This pleasant loop-trail is a 3.5 mile hike that takes you 1,000 feet above the Tennessee River through Hardwood forests and back down for a great river-side stroll. This land is owned by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust (TRGT), and the trail starts near the Pot Point Cabin. An interpretive pamphletthat includes information on forest composition and history about the Pot Point Property can be found (and printed) from the TRGT website.
Who would enjoy this experience?
This loop would be perfect for anyone who wants a short excursion close to the city. Besides the first big climb, the hike is either an easy down-hill grade, or a flat, wide path that follows the river. It's ease and proximity make it perfect for families and beginners alike, and naturalists will appreciate the pamphlet and self guided tour that explains the forested surroundings.
Getting There: How long is the drive and how much time will people need for this?
The trailhead is about 20 mins from downtown Chattanooga, and if you go slow, enjoy the views, and read the nifty trail trivia, the hike takes around 2 hours to complete. The trail could be jogged in much less than a hour, but families with young children could probably fill the day on the hike.
Parking and Trailhead: What's the parking situation, and are there fees?
As you are driving down River Canyon Road you will pass Pot Point Cabin. Immediately after passing the cabin there is a sign that reads "Pot Point Biological Field Station & Parking." Turn up the gravel drive and take the first right into the level gravel parking area. Don't be surprised if you are greeted by the local dog welcoming committee, all franticly wagging tails and friendly enough.
Where do you start and how long is this going to take?
The loop trail starts at the Kiosk located near the parking area. The trail is easy to follow and is well marked with blue blazes. The first 1/3 of the hike is a climb up to Azalea Point there are some steep sections that are rough, but they are interrupted by short level sections. The 2nd 1/3 of the hike is on an old logging road, so it has a great easy, down hill grade. You then cross River Canyon Road and follow a wide, flat trail next to the river that will take you back to the the Pot Point Cabin.
What's one thing about this place that visitors should look forward to?
I really enjoyed learning about the history of the place from the TRGT Pamphlet. It was hard to believe that such a short time ago people were farming and moonshining some of these hillsides along the gorge. Not to mention the great views all morning long, thank you leaf off!
The trail was very easy to follow and well blazed. There were some recently fallen trees that had been cleared and drainage ditches that had been freshly dug. For winter hiking the trail was in excellent condition, though due to the recent rain and the high river flow, the lower river section was quite muddy.
River Canyon Road is narrow and the locals take the turns as if they're driving in a Nascar event! So, be careful and drive slowly.
This was a short and leisurely day hike, and the temperature was about 37 when we started, but rose to 55 degrees F by the time we finished. For upper body warmth and breathability, I wore the Marmot Kitzbuhel Vest. I had to run errands after, so I wore my all time favorite stretchy-quick-drying-flattering, NOT safari-zip off-can't wear them in public pants. Behold the Prana Halle Pant.
Where to eat afterward:
Mojo Burrito is on the way back into town, and they serve up great burritos of course, but on Saturdays, the tacos are only a buck.
Difficulty: 1= Easy and 5=extremely difficult:
Are fees or permits required?
What's the best time of year to go?
Winter, Fall and Spring
What's the best time of day to go?
I walked this loop in the morning. The river still had a heavy fog but the higher bluffs were fog free. The "undercast" effect was pretty awesome!