In these mountains you’ll find picturesque creeks, pools, waterfalls, and lush views. Just a few miles away is a city with equally dreamy and secluded treasures. Chattanooga, Tennessee, is that city. And its downtown is only a 15-minute drive to prime mountain hiking.
Locals and visitors to Chattanooga are also fortunate to find themselves amidst so many local breweries, coffee roasters, green ways, and artists. The combination offers a wealth of activities for families and friends from out of town. Consider this everyone’s “to do” list between meals during the holidays.
1. WALNUT STREET BRIDGE
The Walnut Street pedestrian bridge is the perfect way to acquaint someone with Chattanooga. On a weekend, the bustle of the city is alive on the pedestrian bridge. Stop into some of the boutiques, galleries, and book and record stores on the north side of the bridge (great for Christmas shopping). Or, on the south side, take a stroll through the sculpture garden and grab a cup of hot chocolate or coffee at Rembrandts. The coffee roaster is open to the public and gives free demonstrations of the coffee roasting process.
2. HIKE AND PICNIC ON STRINGERS RIDGE
Stringers Ridge is a great trail for getting a quick nature fix in between work appointments or social engagements. Located in the heart of North Shore, it’s just a five-minute drive from downtown. The trail up to the view is wide and clear. This is a great spot to take any family that might not be able to handle longer, more strenuous trails. Bring a picnic basket and follow the Cherokee Trail to the deck with a view of the city framed by the surrounding ridge.
3. THE RIVERWALK AND FRY CENTER
Become familiar with the biodiversity along the riverfront when biking the 10 miles of paved pathway that make up the Chattanooga Greenway. Riders take a path parallel to rowers and paddler and over quaint bridges. Keep an eye out for turtles and beavers in the marshy middle segment of the greenway. The trail finishes at the Hubert Fry Center, which features three playgrounds, five piers where blue heron frequently perch, and a pavilion with a fireplace. If you don’t have enough bikes for your whole crew, you can rent them for $8 an hour. High Street in the Arts District has a bike rental hot spot and access to the Riverwalk, too.
UPDATE: Rock/Creek Rentals & Outpost lives here. Details: rockcreek.com/rentals
4. HIKE FROM CRAVENS HOUSE TO SUNSET ROCK
You can get from Cravens House to Sunset Rock a few different ways. Take the Mountain Beautiful Trail for a steeper more strenuous hike, or take a right on the Bluff Trail for a gentler approach. The main event, Sunset Rock, feels like the set of a yoga video. Sunset Rock’s sweeping views of the city and mountains are inspiring. Try to time your return to Cravens House around dusk to get the best view of the city lights at night.
5. THE HUNTER MUSEUM
The Hunter Museum showcases a permanent collection of American art from the colonial period to present day. There’s a studio glass section and temporary exhibits of the work of local artists as well.
6. THE AQUARIUM
If you have any interest in watching a stingray do battle with a giant sea turtle, head to the Chattanooga Aquarium at 2 p.m. There you’ll come face to face with sharks, puffer fish, otters, and spiny sea dragons. The aquarium is also where you can learn about the 200-pound sturgeons and other river monsters that make their home in the Tennessee River. With the purchase of an aquarium ticket you get a discount on Chattanooga Imax movies. Pair the fish and a flick and you’ll have the making of a great day indoors.
7. HIGH POINT
High Point Climbing Gym caters to people of all skill levels. There are classes for on bouldering, top rope climbing, and lead climbing. There’s net climbing and has colorful puzzles in the Kids’ Zone. Adult can tromp around the miniature city, imagining themselves as Godzilla, or head to the weight room where cardio machines, yoga mats and spin bikes await use. The latter is a good option for your visiting gym-rat relative who wants to maintain their workout routine while in town.
8. SIGNAL POINT
The Signal Point Trail has everything a trail should have. The immediate payoff just below the parking lot is a shockingly beautiful view of the protected land of the Tennessee River Gorge and Prentice Cooper State Park. It’s a one-mile hike to the Julia Falls Overlook, where you’ll frequently see hawks swooping down into the valley. From there hikers can head back to the parking lot or continue on to Rainbow Lake, a dam turned into a waterfall, and a piney creek.
Originally written by RootsRated for Rock/Creek.