Winding wooded lanes, dazzling panoramas, criss-crossing streams, and a labyrinth of diverse trails make Signal Mountain a nature lover’s heaven. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga, Signal Mountain offers days of outdoor adventures and views that stretch on for miles. While even a drive around the densely forested mountain town is a more-than-satisfying way to spend an afternoon, taking a stroll (long or short) on some of Signal’s beautiful trails is the best way to experience its wide variety of spectacular natural offerings. We’ve selected some of our favorite places to get out and explore the mountain’s wild side.
1. Signal Point
This Signal Mountain classic is beloved by locals and visitors alike. From the parking lot in the mountain’s historic district, it’s a short but exciting walk through a maze of wooden stairs and bridges to Signal Point, which overlooks the Tennessee River. This spot, controlled by the Union during the Civil War, was used to relay messages to and from a nearby Alabama city using a complex signaling system, giving us its name. For those not willing to tackle the hike down to the Signal Point overlook, there is a fantastic (and very similar) view within sight of the parking lot that is extremely accessible. The park has restrooms open seasonally and the gates are closed at dusk.
2. Edward’s Point
Another of Signal Mountain’s time-honored destinations, Edward’s Point looks out over the Tennessee River gorge a few miles north of Signal Point. Aside from the gorgeous view, the best thing about Edward’s Point is the plethora of ways to get there. You could visit the overlook every day for a week and never reach it via the same trail. The most direct route is to access the site from Edward’s Point road, via a 2-ish mile ATV path, or to hike the three miles along the bluff from Signal Point. All of the trails to the point range from two to seven miles and are popular for hiking, running, mountain biking, and ATVs. No matter how you get there, the large outcropping at Edward’s Point is perfect for picnicking, sunbathing, or taking photos.
3. Shackleford Ridge County Park
For a more manicured hiking experience, the trails of Shackleford Ridge Park, also known as the Sam Powell trails, are a wonderful place to do some low-key hiking or dog walking. The trails create a series of color-coded loops that can be a little tricky to navigate, so be sure to snap a picture of the map at the trail head. The well-maintained trails feature several quaint wooden foot bridges, benches, a swinging bridge, and tree species identification placards. The best way to access the trails is from the parking lot at the back of Signal Mountain Middle High School, and you can easily tailor your route from less than one mile up to six.
4. Rainbow Lake
From the large designated parking lot in the historic district of Signal Mountain, it’s about three quarters of a mile down to Rainbow Lake. This has consistently been one of Signal’s most popular destinations because the trail to the lake is wide, smooth, and not too steep. You’ll start hiking parallel to the golf course, crossing wooden footbridges and an old spring house. The lake features a dam built in 1916 that creates a short but powerful waterfall, and a swinging bridge that spans the creek. You can terminate your hike here or opt to take a two-mile tour around the lake. Because of its accessibility and recreational opportunities, Rainbow Lake is perhaps the best place on Signal for a family outdoor adventure.
5. Mushroom Rock and Suck Creek
The path to Mushroom Rock also leaves from the Shackleford Ridge Park trailhead but veers west through private land, though the trail is open to the public. It’s a little over a mile to Mushroom Rock, which, as the name suggests, is an enormous rock that looks stunningly like a giant mushroom. From there, you can retrace your steps back to the car, or venture down the short but excruciatingly steep trail leading to Suck Creek in the gorge below. The creek is fast flowing and remarkably pristine, featuring a long swinging bridge above its shallow rapids. The trek back up to Mushroom Rock is a doozy, but makes for a day well spent in the woods.