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How to Max Your Days in Chattanooga: The Ultimate Waterfall Tour

Savage Gulf

This summer, The North Face and Rock/Creek challenge you to #MaxYourDays. We polled our staff and friends and came up with a few amazing itineraries to inspire you to get the most out of these long summer days. In this third and final edition, we go from catching an amazing sunrise, to exploring some of the surrounding area’s most beautiful waterfalls on a mini-road trip loop, to ending the day with a golden hour picnic atop one of the city’s most famous promontories. Don’t forget to show us how you #MaxYourDays with the form below, and you could win a Homestead Shelter from The North Face and Rock/Creek!

There’s no shortage of adventurous ways to spend a day in Chattanooga. Whether it’s exploring the city’s many miles of mountainous trails, or scaling its famous sandstone cliff bands and boulders, the Scenic City has a lot to offer adventure-minded folks. In this itinerary, we’ll take you on a tour of some of the surrounding area’s finest waterfalls. Beginning and ending in Chattanooga, this mini-road trip will take you to upwards of 7 awesome waterfalls on one manageable loop. Total drive time will be around 4.5 hours, so be sure to have some solid playlists at the ready, and get pumped for one of the best waterfall tours in the area.

The route in full.
The route in full.

Google Maps

6:00am:

We’ve talked about the sunrises at Signal Point before, and we’ll talk about them again. Because they’re that good! Brew a cup of coffee and then head up to Signal Point Park to watch as the sun gradually lights up the city to looker’s left. Taking in this inspiring view will be the perfect way to set the stage for what will be a long, adventurous day.

8:00am

Taking in the views of Laurel Falls. Bryson Moore
Taking in the views of Laurel Falls.
Bryson Moore

After driving an hour north along Highway 27 through Soddy Daisy and towards Dayton, Tennessee, it’s time to hop out of the car and explore your first waterfall of the day at Laurel-Snow State Natural Area. To be frank, the hike to 80-foot Laurel Falls will take some time. It’s about 2.4-miles from the trailhead to the falls, and then you’ll have to retrace your steps back, so total hike time will be about 2-hours. But it will be totally worth it! Laurel Falls is an 80-foot beauty that comes roaring through a thin sandstone chute before spilling onto a rocky bottom below.

11:00am

View from above, Fall Creek Falls.
View from above, Fall Creek Falls.

Aaron Hairston

After your two-hour hike at Laurel-Snow, and another hour’s worth of driving northwest, you’ll pull into Tennessee’s largest and most visited state park, Fall Creek Falls. This park is simply loaded with waterfalls, and there are plenty of easy trails from which to take it all in. The centerpiece namesake Fall Creek Falls is a giant 256-foot fall that’s considered the tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Farther down the Woodland Trail towards the nature center, Cane Creek Falls and Rockhouse Falls both come crashing down into the same expansive plunge pool below, making for quite the photo op.

2:00pm

After having lunch at the Fall Creek Falls overlook, drive 40 minutes south towards Savage Gulf State Natural Area, where you’ll once again have your pick of a number of different falls to explore. The Greeter Falls Trail is one of the best waterfall hikes in Tennessee, leading to no less than three waterfalls on an easy 1.5-mile loop: Upper Greeter Falls, Lower Greeter Falls, and Boardtree Falls. The highlight is Lower Greeter, an 80-foot free flowing waterfall that drops into a deep emerald plunge pool below.

4:00pm

Foster Falls from below. Jake Wheeler
Foster Falls from below.
Jake Wheeler

The final stop on this waterfall tour takes you to one of the most beautiful (and most popular) waterfalls in Tennessee: Foster Falls. This 60-foot plunge waterfall drops into a large punchbowl pool below. There are multiple overlooks from above the falls, but we highly suggest taking the trail down a steep set of stairs to reach the base below. If you’re feeling up to it, this is a fantastic place to take a bone-chilling, yet remarkably refreshing summertime dip.

7:00pm

Watching the sunset from Sunset Rock. Jake Wheeler
Watching the sunset from Sunset Rock.
Jake Wheeler

After one final 50-minute leg of driving, you’ll arrive back in Chattanooga, but it won’t quite be time to call it a day. Instead, grab some picnic supplies—a baguette, apples, cheese, and summer sausage—and head to one of Chattanooga’s most iconic promontories to catch the sunset. Take in the sweeping view Lookout Valley and watch as the sun slowly drops behind the mountains, reveling in the fact that it was a day well-lived.

Originally written by RootsRated for Rock/Creek.

Featured image provided by Jeff Bartlett