19 Things to Knock Off Your Chattanooga Bucket List in 2016

Chattanooga's hiking trails are just some of the outdoor experiences you need to cross-off the bucket list for 2016.
Chattanooga's hiking trails are just some of the outdoor experiences you need to cross-off the bucket list for 2016. Jake Wheeler
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A new year is a time to reflect on everything you’ve done—and all the possibilities to come. Chattanooga has become one of the top outdoor meccas in the country, which means it’s tough to squeeze in everything you’d like to do. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying. If you've already made a dent in our list of 50 must-do Chattanooga Adventures, then it's time to add some more items to your Scenic City bucket list. Here are 19 more adventures to pursue if you love Chattanooga's outdoors.

1. Visit the Best State Park in the Southeast

Enjoying the view at Falls Creek Falls.
Enjoying the view at Falls Creek Falls. Ry Glover

Picture a 250-foot waterfall, a swinging bridge, lakeside trail running, backcountry hiking and camping, and even hot showers (jackpot!), and you have what Southern Living Magazine labels the best state park in the Southeast. Fall Creek Falls is truly a magnificent weekend getaway that more than warrants a visit. Swimming and golfing are seasonal activities that add to the park’s allure, but the two backcountry hiking trails (a 14-mile loop and 13-mile loop), 4 miles of bike paths, and no less than four waterfalls—including the tallest waterfall East of the Rocky Mountains—make Fall Creek Falls a must-visit outdoor destination for any season.

2. Complete a Half or Full Ironman

Swimmers on the course at Ironman Chattanooga.
Swimmers on the course at Ironman Chattanooga. sheffieldb

Want to see if you have what it takes to be a triathlete? Test yourself with an  IRONMAN 70.3  this May or go all in for the full IRONMAN  in September. Both courses will include a (mostly downstream) swimming section in the Tennessee River, a cycling section that takes riders over the rolling hills along the Tennessee/Georgia border, and a few laps to run along the Scenic City’s Riverwalk  and over its bridges.

3. Camp on Audubon Island

From the Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga’s North Shore, walkers and runners can look down on the natural oasis of the Maclellan Sanctuary, a wildlife preserve that covers the 18.8 acres of Audubon Island, anchored in the midst of the Tennessee River. Thanks to the Chattanooga Audubon Society , the island is rich with wildlife like nesting osprey and blue heron as well as plenty of native plant species. The best part about Audubon Island is that camping is permitted, and it's one of the more unique camping experiences you can have, as the island is only accessed by watercraft. Rent a kayak or a paddleboard and take an outdoor retreat unlike any other in the middle of downtown Chattanooga. But be sure to get a permit first!

4. Go Bouldering at Rocktown

The iconic southern sandstone surrounding Chattanooga feels as good as it looks.
The iconic southern sandstone surrounding Chattanooga feels as good as it looks. Alex Kahn

It’s rare to find such an abundance of quality climbing concentrated around a city like Chattanooga with it’s own lively spread of urban draw. But to really immerse yourself in the climbing experience head out to Rocktown for the day, and escape to a simpler head space away from all of the urban noise. The secluded field plays host to countless boulders scattered atop Pigeon Mountain and gives climbers the chance to feel lost in the woods for a few hours. For the full-value experience, camp overnight in the designated camping area (a bit up the road from the parking area) and wake up to enjoy some of the Southeast’s best sandstone.

5. Run a Trail Race

Runners at the Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race
Runners at the Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race Rock/Creek

It might be safe it say that Chattanooga is the running capital of the south. With an abundance of natural ridge lines and the rolling hills of southern Appalachians, the Scenic City was sculpted in the image of a runner’s paradise. Every year Wild Trails and Rock/Creek host their own race series that give runners the opportunity to revel in the city’s natural surroundings. Runners can opt for the historic Chickamauga Chase (15K, 8 miles & 5K), the Lookout Mountain 50 miler & 10K , the Upchuck 50K , and dozens of 5k’s sprinkled into the mix that provide a race for any level of experience.

6. Explore the Mountain Biking at Chilhowee Recreation Area

A wide, shallow creek crossing at the bottom of the Clear Creek Trail.
A wide, shallow creek crossing at the bottom of the Clear Creek Trail. Jeff Bartlett

Ten or twelve years ago, this was the closest place to ride for Chattanooga mountain bikers. The miles of singletrack trails that trace through the  Chilhowee Recreation Area , in the Cherokee National Forest, are of an older era, less smooth than some of the newer bike trails but with their own set of challenges and thrills. Take the time to explore Chilhowee and get back to the roots of Chattanooga mountain biking before mountain biking in Chattanooga was even a thing.

7. Paddle Lookout Creek

Putting in at Lookout Creek
Putting in at Lookout Creek Jake Wheeler

Enjoy the easy moving current of Lookout Creek from a new perspective, atop a stand-up paddleboard. A flat-water paddling paradise, Lookout Creek provides paddlers with a gentle downstream route through the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, eventually opening up into the Tennessee River at the foot of Moccasin Bend. The waters Lookout Creek are great for nature watching, so keep an eye out for osprey, cave swallows, deer, and even a few beavers along the way.

8. Attend Chattajack31

ChattaJack31 challenges paddlers with its 31-mile route.
ChattaJack31 challenges paddlers with its 31-mile route. Lawson Whitaker

The ChattaJack31 river race is unlike any other outdoor event in Chattanooga. The 31 mile course travels through the Tennessee River Gorge and calls to only the most dedicated paddleboarders and kayakers, who revel in pushing the limits of their endurance. The all-day event to be held in October is a thrilling spectacle to be enjoyed by paddlers and spectators alike.

9. Explore the Histories and Myths of Lookout Mountain

Are they rifle pits or ceremonial circles built by prehistoric inhabitants?
Are they rifle pits or ceremonial circles built by prehistoric inhabitants? Rodger Ling

Along with miles of trail running potential, Lookout Mountain is also marked with history, some explained and some that still leaves people puzzled. Cravens House , one of the most significant reminders of the Battle of Lookout Mountain is the most well-known historical site on the mountain but the myriad trails that branch off from here are also speckled with Civil War monuments and other ruins whose origins are ambiguous and fascinating.

10. Have a Ghost Encounter in the Laurel Snow Wilderness

A short distance inside the Dixon Slope Mine ventilation entrance in Laurel Snow State Natural Area.
A short distance inside the Dixon Slope Mine ventilation entrance in Laurel Snow State Natural Area. Rodger Ling

The Laurel Snow Wilderness section of the Cumberland Trail is perhaps more well known for its supernatural intrigue than for the outdoor appeal, though both attract their fair share of visitors. Along with the hiking, sport climbing, trail running, and backpacking opportunities, the deserted mine has also caused plenty of locals to speculate about unnerving sights and sounds of lost souls in the mine’s ruins.

11. Go Camping at Prentice Cooper

Enjoying a toasty fire on a chilly night in the Prentice Cooper State Forest
Enjoying a toasty fire on a chilly night in the Prentice Cooper State Forest Michael Brooks

Sprawling above the Tennessee River Gorge, the Prentice Cooper State Forest has it all when it comes to enjoying the outdoors, and the camping opportunities are as good as you'll find close to Chattanooga. The camping at the two designated areas (Davis Pond and Hunter’s Check Station) is "primitive" with the only amenities being fire rings and a few pit toilets, but sometimes it feels good to go rustic for a few days. The 35 miles of hiking trails, 600 climbing routes on T-Wall (mostly trad), and the panoramic views from Snooper's Rock are just a few things sure to entertain campers for a weekend trip.

12. Hike One of the 10 Best Trails in Chattanooga

Chattanooga's hiking trails are just some of the outdoor experiences you need to cross-off the bucket list for 2016.
Chattanooga's hiking trails are just some of the outdoor experiences you need to cross-off the bucket list for 2016. Jake Wheeler

Whether you’re in for an all-day excursion or a family-friendly hike, Chattanooga offers outdoor enthusiasts a wide variety of excellent hiking trails to cherry-pick from. The unique geography of the south has molded astounding features like plunging waterfalls, valley overlooks, trickling creeks, picturesque blue holes, and quad firing climbs that add a flair of adventure to any trail you choose.

13. Visit Chickamauga

Chickamauga Battlefield Park offers a fascinating history lesson as well as an enormous outdoor space to explore.
Chickamauga Battlefield Park offers a fascinating history lesson as well as an enormous outdoor space to explore. TJJohn12

One of the most overlooked, yet enjoyable, day trips from Chattanooga is a quick getaway to the historic small town of Chickamauga , just a stone’s throw away from the Scenic City. With its quaint shops, storefronts, and restaurants, and its close proximity to the Chickamauga Battlefield, Chickamauga is a fantastic place to explore on a Saturday afternoon. And one of the best ways to do so is to pack the bikes and head out on the 13-mile paved cycling loop around the battlefield. Lined with old hardwoods and hundreds of historic monuments on either side, it's a seriously enjoyable experience... especially for Civil War history buffs!

14. Bike the Flintstone Loop

The Flintstone Loop is one of the best road rides in Chattanooga.
The Flintstone Loop is one of the best road rides in Chattanooga. Rodger Ling

For a tour of some of the most beautiful countryside the region has to offer, head out on the 49-mile Flintstone Loop . The loop is a give-and-take between flat stretches, rolling hills, and steady climbs sure to challenge and entertain you along the entire route.

15. Mountain Bike One of Chattanooga’s Most Technical Trails

Chattanooga's no slouch when it comes to rocky, technical trails that test both skills and suspension.
Chattanooga's no slouch when it comes to rocky, technical trails that test both skills and suspension. Jeff Bartlett

While it’s undeniable that the adrenaline rush gained from a fast-flowing run on machine-smoothed mountain-bike trails can be better than chocolate, sometimes riders crave the extra satisfaction that comes from mastering a good, old-fashioned technical trail . Head out to one of the five most technical trails in Chattanooga and see for yourself—you’ll only be stronger for it.

16. Grab a Locally Brewed Chattanooga Beer

Hutton & Smith offers craft brew made in Chattanooga.
Hutton & Smith offers craft brew made in Chattanooga. Peri McIntosh

After a day spent pushing the limits of your favorite outdoor pursuit, few things sound nicer than sitting down to enjoy a cold beer with friends while replaying the day’s highlights. With hordes of local microbreweries popping up and a frenzy for craft beer sweeping the nation, Chattanooga is no exception and provides residents and visitors alike with a mighty fine assortment of locally brewed beer. Head on over to Chattanooga Brewing Company or Hutton & Smith for a diverse sampling of craft brews made right here in Chattanooga.

17. Picnic at Foster Falls

Foster Falls offers an excellent reward after a long hike.
Foster Falls offers an excellent reward after a long hike. Jake Wheeler

Foster Falls  may just be the Crown Jewel of the renowned and much-loved Fiery Gizzard Trail—one of the top 25 trails in the country according to Backpacker Magazine . Whether you hike the whole 13-mile trail to reach Foster Falls or you park in the lot above and hike down, there's no denying that a picnic at the base of these falls is about as good as it gets. We recommend swinging by Chattanooga's Main Street before heading out of town to fuel up on local picnic goodies: a wide charcuterie selection is available at Main Street Meats , fresh-baked bread at Niedlov's Breadworks , and if you have a thermos to fill, there's locally roasted coffee at Velo Coffee Roasters .

18. Enjoy the Perfect Run and Brunch Combo

Brunch at the Bitter Alibi.
Brunch at the Bitter Alibi. Scott Porbansky

There’s something irresistible about the simplicity of a morning run and starting the day with a clear head. Reward yourself for that morning exercise by pairing your run with a tasty and local brunch afterwards. Here's a quick list of a few winning combinations for the best runs and brunches in Chattanooga .

19. Volunteer with a Local Conservation Group

In the end, Chattanooga's outdoors is only as good as the people and organizations who seek to preserve it. And there are a lot of these organizations! Whether you choose to volunteer with the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park , the Tennessee River Gorge Trust , the Southeast Conservation Corps , the Southeastern Climbers' Coalition , SORBA , or any of the handful of others, there are plenty of ways to get involved with the conservation of Chattanooga's outdoors.

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