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Chattanooga is Calling All Nature Lovers

Natural attractions make the Greater Chattanooga region an outdoor recreation playground. 

By Cary Estes on August 30, 2022

Whitewater rafters on the Ocoee River in Ducktown, Tennessee.
Jeff Adkins

As an angler with the Bassmaster Elite Series, Buddy Gross has spent time fishing in some of the most picturesque locations across the country. But he has yet to discover a place where the outdoors are as great as his native Greater Chattanooga region.

“I’ve traveled a lot, and I’ve never found anything quite as beautiful as the Chattanooga area,” Gross says. “We have mountains and rivers and lots of really clean water. This is one of the best places to be outdoors.”

Picture of Buddy Gross fishing on Chickamauga Lake, which is in the Greater Chattanooga, TN area.
Courtesy of Buddy Gross

Others agree. Chattanooga is the only two-time winner of Outside magazine’s Best Towns contest, and Lonely Planet dubbed the region the “Best in the U.S.” for outdoor activities. And why not? Nestled between the Appalachian Mountains and the Tennessee River, there are outdoor recreation opportunities in all directions, with spectacular spots for hiking, biking, climbing and all sorts of watersports.

“It’s called ‘The Scenic City’ for a reason,” says Patrick Malloy, Adventure Sports Innovation CEO, referring to Chattanooga’s official nickname. “If you’re into hiking or climbing or any kind of exploring, there are tons of places to visit. Really, if you like doing almost anything outdoors, you’ll find something you enjoy in Chattanooga.”

People four wheeling in the Chattanooga, TN area at Adventure Sports Innovation
Adventure Sports Innovation

Start with the Parks

Major parks and natural areas can be found throughout Greater Chattanooga. These include Prentice Cooper State Forest (located in the Tennessee River Gorge), Cloudland Canyon State Park (featuring deep canyons, sandstone cliffs and waterfalls), Booker T. Washington State Park and Harrison Bay State Park (both situated on the shores of Chickamauga Lake) and Laurel Snow State Natural Area (which contains a segment of the Cumberland Trail, Tennessee’s only linear state park).

“Part of the beauty of Chattanooga is there are plenty of trails like the Riverwalk and the Greenway that are safe locations for runners and walkers.”

Michelle Sledge, Chattanooga Track Club

Also in the area are Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park and the numerous surrounding whitewater rafting outfitters, as well Fall Creek Falls State Park with its new $40 million lodge, where every room has a view.

You don’t have to travel far to enjoy Greater Chattanooga’s natural wonders. Nearby greenways and trails are designed specifically for hiking, biking, running and walking. The North and South Chickamauga Creek Greenways provide more than 15 miles of trails outside downtown Chattanooga. Some of the city’s best views can be found at Stringer’s Ridge Park along its 3.3-mile loop trail.

Visitors walk past some horses next to a trail at Reflection Riding Nature Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. ©Journal Communications/Jeff Adkins
Jeff Adkins

Of course, the most convenient trail of them all cuts right through the heart of the city, as the 16-mile-long Tennessee Riverwalk rolls alongside the Tennessee River, providing a paved pathway past city amenities and outdoor splendor (as well as river access at Coolidge Park). 

“Part of the beauty of Chattanooga is there are plenty of trails like the Riverwalk and the Greenway that are safe locations for runners and walkers,” says Michelle Sledge, 2022 president of Chattanooga Track Club.

IRONMAN Triathlon in Chattanooga TN
Edde Burgess/IRONMAN

Contemplation or Competition

Another great thing about outdoor recreation in Chattanooga is that you can be passive or aggressive in your actions. For peaceful getaways, Greenway Farms, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, and Crabtree Farms all provide public access to former farms turned parks.

Meanwhile, athletes from around the world come to Chattanooga each year for various competitions and events, including the Chattanooga Ironman, the Chattanooga Marathon, Bassmaster fishing tournaments, the Head of the Hooch Regatta and the Gran Fondo Hincapie bicycle ride.

One of the highlights is the annual Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon (also with a half marathon and 5K). This event has been held for more than 40 years on the Civil War battle site.

“They fire a cannon to start the race,” Sledge says. “It’s a run-through history.”

Paddlers pass by Fisherman Cabins and Villas while on the lake at Fall Creek Falls State Park near Spencer. ©Journal Communications/Nathan Lambrecht
Nathan Lambrecht

There are also adventure opportunities in the area, including rock climbing and hang gliding. But, for something slightly different, Adventure Sports Innovation lives up to its name by renting out innovative products such as water bikes, electric surfboards and electric off-road vehicles.

“We offer new adventures on new inventions,” Malloy says. “We try to provide interesting experiences, whether it’s on the trails, the water or just around the city. We want to introduce people to fun outdoor adventures.” 

And what better place to do so than in Greater Chattanooga, which is all about outdoor fun.

If you’d like to learn more about the Greater Chattanooga area, check out the latest edition of Chattanooga Region Economic Development.

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