Winter adventure in the south doesn’t mean slogging through knee-deep snow or fighting bitter winds in an effort to catch a pretty view. In fact, far from it. Here in Chattanooga, the relatively un-harsh season makes for the perfect occasion to get out and play. Trails are less crowded, overlooks are unobstructed by leaves, and if it gets a little too cold for comfort, you’re never far from a warm meal at a welcoming restaurant. So throw on an extra layer or two and try out some of our favorite ways to combine scenic trails and good eats.
1. Audubon Acres and the Terminal Brewhouse
With 130 acres of protected land, Audubon Acres is an oasis of nature and history on the outskirts of Chattanooga. The forested wildlife sanctuary features five miles of hiking trails bisected by South Chickamauga Creek, and labeled plants and trees make it easy to identify species even when they’re bare for the winter. Start with the visitor center’s timeline of human inhabitants dating back to Cherokee Native Americans, and don’t miss the Spring Frog Cabin, a restored homestead on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
Continue your historical journey at the Terminal Brewhouse near the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The train station’s construction in 1909 created a need for lodging, and the Terminal Hotel was soon opened. Over the years, the triangular building played host to speakeasies, casinos, and possibly even a brothel. Now the building is as interesting as ever, but it’s known for its craft beer and great food. The tap list includes seven signature beers and a rotating cast of seasonals, while the menu offers everything from soup and salads to burgers and pizza, plus snarky commentary about each dish.
2. Edwards Point and Taco Mamacita
Edwards Point is one of the crown jewels of the region, and while the overlook itself offers a breathtaking view of the river gorge from Signal Mountain’s western side, getting there is half the fun. One approach is a six-mile round trip from Signal Point where, after descending 200 steps, the trail winds along the bluff and over a long swinging bridge before climbing back up to Edwards. You can also begin from Rainbow Lake, which is slightly shorter and easier at four miles. Both of these trails are well-traveled, especially on weekends, so start early to beat the traffic.
Back on Northshore, end your hike the best way possible—with tacos. Taco Mamacita is a fun fusion of trendy tex-mex and authentic Mexican cooking techniques. Choose from more than a dozen creative tacos, with everything from smoky barbecue to veggies and black beans. The atmosphere is lively and colorful, and it strikes the perfect balance of funky taco joint and traditional Mexican restaurant.
3. Stringers Ridge and Brewhaus
Not many cities can claim miles of trails and woodland within walking distance of downtown, but Chattanooga certainly can. Stringers Ridge is located just two tenths of a mile from Northshore’s main drag, making it a go-to for locals and visitors alike. The park offers about seven miles of well-maintained trails, plus one of the best overlooks of downtown Chattanooga to be found anywhere. The directional trails are popular with runners, hikers, and mountain bikers, and they have several access points with maps to help you create your perfect outing.
Afterward, stop in at Brewhaus for a hearty post-trail meal. As Chattanooga’s only German-American Gastropub, Brewhaus has been serving up big portions and local brews since 2011. The menu offers fresh takes on traditional German fare (think schnitzel, spaetzle, and brats), and the option for meat-free brats makes Brewhaus an unexpected friend to vegetarians. The building itself is small and casual, with a heated porch overlooking Coolidge Park and the Tennessee River.
4. High Point Climbing and Fitness and Urban Stack
Whether you’re a pro climber or have never touched a rope, visiting High Point is a must to fully experience Chattanooga. With 30,000 square feet of climbing space, this state-of-the-art gym is perfect for getting active if the winter weather turns cold. All equipment and instruction are provided onsite, and the gym offers a truly awesome kids area with interactive climbing walls and unique challenges. There’s even a parents night out every Friday, where your kiddos can have a fun, safe experience while you go out on the town or climb on your own.
A few blocks south, grab a spectacular hamburger at Urban Stack, popular for its inventive menu and western feel. The building itself is decked out with heart pine that was lovingly repurposed from a hundred-year-old mill, so keep an eye out for it in the floor and furnishings. For eats, you can select from more than 20 burgers and sandwiches, all served on locally baked buns. Many sport deliciously unusual toppings, like the gyro-inspired Hercules or the breakfast lovers’ Good Day Sunshine burger. Signature drinks and steakhouse-style sides will add the finishing touches.
5. Bluff Trail and Feed Company Table & Tavern
For a day on one of Chattanooga’s oldest and most iconic trails, make your way to Lookout Mountain’s nine-mile Bluff Trail. Built during the Depression, the Bluff Trail hugs the rocky eastern face of Lookout Mountain. Along the way, you’ll encounter thrilling birds-eye views of Lookout Valley, and a winter visit means catching even more stunning panoramas through the bare trees. You can even visit some other Lookout Mountain legends like Sunset Rock and Point Park without straying too far from the Bluff Trail.
Once back on the valley floor, cruise over for dinner and drinks at Feed Co., favored for its farm-fresh cuisine and wide selection of beverages. The menu is an innovative collection of southern classics-made-anew (think fried green tomatoes with green apple chow chow), and the restaurant’s rustic interior is reminiscent of Chattanooga’s old Seed-Feed Supply Company. Guests can enjoy the elegance of the traditional dining area or the casual ambiance of the tavern room. Insider tip: The Bloody Mary bar at Sunday brunch is decidedly the best way to begin your day in the Scenic City.