Hiking near Chattanooga

11 Amazing Places to Go Hiking near Chattanooga

When someone hears the word “hiking,” we all think of a person with a backpack. However, that doesn’t have to be the only way to enjoy these outdoor adventures. If you don’t want to go anywhere far, why not explore the Tennessee River and pick up a few miles of hiking trails nearby. We’ve rounded up 11 of the best locations to do just that in the Chattanooga area.

1.    Riverfront Trail

You don’t have to go far to see some beautiful natural scenery in Chattanooga. The Riverfront Trail is where many of the most beautiful picturesque scenes around town are located. If you’re looking to get out into nature for a little while, this might be your best bet. This 5.7-mile trail starts at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, heads down to the shipwrecks at Presque Isle Park, and then finishes up at the riverfront. The trail passes through a gorge, so it’s safe to hike alone or with a smaller group.

The trails are named after the Riverfront Park, which is right next to the trail. The Riverfront Trail has a few options for completing the entire walk, including taking a jogging path through Presque Isle Park and a section around Tunnel Hill. The Riverfront Trail was built in 1989 and has been improved over the years. Crews are currently working on making a safe pedestrian bridge over the Tennessee River. Visit the Riverfront Trail’s official website to learn more about the different segments of the trail.

2.    Tunnel Hill

After you’ve been enjoying the many parks and trails in the Chattanooga area, take a break at Tunnel Hill. Not only is Tunnel Hill a scenic and challenging place to visit, but it also is a great place to take a hike with a group. Tunnel Hill is a moderate hike with a portion that follows the road. The best times to hike this trail are early morning, before 10 a.m., and early afternoon.

Tunnel Hill is located on Signal Mountain, which is a stunning geological site in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is also one of the few places in the world where mountains meet the sea. When you’re hiking at Tunnel Hill, you’ll see several other formations, including Pinnacle Mountain, Falling Rock, Deep Gap, Fish Gap, Bleached Cheer, and many more. Visit Tunnel Hill’s official website to learn more about the trails.

3.    McGehee Falls

Take a rest, eat a snack, and then head up to McGehee Falls. The view from the top is breathtaking and you’ll be glad you set aside time for this hike. McGehee Falls is located in North Georgia, about 45 minutes from Chattanooga. It’s a little hard to get to the falls, but that’s the charm of the hike.

At the top, you’ll see truly unique rock formations. The hike is a 1.8-mile loop, with moderate difficulty. You can take the steep trail, or if you prefer a less strenuous experience, a gravel path is available. The hike is moderately popular, so plan on it taking a few hours to get to the top.

4.    Lookout Mountain

Just one mile from Chattanooga, you can reach the highest point in the region at Lookout Mountain. While there are several trails to choose from to reach the summit, we recommend the popular Quarry Trail. This trail is paved and is paved up to the lookout.

Be aware, that this is a fairly difficult trail, so bring plenty of water and be careful of snakes and alligators. Lookout Mountain is an incredibly beautiful and easy-to-hike destination that is truly worth the hike.

5.    Lookout Mountain Battlefield

The former site of the first battle of the Civil War is located in Lookout Mountain and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The battlefield isn’t very hard to get to but is worth visiting if you enjoy historical sites.

The Lookout Mountain Battlefield is located near two streams. One of the streams, known as Old Neely’s Ridge Creek, was named after Colonel Thomas Neely, who died in battle during the Battle of Chickamauga. The battlefield covers about 55 acres and is littered with bones and other artifacts.

If you make it to Lookout Mountain and this site, take a moment to visit the National Cemetery at the top of the mountain. Here you will find Union soldiers who were lost in battle. There is also a monument to the fallen, as well as a brief history of the battle.

6.    Lookout Mountain Tunnel

If you want to see the Tunnel Hill hike from above, but don’t have time to go on the Quarry Trail, the Lookout Mountain Tunnel is a great alternative. The tunnel travels 1,064 feet into the mountains, on the edge of the Lookout Mountain Battlefield. This tunnel is part of the Lookout Mountain Parkway. When driving on the parkway, look for the tunnel, which will be the next tunnel after the Lookout Mountain Overlook.

When you enter the tunnel, you’ll come to an elevator that takes you up some 70 feet. The tunnel is somewhat long, so this isn’t the easiest of hikes, but it’s a great opportunity to get above the Chattanooga area and look out at the town below. The tunnel is about 7 miles roundtrip, but if you’re looking to hike around Chattanooga, you’ll be happy with this shorter hike.

7.    Tunnel Mountain Bike Trail

If you’re looking to go mountain biking, you can visit Tunnel Mountain, which is just a short drive from Chattanooga. The Tunnel Mountain bike trail is part of the East Trail in the Chattanooga Mountain Bike Trails system. The Tunnel Mountain trail is generally an easy, all-weather trail.

There are a few sections that can get a little wet or slippery during inclement weather, but overall, the tunnel is a great beginner trail. The Tunnel Mountain bike trail is a great day trip for Chattanooga, and a fun way to see the surrounding areas.

8.    Trolley Hill

The Trolley Hill overlook is located in Chattanooga’s Southside. Trolley Hill features a towering overlook, with the Chattanooga Lookout looking down on downtown Chattanooga. The view includes the Tennessee River, various small towns, and a variety of surrounding mountains. The park is a popular place to take a nice photograph or two. This area is close to several trails that you can walk or hike to get to this overlook.

It is very popular for wedding photos and picturesque photos, as well. After you get to the overlook, you can continue to walk around the Southside neighborhoods, or you can take a little hike to the top of Lookout Mountain to get a view of the river valley.

9.    Sweetwater Springs Park

Looking for a hike that is both peaceful and scenic? Sweetwater Springs Park is a great place to go hiking if you’re in the downtown Chattanooga area. The park is located on a steep bluff above the Tennessee River and includes more than 1,000 acres of hiking trails. The trail system is around 3 miles long, but if you visit the park with kids, you can get a head start on the hike.

The park features a playground and picnic areas. There are several ways to get to Sweetwater Springs Park. You can park at Ed’s Pizza, around the corner from Tivoli Brewery. The trailhead is off Third Street in downtown Chattanooga. The hike takes about 1.5 hours to complete.

10.           Tennessee River Gorge

The Tennessee River Gorge is a man-made peninsula that was created by an 1873 dam on the river. It stretches a short distance through the city, and it’s a great area to hike and get a view of the Tennessee River. The Tennessee River Gorge is a very popular place for both kayaking and swimming, and it’s a great place to get some exercise. Hikers can take a hike to the summit of Tunnel Mountain, or they can hike up the Giant Steps, which are the last section of the Trolley Hill hike.

The Tennessee River Gorge hike is about 4 miles roundtrip, but if you’re looking to take it easy, you can walk up the first mile of trail and back down. If you hike to the summit of Tunnel Mountain, take the Dolly Parton Bridge Trail back to the base of the mountain. This is a great way to get a shorter hike in the vicinity of Chattanooga without having to hike down steep mountainsides.

11.           A.K. Bissell Park

The A.K. Bissell Park has many hiking trails, including an 80-acre waterfall system. The trails start on the Dam Bridge Trail, which is a popular way to get to the park from downtown Chattanooga. If you are hiking to the waterfall system from the Dam Bridge Trail, you’ll end up on a peninsula in the middle of the Chattahoochee River. Bissell Park is home to the Chattooga River, which has white and brown waterfalls along the banks. The trails in the park feature panoramic views of the river and many small pools of water.

A paddleboat is available for rent. The Dam Bridge Trail is about 1 mile long, but there are several other trails with various lengths and distances. The trails that start on the Dam Bridge Trail are much shorter than the Dam Bridge Trail. It’s best to plan a visit to Bissell Park based on the number of trails and their length.

You can also visit:

  • Roundtop Road: If you’re looking for a scenic hike, Roundtop Road is the perfect place. Roundtop Road begins in Lookout Mountain and runs on top of the mountain and into the Chattanooga city limits. It’s a road for the adventurous. This is a beautiful, mostly shaded, and the mostly level trail that leads to the top of Lookout Mountain, and on top of Signal Mountain. The park is a little difficult to find but is quite accessible.
  • The Trail at Lookout Mountain: The Trail at Lookout Mountain is one of the top hiking trails in Chattanooga. It starts in the heart of downtown and travels up and down the iconic Lookout Mountain. This is a great trial for the entire family. The trail is approximately four miles, but you can cut the trail in half if you don’t plan on doing the entire thing. You can also hike to the lookout at the top of Lookout Mountain for about ten minutes, but be sure to start your hike at the lower trailhead to get the full experience.
  • Lookout Mountain Shelter: The Lookout Mountain Shelter is an amazing spot for hikers. It’s a stone structure with a thatched roof. It is sometimes referred to as the “Friendly Mountains Shelter,” because of the abundance of friendly mountain goats that like to hang out on the top of Lookout Mountain. You can camp at the shelter for free, but it’s best to leave your dogs at home. You will find lots of wildlife there, including bald eagles. It’s very windy there, so don’t forget to bring a coat or a light jacket.
  • Chattanooga Nature Center: The Chattanooga Nature Center is a very unique zoo, which offers a variety of exhibits, including an aviary, reptile house, and garden area. Many types of animals are on display here, including some rare ones such as snakes, lizards, frogs, and tortoises. The zoo is named after its founder and executive director, Chris Ulsterman. As a child, Olsterman often went to zoos with his father. He worked in his first wildlife rehabilitation center at the age of 13, and he eventually worked as a wildlife rehabilitator in Wisconsin. He opened the Chattanooga Nature Center in 1980. His goal was to preserve wild animals in Chattanooga, and he wanted to create a zoo that people could enjoy going to. Ulsterman has over 50 years of experience with wildlife, including 45 years of experience with the zoo and aquarium industry.

Can’t get out of town for a hike? No problem. The Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department has several great outdoor activities to try in Chattanooga, including kayaking, fishing, canoeing, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting.

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