Surely Chattanooga was created as a gift to Tennessee, for there are few places where the wonders of nature are more breathtakingly displayed. Within easy sight of downtown, rocky crags reach out across the skyline, mountain streams lead to breathtaking waterfalls, and the rolling river nourishes an urban wetland.

1. Relax at Snooper’s Rock

If you’re an early riser, there is no place better to catch the sunrise than atop the overlook at Snooper’s Rock. But for those of us who prefer a bit more shut-eye, hiking the six-mile out-and-back trail offers stunning views from dawn to dusk, and follows the Cumberland Trail in the Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area. Your four-legged friends (kept on a leash) are welcome, too! It’s undoubtedly one of the best places to take in the jaw-dropping beauty of Tennessee. 

2. Bike & Hike Raccoon Mountain

If you’re a fan of outdoor activities, Raccoon Mountain’s cave tours, and 30 miles of multi-use trails for mountain biking, hiking, and trail running are calling your name. The local chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, SORBA Chattanooga, has been constructing and maintaining an extensive trail system on the mountain since 2005. Whether you’re ready for the High Voltage Route, or something a little more chill, this site is considered one of the top mountain bike trail systems in Tennessee.

Chattanooga has grown from having 7 miles of mountain biking trails in 2003 to over 60 miles of trails in 2023. Our trails rival the best that you’ll find anywhere in the country. The city has become an absolute mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.

- Mike Gehard SORBA Chattanooga 

3. Paddle the Tennessee River

With riverside parks, waterfront restaurants, and plenty of recreation opportunities, the Tennessee River is the lifeblood of the Scenic City, and there’s no better way to experience it than to get out and go paddling. Access points like Coolidge Park and Ross’s Landing make it easy to get in the water, and there are many other points along the river. If you didn’t bring your own gear, no worries! You can rent some at one of the nearby outdoor outfitters

4. Foster Falls

Just 45 minutes from Chattanooga at the south end of the Cumberland Plateau, this spectacular 60-foot waterfall dives deep into South Cumberland State Park. An easy hike to the top of the falls reveals mountain laurels, azaleas, and hemlocks, a trail that leads down into the gorge, and a suspension bridge taking you to the base of the falls.

Nearby, a 26-site campground offers a bathhouse with showers, a fire ring, and picnic tables.

5. Hike to Sunset Rock

For a short, easy hike, perfect for bringing along the kids and your four-legged family, choose the west face of Lookout Mountain. After a short tenth of a mile, the trail ends at the open rock ledge of Sunset Rock, where you’ll get 180-degree views toward west Chattanooga, the Tennessee River Gorge, and Prentice Cooper State Forest. If you decide to keep going, longer trails start at this point

6. Walden’s Ridge Park

With over 10 miles of hiking, mountain biking, running, and bouldering trails take the standard for mountain biking and hiking to new heights in the Chattanooga region. Experienced bikers already rank Walden's Ridge as one of the best in the nation.

7. Stringer’s Ridge

Hike, bike, run, or just enjoy nature at this 92-acre wilderness park in the heart of North Chattanooga, overlooking Northshore, the Tennessee River, and downtown Chattanooga. Stringer's Ridge boasts even miles of multi-use trails maintained by SORBA are a result of a citizen-based effort to preserve the large natural area, with trails suitable for leisurely strolls (some designated for foot-traffic only), and experienced hikers and bikers.

8. Ocoee River

If you’ve never ventured into fast-moving water for a whitewater rafting adventure, there is no time like the present to make a splash on one of the top whitewater rivers in the country. Whether you’re looking for a gentle Class I ride or ready to take on Class IV rapids, you’ll find local outfitters providing guides with all the expertise, gear, and information on how to paddle the river safely. If you’re looking for more relaxing, you can tube down the lower Ocoee River or the nearby Hiwassee River. And you’re just 45 minutes Northeast of Chattanooga!

9. Chattanooga Zoo

With a reputation dating back to the 1900s for providing a happy and healthy home for animals and engaging and inspiring the community to understand and preserve wildlife, today, over 200 different species are represented in the zoo’s 500 animals. From kinkajous to Komodo dragons, servals to salamanders, the Chattanooga Zoo is dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation, conservation efforts, and species survival plans. Plan your visit today! 

10. Stone Fort

One-half hour north of Chattanooga on Mowbray Mountain, Stone Fort is one of the best-known bouldering areas in the country. One of three venues for the annual Crown of Bouldering Competition, with over 700 established problems, there are opportunities for climbers of every skill level. Parking is available on site and the attraction is pet-friendly.

11. Rock City

Generations have seen “See Rock City” painted on the roofs of rural barns. If you have yet to follow that suggestion, it’s high time you visited the iconic attraction. Atop Lookout Mountain and just six miles from downtown Chattanooga, at Rock City Gardens, you’ll be enchanted by the 4,100-foot walking trail showcasing soaring rock formations, caves, and lush gardens. The attraction dates back to the Great Depression, but its history dates back thousands of years and remains a national treasure of botanical, geological, and entrepreneurial significance. You’ve seen the signs. Now’s the time to visit!

12. Ruby Falls

A true natural wonder in every sense, the thundering un. underground waterfall known as Ruby Falls is an incredible sight to discover at the end of the tour through the underground caves of Lookout Mountain. Opened to the public in 1929, today, Ruby Falls welcomes guests from around the world to enjoy underground cave adventures, spectacular views of the Cumberland Plateau, soaring zip lines, and award-winning special events! Experience the wonder for yourself!

Chattanooga Travel Inspiration Magazine

2024 Chattanooga Travel Inspiration Magazine cover _ woman sits on Sunset rock with dog

A version of this story was previously published in the 2024 edition of our Travel Inspiration Magazine.

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