7 Beautiful Backpacking Getaways near Chattanooga

Andrew Kornylak
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Chattanooga has an amazing selection of backpacking options close by including some destinations in nearby North Georgia. Josh Legg, hiking and backpacking enthusiast at Rock Creek Outfitters suggested the following locations which all share characteristics that make them inherently enjoyable (i.e. scenic, wild, dense forest, water and stone features, beautiful views). You’ll find points of interest included in the list for each place in lieu of a lengthy description. Be sure to pack the gear you’ll need and check the hiking and backpacking regulations for a specific area before traveling to it.

1.Prentice Cooper

Twenty-five minutes from downtown Chattanooga in Marion County and offering 35 miles of hiking trails, including the south end of the Cumberland Trail State Park. Lawson's Rock overlook provides amazing views of Chattanooga at night. The area is also rich with features such as stone doors, Indian Rock House, Mullens Cove overlook, Snoopers Rock, Pot Point boulders, and Tennessee River gorge views.

2. Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness

Kris Whorton

The distance to this Rhea county area from Chattanooga is about 45 minutes. In addition to the two eponymous scenic falls, the area boasts about 8 miles of trails including Buzzard Point, a virgin timber forest, the 1920's Richland mine, and interesting geologic features and gorges.

3. Foster Falls

Brent Moore

Found in Marion County outside of Tracy City and about an hour west of Chattanooga, the Fiery Gizzard Trail (a 12.5 mile point to point) has waterfalls, spectacular views from Raven Point, and gorgeous cliff-lines. Additionally, Foster Falls offers some amazing sport climbing .

4. Savage Gulf

Depending on which entrance you use, driving distance is approximately one hour to an hour and a half. You can access from outside Whitwell or near Beersheba Springs in Tennessee’s Grundy and Sequatchie Counties. The stone door’s striking cliff walls and stairs, the spectacular views along the rim trails, the rough terrain along the creeks and waterfalls in the bottom of the gulf, and the picturesque Hobbs cabin make any of the trails worthwhile. Enjoy over 50 miles of them within the State Natural Area.

5. Jacks River Falls

Kris Whorton

Located in Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness about an hour and half from Chattanooga. The Falls are very popular for its swimming holes and black bear encounters. The trip is a 6-mile out and back adventure.

6. Great Smoky Mountains

About two hours from Chattanooga. Almost countless options, including 71 miles of the Appalachian Trail, Gregory Bald (360 view), Spence Field, Rocky Top, Clingmans Dome, Charlie's Bunion, Mt. LeConte, shelters, great sweeping vistas, wildlife, and a spectacular array of plants and trees. It's one of the most bio-diverse areas in the entire world.

7. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and Slickrock Wilderness

Nicholas A. Tonelli

A 2 hour 40 minute drive from Chattanooga, this place is known for its old growth forest dominated by yellow poplar, oak, basswood, beech, and sycamore trees, some of which are over 400-years old. In addition to awe-inspiring trees, Joyce Kilmer boasts fly fishing in Slickrock Creek, over 55 miles of trails, and awesome views of Great Smoky Mountains from Hangover and Bob Bald. The added bonus of this amazing place it that it is not as crowded as Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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