cooling towers, Chickamauga Dam, the city of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River; not to mention Signal, Elder, and Raccoon Mountains, the towns of Tiftonia and Lookout Valley and the Chattanooga Nature Center and Arboretum. RootsRated offers six ways to get to the top.

3 Short and Easy Options:

Start at the upper or lower parking lot of historic Cravens House . This is the only remaining Civil War-era structure on the mountain, and it was used as a headquarters by both the Union and Confederate armies. Although it was nearly leveled during the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Cravens rebuilt it in its original form in 1866. The 3 easy trails from here are only slightly technical and all involve stairs.

1. Take the trail to the right out of the back of the upper parking lot and take the left option to Point Park when the trail splits. This trail heads gradually up, passing under a huge survivor tree branch before meeting another trail. If you turn left, you will head around to the front of the bluff and reach metal stairs that will take you to Point Park. You can’t enter the park without paying a fee, but you can enjoy the views from the museum and overlook (approx. 2.2 miles round trip).

2. If you go right toward Sunset Rock when the trail splits, you will continue around the base of the bluff of Lookout Mountain under some climbing routes and past some sweeping views of the valley to a split in the trail with rock stones that veers to the left. Follow this option and you will come out on top of Sunset Rock. You can return to Craven’s House by backtracking the way you’ve come (approx. 2.5 miles round trip).

3. For a slightly harder and longer option, hike down from Sunset Rock, turn left at the trail and take the next right turn down from the bluff. This is the Gum Springs trail and it is a fairly steep descent, but it is only about 1/2 mile long. When the Gum Springs trail ends, turn right on the Truck Trail and stay on it for less than .2 miles until it splits. Take the right and travel through rocks cut for an old railroad. Watch for the Rifle Pits Trail, a singletrack, somewhat technical but not terribly steep option, which branches off to the right. Continue on when the trail branches again and you will end up in the upper parking lot of Cravens House (approx. 3 miles).

3 Hard and Beautiful options:

These options are each over 10 miles and combine challenging climbs and descents, technical terrain, as well as runnable and extremely scenic sections.

1. Park outside the entrance to Chattanooga Nature Center and Arboretum, and making a short but steep climb via the Kiddie Trail, follow the Skyuka Trail south along the forested slopes to Skyuka Spring, one of the most beautiful places on the mountain. When you reach the overlook to the spring, continue on the John Smartt Trail as it ascends 2 miles to the Bluff Trail. Stay on the main trail as it rolls along the base of the bluff for 2 1/2 miles offering beautiful views of the valley below. Pass the left Gum Springs Trailhead and take the next right trail and climb up to Sunset Rock to take in the views. Descend most quickly by coming down from Sunset Rock, turning left and then taking the next right on Gum Springs Trail. When the trail T’s into a wider “road”, turn right and take the next left to Lower Gum Springs Trail. Descends until the trail T’s and turn right. Continue right past two left turn options and a small trail to the right with a No Horses sign. When you reach the sign that directs you to the Nature Center, turn left and descend the steep trail you hiked earlier (approx. 11 miles).

2. When you come off of Sunset Rock, you can make the route longer by turning right and following the Bluff Trail around to either climb up to Point Park, per the signs, or you can descend to Cravens House. If you descend, take the trail until there is an option to turn left onto Rifle Pits Trail. Follow this technical trail to the old railroad bed (the Guild Trail) and continue left when the trail branches. After less than .2 miles, turn right onto the single track trail (Lower Gum Springs). Descend until the trail Ts and turn right. Continue right past two left turn options and a small trail to the right with a No Horses sign. When you reach the sign that directs you to the Nature Center, turn left and descend the steep trail you hiked earlier (approx. 12.5 miles).

3. You can also come off of the steps to Point Park and turn right instead of returning to the branch in the trail just over half a mile away. A longer route will take you around the front of Lookout Mountain’s brow. Look for the option to turn left and begin a descent. When the trail branches again, take the left option. You’ll end up at the back of the Craven’s House parking lot. Continue on this trail along the back of the parking lot. When the trail branches to the left, stay on the main trail. This is Rifle Pits Trail. Follow this technical trail to the old railroad bed (the Guild Trail) and continue left when the trail branches. After less than .2 miles, turn right onto the single track trail (Lower Gum Springs). Descend until the trail Ts and turn right. Continue right past two left turn options and a small trail to the right with a No Horses sign. When you reach the sign that directs you to the Nature Center, turn left and descend the steep trail you hiked earlier. You’ll return to the parking lot at the Kiddie Trailhead (approx. 13.5 miles).

Depending on your desire and fitness level, these routes will certainly please you. They’ll probably challenge you as well, and the views from the top of Lookout are definitely worth the trip.

Written by Kris Whorton for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Jeff Gunn

view of a landscape and a mountain with waterfalls in the middle

4 Wonderful Waterfalls Near Chattanooga

There are few things more splendorous than waterfalls. Sure, some people might prefer sweeping panoramas from the summit of some high peak, and others might prefer being socked in by thick rhododendron tunnels, but surely everyone can appreciate a good waterfall. Thankfully, the Chattanooga area happens to be home to tons of them. Here are four of our favorites.

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4 Wonderful Waterfalls Near Chattanooga

There are few things more splendorous than waterfalls. Sure, some people might prefer sweeping panoramas from the summit of some high peak, and others might prefer being socked in by thick rhododendron tunnels, but surely everyone can appreciate a good waterfall. Thankfully, the Chattanooga area happens to be home to tons of them. Here are four of our favorites.

1. Falling Water Falls

Falling Water Falls moves a LOT of water after a major rain event. Jeff Bartlett
Originating on Signal Mountain, Falling Water Falls is easily the most accessible waterfall in the area, with only a short ¼ mile walk out to the overlook. Located within a 136-acre, State of Tennessee Natural Area, this waterfall—named for Little Falling Water Creek that feeds it—drops 110 feet from this part of the Cumberland Plateau into Falling Water Gorge. Truth be told, the majesty of Falling Water Falls is seldom appreciated because nearly everyone who sees it does so from the sandstone cap it flows over. Even though the majority of the acreage lies below in Soddy Daisy, few venture to view the falls from there.

2. Laurel Falls

Imagine beautifully contoured trails following cool, deep coves that lead you on a journey past blue holes, historic ruins, roaring waterfalls and breathtaking overlooks. Chris M Morris
Just a short drive to Dayton, Tennessee, the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area is a 2,259-acre swath of land home to a number of wonderful water features. This breathtaking “pocket wilderness” contains four fast-flowing creeks, with three of them flowing into Richland Creek . As with any large, forested area that you’re not familiar with, it’s best to consult—and carry—a map with you on your first visit, since the trail takes an almost-270-degree fork to the right to get to Laurel Falls. (The continuation, or left-hand fork, takes you to Snow Falls ).

Miles apart, Falling Water Falls, and Laurel and Snow Falls, all originate atop Walden Ridge. The 8-mile out-and-back hike to take in the 80-foot cascade of Laurel Falls is well worth the “moderate to difficult” effort, especially following a few days of rain. The biggest plus of this trip is that you’ll hike to the base of the falls, providing you the chance to enjoy the entire width and height of this large waterfall. Plan on getting wet from the copious spray created by the volume of water splashing down from above. (Side Note: the entire Laurel-Snow Natural Area comes alive during the spring wildflower season).

3. Cherokee Falls

Located in atop Lookout Mountain in Cloudland Canyon State Park, Cherokee Falls is a breathtaking 60-foot fall that plunges into deep pool at the bottom. The grandeur of the gorge that dissects the 3,485-acre state park is a product of Sitton Gulch Creek—the source of the 60-foot Cherokee Falls. The best way to experience Cherokee Falls is by hiking the Waterfall Trail , which includes a side trip to nearby Hemlock Falls and is up there as one of the best hikes near Chattanooga.

4. DeSoto Falls

Soaking in the views of one of Alabama’s tallest waterfalls. Jake Wheeler
On the western brow of Lookout Mountain, DeSoto Falls is a 104-foot waterfall that carves out a pathway through the sandstone bowl surrounding it and then smacks the pool below with loud, erratic claps reminiscent of a giant natural shower. To get to the bottom of the falls requires some rugged scrambling down a steep trail, but reaching the beach below is a great reward, as you can skip rocks, snap photos, and even take a dip.

Written by Jeff Bartlett for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com

Featured image provided by Jake Wheeler

back view of a woman with a backpack looking to the nature

7 Beautiful Backpacking Getaways Near Chattanooga

The Edwin Hotel would like to introduce you to 7 Beautiful Backpacking Getaways Near Chattanooga. They call us the Scenic City for a reason.

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7 Beautiful Backpacking Getaways Near Chattanooga

The Edwin Hotel would like to introduce you to 7 Beautiful Backpacking Getaways Near Chattanooga. They call us the Scenic City for a reason.

Situated at the southern terminus of the Appalachian chain, with easy access to the Appalachian Trail, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the densely-wooded mountains of North Georgia, Chattanooga is home to an amazing selection of backpacking options within a 3 hour drive. Below is just a quick glance at some of the best options, as recommended by Rock/Creek employee (and backpacking enthusiast) Josh Legg. Happy Trails!

1. Prentice Cooper State Forest

The closest backpacking option to the city itself is 6,000-acre Prentice Cooper State Forest. Just twenty-five minutes from downtown, in Marion County, this sprawling state forest offeres 35 miles of hiking trails—including sections of the Cumberland Trail—backcountry sites, and also a car campground for less adventurous overnighters. Home to exceptional views of the Tennessee River Gorge as well as plenty of other interesting natural features like Mullens Cove, Indian Rockhouse, and the Pot Point Boulders, Prentice Cooper is a great place to get away from it all without having to drive too far. Permits are required for camping along the CT.

2. Laurel Snow State Natural Area

A campsite in Laurel-Snow State Natural Area. Jake Wheeler
Located about 45 minutes from Chattanooga, in Dayton, Laurel Snow is a 2,000-acre natural area home to steep gorges, virgin hardwood forests, plunging waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and some of the best sections of the Cumberland Trail (not to mention some pretty eerie ghost stories). There are three prime spots to set up camp in this state natural area: the Henderson Creek Campsite at Mile 1.8 from the trailhead, Laurel Creek Campsite 0.9 miles on Laurel Falls spur, and Morgan Creek Campsite 2.4 miles on the Snow Falls spur trail. Registration is required for all of these sites.

3. South Cumberland State Park

Comprised of roughly 25,000 acres and spread out over the boundaries of no less than four Tennessee counties, South Cumberland State Park is a hiking and backpacking mecca in the Southeast. The famous Fiery Gizzard Trail (a 12.5 mile point to point)—considered by Backpacker Magazine to be one of the top 25 trails in the country—slices through the park, and there are also over 100 backcountry campsites littered throughout the area. Home to stellar waterfalls, spectacular views from Raven’s Point, and gorgeous cliff-lines that climbers flock to from far and wide, this area is an amazing place to go backpacking just an hour from Chattanooga.

4. Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Ranger Falls in Savage Gulf State Natural Area. Jeff Bartlett
With over 50 miles of trails stretched over 15,590 acres of pristine Cumberland Plateau wilderness, Savage Gulf is one of Tennessee’s most rugged and beautiful wilderness areas. Depending on which entrance you use, driving distance is approximately one hour to an hour and a half from Chattanooga. You can access from outside Whitwell or near Beersheba Springs in Grundy and Sequatchie Counties. The Stone Door’s striking cliff walls and stairs, the spectacular views along the rim trails, the rough terrain along the creeks and waterfalls in the bottom of the gulf, and the picturesque Hobbs Cabin make any of the trails worthwhile, and there are plenty of backcountry sites to choose from.

5. Jacks River Falls

Located in the heart of Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness, about an hour and half from Chattanooga, the Jacks River Falls Trail is a 9-mile route that features a number of creek crossings and showcases some of the North Georgia backcountry’s most spectacular features. With a number of swimming holes along the way, as well as some great cliff jumping at the final Jacks River Falls terminus, this trail makes for an especially awesome trip during the summer months. You’ll find plenty of campsites, all on a first-come, first-serve basis, that are close to the river and in the forest.

6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the tallest point in Tennessee. Daniel Thornton
Only two hours from Chattanooga, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, and it’s home to countless world-class backpacking trails and camping opportunities. Whether you choose to traverse the 71 miles of Appalachian Trail that weave through the park, or take on the 24-mile Standing Indian Loop, or hike any of the other 900 miles of trails in the park, you’re sure to find something to suit your fancy in the Smokies. Permits are required everywhere in the park.

7. Joyce Kilmer Memorial-Slick Rock Wilderness Area

The old-growth forests of Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Nicholas A. Tonelli
Close to three hours from Chattanooga, in North Carolina, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a place known for its gorgeous old growth forests dominated by yellow poplar, oak, basswood, beech, and sycamore trees, some of which are over 400-years old. In addition to awe-inspiring trees, this area boasts one of the toughest trails in the country in the Slickrock Creek Trail, a 13-mile trail with roughly 4,000 feet of total elevation gain and 13 stream crossings. Camping is permitted anywhere in the wilderness area, using Leave No Trace principles. The added bonus of this amazing place it that it’s not nearly as crowded as the nearby Smokies.

Written by Kris Whorton for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com

Featured image provided by Andrew Kornylak