Summer and road trips—name a better duo. There’s no better time of year to load up the car with family or friends, roll the windows down, turn the radio up, and hit the open road. And there’s no better destination than the Scenic City!

If you’re arriving in Chattanooga from one of its many two-hours-away towns (looking at you Atlanta, Nashville, and Knoxville!), then you’re going to want to read this guide. In it, we’ll divulge the most must-stop places on your way into town, plus some other can’t miss things to do once you’re in the area. So, buckle up, and we’ll see you soon!

Coming From Nashville

A familiar sight en route from Nashville to Chattanooga, by Brent Moore

If you’re driving from the capital of Tennessee to the outdoor capital of Tennessee, you’re in for a real treat. For the first hour of the drive, you’ll be surrounded by rolling farmlands bursting with bucolic charm and yellow wildflowers. After an hour and 20 minutes, you’ll reach Monteagle Mountain—a gorgeous natural area home to nature trails, waterfalls, and the University of the South. The descent from Monteagle Mountain toward Chattanooga is one of the most scenic stretches of road in all of the Southeast, with untouched and impossibly green mountains rippling in every direction. Twenty-five miles from Chattanooga, you’ll cross over Nickajack Lake—another picturesque panorama dotted with wooded islands and boating recreationalists. From here, it’s a windingly wonderful drive alongside the western flank of Lookout Mountain until you wrap around a beautiful bend of the Tennessee River and then arrive in the heart of downtown.

Where to Stop Along the Way:

If we had to choose just one stop along the way, it would be Foster Falls. Located a mere 20 minutes from the highway, this quick detour off I-24 showcases one of the most scenic waterfalls in the Southeast—a 60-foot beauty spilling over a sandstone cliff and plunging into an icy-cold pool below. In a word: magical.

A bonus stop would be Lookout Winery. From Nickajack Lake, take exit 161 and within minutes get transported from Tennessee to Tuscany with delicious wines and wood-fired pizzas. From Lookout Winery, travel into Chattanooga via US Route 41, which slithers around the bends of the Tennessee River Gorge below Raccoon Mountain before meeting back up with I-24 for your grand entry into Chattanooga.

Once In Chattanooga:

Nashvillians will love exploring Chattanooga’s Historic Southside District. From swanky bars to bustling streets, it’s the perfect mix of electric and easygoing.

Coming From Knoxville


Two words describe the drive from Knoxville to Chattanooga: Two Lanes. You could probably choose a few other words, too, though: relaxing, contemplative, subtly gorgeous, and full of plenty of pull-off opportunities. The first half of the drive along I-75 is mostly un-reportable. But as you get closer to Chattanooga, the scenery starts unfolding beautifully. Just past Cleveland, there’s a panoramic scenic pull-off. Then the grand finale is the view as you cross over the Missionary Ridgecut—an iconic entry into the Scenic City, with Lookout Mountain looming to your left and the city itself nestled perfectly below in an amphitheater surrounded by mountains.

Where to Stop Along the Way:

The real goods on the drive from Knoxville to Chattanooga exist away from I-75. The cute town of Tellico Plains is a noteworthy stop (with a phenomenal bakery). The Ocoee River offers some of the best commercial whitewater rafting in the country, only about 30 minutes from Cleveland. And for Knoxvillians traveling with their bikes, a quick stop at Enterprise South Nature Park is a must.

Once in Chattanooga:

Knoxvillians will love exploring the Bluff View Arts District, Walnut Street Bridge, and North Shore. No strangers to their own section of the Tennessee River, it will be like a little slice of home, only with a Scenic City twist. A latte from Rembrandt’s, a stroll across the bridge, a tour of North Shore shops, capped off by a cocktail on the Edwin Hotel roof? You can’t beat it.

Coming From Atlanta

Cloudland Canyon State Park is one of many must-stop North Georgia gems en route to Chattanooga, by Loc Giang

Once you make it out of the Atlanta Perimeter (and Marietta), you’ll feel home-free! No more traffic, just the smooth open road of I-75 as it zips & curves northward through increasingly wooded and wonderful locales: Allatoona Lake, Etowah River, Dalton, then boom—Chattanooga unfolding below the Missionary Ridgecut in all its scenic splendor.

Where to Stop Along the Way:

Just south of Chattanooga exists a smorgasbord of North Georgia gems. Before arriving in the city, a stop at any one of them is a must. Chickamauga Battlefield is an obvious pick for history buffs and cyclists looking to cruise through its rolling fields. Nearby Pigeon Mountain is home to one of the best bouldering fields in the region. Just across the cove that separates Pigeon Mountain and Lookout Mountain, the newly opened McLemore Club can comfortably call itself one of the most beautiful golf courses in the country. Fifteen minutes from there, Cloudland Canyon State Park is an outdoor paradise home to staggering sandstone cliffs, plunging waterfalls, and 30-miles of hiking trails.

Once in Chattanooga:

The reason Atlantans come to Chattanooga is simple: the outdoors. When it comes time for escaping the concrete jungle, Chattanooga offers up the perfect escape. From the bluffs and waterfalls of Signal Mountain to the best scenic overlooks throughout the city, there’s no better place to experience the great outdoors.

Wherever you’re coming from, and however you arrive, we look forward to welcoming you in Chattanooga!