Towering sandstone cliffs, magnificent views, geologic curiosities, history and nature intertwined: this is Lookout Mountain's Bluff Trail, where you may find you can't travel a hundred yards without stopping for a closer look.
What Makes It Great
Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, the Bluff Trail hugs the side of the mountain at a nearly constant elevation, sometimes at the base of tall cliffs, sometimes at the top, occasionally on ledges between the two. Several hundred men labored for 18 months to create this trail, and the stonework is still impressive nearly a century later. A classic five mile hike on Lookout starts at Ochs Gateway below Covenant College and follows the length of the Bluff Trail towards Point Park. From Ochs Gateway, a gently descending half mile path brings you to an inspiring overlook called Judith's Bluff. Here a large rock is suspended at the very edge of the cliff, the first of many fine views of Lookout Valley. As you hike, look for short caves in the bluffs, natural bridges, the Devil's Pit (a steep sinkhole over 100 feet deep), and the towering rock house known as the Giant's Niche. Not quite three miles from Judith's Bluff is the spur trail up to Sunset Rock, steep but well worth the climb. You'll stand where Confederate Generals James Longstreet and Braxton Bragg watched the Union troops enter the valley in 1863. These days, Sunset Rock is popular with rock climbers; both the climbing and the views here are spectacular. A mile past Sunset, the Cravens Trail bears off downhill for just less than a mile to the Cravens House, or you may continue a half mile on the Bluff Trail to reach the stairs up to Point Park. Climb up to exit there or continue around to descend to Cravens via the trails below the East Brow.If you come from the Cravens House or Point Park, you'll want to hike at least as far as Sunset Rock. For more of a challenge, you can use the Gum Springs Trail, which joins the Bluff Trail below Sunset Rock, to loop back towards Cravens.
Who is Going to Love It
If Lookout Mountain is the reigning icon of Chattanooga's outdoors, the Bluff Trail is the crown. Many a family has hiked the length of the Bluff Trail, and even the most hardcore individuals can extend the trip on connecting trails for a satisfying adventure. Trail runners can start at Cravens and do the 10 mile Big Daddy Loop, an easier 9 mile loop out the Upper Truck Trail, or out-and-back runs from any of the trailheads.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Point Park is an obvious entry point to the Bluff Trail, but an entrance fee must be paid and parking is often limited. Down the road at Sunset Rock parking is even more sparse and intended for short-term use.
The best trailheads are the Cravens House at the north end of the mountain and Ochs Gateway below Convenant College (follow Scenic Highway towards Covenant but turn right on Frontier Bluff Road as you near the college).