IRONMAN: Where to Hike and Trail Run in Chattanooga

Mark McKnight
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This week, Chattanooga welcomes thousands of athletes and their families for what should be an incredible first IRONMAN Chattanooga. Knowing where to swim, bike, run, explore, and eat during your time in Chattanooga, whether you're competing in the event, or supporting a competitor, can help ensure a truly memorable experience. RootsRated and IRONMAN have teamed up to bring athletes and their families a series of insider's guides to swimming, cycling, running, exploring, and eating in the Scenic City. Hope you enjoy, and we'll see you out there!

1. Nature Center

What Makes it Great: The Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center is unique because it has so much to offer and is so close to downtown. A day at the Nature Center can include hiking, bird watching, treehouse visits, mountain biking, trail running, canoeing, animal viewing, and so much more. The property contains everything from miles of back roads for cars, to easy boardwalk trails, to more strenuous routes that go along the mountain side. The gravel trails that stretch to the outer edges of the property are wonderful for hiking and trail running. They're very manageable, and they take you past dense bamboo forests and along the banks of Lookout Creek's emerald green waters.

Additional information and directions: The Chattanooga Nature Center via RootsRated

2. Raccoon Mountain Trails

What Makes it Great: The trails at Raccoon Mountain run primarily along the outer edge of the brow and offer incredible views of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River gorge. These singletrack trails are consistently in great shape, but they are technical (plenty of rocks and roots) so watch your step! The primary loop is approximately 13 miles of rolling terrain with some short climbs. There are three trailheads: East Overlook, the Visitor's Center, and Laurel Point. No matter where you start, or which direction you travel, you're in for a great run in the woods.

Additional information and directions: Raccoon Mountain trail running and hiking via RootsRated

3. Lookout Mountain Trails from Cravens House

What Makes it Great: The Cravens House is the gateway to some of Lookout Mountain's greatest trails. Conveniently located only halfway up the mountain on the Tennessee side, just past Ruby Falls, this old Civil War house is a great place to begin a run or hike. Boasting a pretty amazing view of downtown Chattanooga and fascinating history, Cravens also holds an array of excellent trail options. Here are 3 of our favorites:

The Big Daddy Loop on the Bluff Trail -- a great 10-mile single track loop.

The Guild Hardy Trail -- a 5-mile trail leading up an old railroad bed.

Point Park Loop -- a 4.5-mile trail that takes you to arguably the best overlook of beautiful Chattanooga.

Additional information and directions: Cravens House via RootsRated

4. Stringer’s Ridge

What Makes it Great: The Stringer's Ridge project area is a 100-acre parcel of undeveloped land located just north of downtown Chattanooga. Mere minutes from downtown, this park offers miles of flowing single track, and it’s hard to find urban nature that is more accessible. If you forget how close you are to downtown (which is easy to do considering the solitude), be sure to check out the overlook, where you'll score one of the best views in the city. The trails here can be a bit confusing, but there are map kiosks at the trailheads and at trail intersections. Also, trail directions change from day to day, so be sure to pay attention to the signposts, and be on the lookout for mountain bikers, as these are multi-use trails.

Additional information and directions: Stringer’s Ridge via RootsRated


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