Thursday, May 6, 2021 / by Randy Durham
Hiking in Chattanooga: A Guide to the Best Local Trails
The Chattanooga area has over 50 trailheads, offering a variety of distances and difficulty levels for outdoor enthusiasts. Most are favorites of both locals and tourists. Every trail in this article offers priceless views, a dive into local history or great opportunities to spot wildlife.
1. Snoopers Rock: This overlook of the Tennessee River Gorge is nestled on the edge of Prentice Cooper State Forest. The trail is a moderately difficult 6-mile hike. It can be heavily trafficked in the warmer months. If you are looking for a short trip, there is trailhead parking off Tower Dive on Game Reserve Road. This hike is less than a mile and will lead you straight to the overlook, with an elevation gain of only 130 feet.
2. Cravens House Loop: This trail is only a short drive on Lookout Mountain from Downtown Chattanooga. The trailhead is located just past Ruby Falls at the Craven’s House. You can also start at Point Park. The trail is steep and very rocky and offers great views at Sunset Rock if you want to add a side trip.
3. Stringers Ridge via Blue Trail: This 92-acre urban park is located in North Chattanooga. The park offers short trips and longer challenging hikes. The park is also a favorite of local trail runners and mountain bikers. The Blue Trail is a 3.3 hike with an elevation gain of 500 feet and offers several hidden gems and a great overlook of Downtown Chattanooga. It can be a bit congested in good weather and on weekends, so plan accordingly.
4. Suck Creek Rd to Mushroom Rock: This is another Prentice Cooper trail. It’s about four miles round trip and is another local favorite among trail runners. The elevation gain can be daunting for beginners, marked at 1,210 feet. It’s one of the greatest forest settings the area has to offer. It’s important to note this trail can be muddy and is best used from March to October.
5. West Rim Loop Trail: The shorter hike is accessible via Cloudland Canyon Park Road on Lookout Mountain. It features waterfalls, gorgeous overlooks, and a good quality path with a 200-foot elevation gain. It is a popular destination for tourists in Cloudland Canyon State Park, so go early if you want to avoid the crowds. If you want a longer trip, keep heading south when the main loop is complete to see the waterfall at the end of Sitton’s Gulch. This trail is almost five miles with a steeper elevation gain of 731 feet, along with plenty of steps.
6. Sitton’s Gulch Trail: This trail is also located in Cloudland Canyon State Park, but a perk is that you don’t have to drive up Lookout Mountain to access the trailhead. While it’s the same distance as West Rim Loop, Sitton Gulch is a tougher hike with an elevation gain of over 1,000 feet. It follows a creek of the same name and is a common swimming hole for locals after heavy rain. The trail starts off easy, but gradually gets steeper with many steps at the end of the trail to be able to get good views of the waterfall. You can turn around and go back or keep going up the mountain to explore more connector trails at the top.
7. Snodgrass Hill Loop: If you are a history buff, try this easy trail that has Civil War monuments scattered throughout the woods. It’s a great choice if you don’t want a steep climb. There are other trails in the Chickamauga Battlefield that are good for all skill levels.
8. North Chick Blue Hole: Located in the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, this swimming spot is a summertime must-see. Parking is available on Montlake Road. There are plenty of boulders that disrupt the streams, making many swimming holes to choose from.
9. Edward’s Point Trail: This is another trail in Prentice Cooper and offers beautiful views of the gorge at Julia Falls Overlook as well. It’s a very rocky stretch of terrain with an elevation gain of 800 feet. This can be challenging for beginners, so start with the Rainbow Lake Trail for a shorter trip.
10. Bay Point Loop: This is an easy hike in Harrison Bay State Park and is the flattest trail on the list. It’s not really considered a traditional hike but is a great choice for any skill level. The trail follows the shoreline, offering great views. It can get a little muddy, so try to go when it’s been dry for a couple of days.