Outdoor Adventures in Chattanooga, TN
Increasingly, Chattanooga is staking its claim as one of the country’s premier outdoor meccas. In the late 1960’s, Walter Cronkite declared Chattanooga the country’s most polluted city, and by the early 80’s the city was dying. Thanks to visionary public and private partnerships in the mid and late 80’s, however, Chattanooga has experienced a remarkable renaissance that continues to garner national acclaim. At the center of this revitalization is a focus on the city’s natural heritage and abundant outdoor pursuits. Located on a bend in the Tennessee River, at the southern terminus of the Appalachian chain, and only a few miles from the Cumberland Plateau, the city is geographically blessed. Surrounded by ridges and plateaus to the north, east, and west, and the iconic Lookout Mountain to the south, Chattanoogans enjoy world class hiking, trail running, backpacking, climbing, paddling, and biking—all of which they can access within 15 minutes of a now bustling and vibrant downtown scene.
The trail running, hiking, mountain biking, and backpacking in Chattanooga are spectacular, offering hundreds of panoramic views from above 1,500 feet, dense deciduous forests with some of the highest biodiversity on the planet, and unending opportunities for adventuring and exploring just minutes from downtown. In addition, the Chattanooga Riverwalk provides joggers, cyclists, and walkers with 10 miles of urban trail along the Tennessee River and the downtown corridor.
Chattanooga is a river city, founded originally at Ross’s Landing along the Tennessee River. Northwest of the city, the river cuts a dramatic canyon into the Cumberland Plateau, which locals refer to as the “Grand Canyon of the Tennessee.” Downtown, the Chattanooga riverfront is world class, and stand up paddleboarders, flatwater kayakers, and canoeists frequently put-in and paddle right in the heart of downtown. Their background? Dramatic bluffs below the Hunter Museum, the stone trusses of the remarkable 100-year old Walnut Street Bridge, nesting blue herons and Osprey, and bustling community parks along both river banks. The surrounding ridges and plateaus are also riddled with gulches and drainages that create renowned whitewater paddling opportunities for boaters looking to push the limits.
The mountains, ridges, and plateaus that surround the city are wrapped by dramatic sandstone cliff bands, creating hundreds of routes for trad and sport climbers alike. The woods, too, are dotted with immense boulder fields, and Rocktown and Little Rock City are iconic, world-famous bouldering sites. The Crash Pad, a local hostel, and its accompanying bar, the Flying Squirrel, were founded by climbers to cater to the thousands of climbers visiting and moving to Chattanooga each year.
With 56 state parks and an abundance of other public and private recreational areas throughout the region, Tennessee is a paradise for those wanting to get their hair wet when it’s nice outside.
More of a shrine to the Alps than a simple walk in the mountains, hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most exceptional backcountry adventures in the world.
Get outside and an explore the Chattanooga area at the monthlong RiverRocks Festival, which features rock climbing, paddling, trail running, mountain biking, hiking and more in a festival atmosphere.
In the sweltering summer of 2016, our Associate Editor ran Chattanooga's toughest trail everyday for a month. This is his story.
There's just something about a waterfall that makes a hike special. These four great waterfall hikes near Chattanooga are sure to impress.
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