4 Favorite Chattanooga Trails

Jeff Gunn
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With over 50 trailheads within 30 minutes of downtown Chattanooga, just deciding where to run can be about as challenging as pushing yourself to finish that last mile. In all seasons, these trails offer something very worthwhile. Summer brings dense, lush, lively greens. Autumn fiery reds, oranges, and yellows. Winter's leafless trees give way to nice views and vantage points. And spring explodes with airy dogwood blossoms, magenta redbuds, pink and orange azaleas, and wildflower-dotted hillsides.

The types of trails in Chattanooga are also unlimited, as there are dozens of options to match your training plans for Saturday morning running whims. Big loops, out and back trails, or steep climbs to test your legs. It’s your choice. Here are a few options that will inspire you to get out on Trail City's trails.

1. Bluff Trail on Lookout Mountain

Courtesy of Jake Wheeler

Try the Bluff Trail or Bluff loop. Head out on the trail at the back of the parking lot at Cravens House. Take the left (uphill) when the trail branches. Take the right at the next branch and stay on this trail along the cliff line. You will pass under Sunset Rock, a popular tourist destination for viewing the valley, and a popular climber’s crag. Continue on the main trail regardless of the option to turn up or down (unless you wish to go up to Sunset Rock, look around, and come back down). After 2.5 miles you’ll have two options to turn up, both of which will eventually lead you to Covenant College campus. Turn around (a 7.5 mile run) for valley and Tennessee River views or stay on the Bluff trail and descend. After a mile, the trail widens and branches to single track on the left. Continue straight on the dirt road for a few miles past options to turn up or down and turn right at the Y. After 1.2 miles, you will reach a gate and a paved road. Turn right and follow the road to the parking area below Craven's House. You can climb up the stairs or continue on to the driveway to return to your car. The trail is runnable with some rocky and slightly exposed sections. Total loop distance is almost 10 miles.

2. Skyuka Springs Loop

Courtesy of Kris Whorton

From the Kiddie trailhead the Skyuka Springs Trail climbs steeply for about a half mile and then levels out. Follow the signs to Skyuka Springs (to the right). The trail is rolling with some mild climbs for about 3 miles. Enjoy the springs and then head right toward Lookout Creek, and run along the mostly flat dirt road, until you reach the gate at Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center. You can turn down the narrow path and continue to run along the river back to the Nature Center and out on the paved road to the parking lot. Total distance is about 8.5 miles and the run is moderate to easy.

3. Suck Creek Road to Mushroom Rock

Courtesy of Kris Whorton

To run or hike the Suck Creek to Mushroom Rock Trail , you have to park above or below the trail crossing sign on Suck Creek Road. Look for a brown and white sign with a hiker. Climb over the guardrail and scramble down the short hill. Cross the bridge and climb out of South Suck Creek gorge, cross a bluff, and then drop into North Suck Creek gorge. Watch your step on the swinging bridge--it can be slick when wet. Take the trail to the right and climb up to Mushroom Rock. This is a 6-mile out and back route. You can add some mileage by turning right at Mushroom Rock and taking the trail to Edward’s Point for great views of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River gorge. Total mileage with Edward’s Point tacked on is 14.2 miles. The trail is breathtaking and provides a mixture of runnable and fairly technical sections.

4. Mullin's Cove Loop at Prentice Cooper State Wildlife Area

Mullin's Cove Loop begins at the South Cumberland trailhead parking lot in Prentice Cooper State Wildlife Area. You can go in either direction but the Rock Creek River Gorge 10 mile leaves the parking lot from the left, crosses the dirt road and heads into the trees. Indian Rock House is to the left after you descend stairs through a narrow passage between the rocks. Go right when the trail splits. Enjoy views of the Tennessee River gorge and take a detour out onto Snooper’s Rock. Cross through the parking lot and continue on the single track, cross the dirt road and continue to the dry creek bed. Turn left and run down the creek bed, paying close attention for the turn to the right. There is a small sign but it is easy to miss. Continue to the dirt road and turn right. You will continue up it for about ⅓ mile. Turn left onto single track. There is a sign but it is easy to miss so watch carefully. The single-track trail hairpins as you climb back up the ridge. After a few miles, you enter the rock garden. Pay attention to the white blazes here as the trail winds through and over rocks and can be hard to follow. Climb out of the rock garden and run the last mile winding gradually uphill to the parking lot where you began. The roughly 10 mile course is a combination of easily manageable and quite technical terrain.

*Dogs are allowed in all areas if leashed except the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center.

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