Best Hikes Near Chattanooga

For the hiker seeking a worthwhile adventure, these 11 trails pay homage to the “Scenic City.”

Chattanooga’s position along the Tennessee River and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains makes it a go-to destination in the southeast for hiking. According to Chattanooga’s Parks and Outdoors Department, more than 150 miles of public hiking trails are found within a 15-mile drive of downtown Chattanooga. Fall is the best time of year to hike the city for bright foliage views—but treks in this southeastern Tennessee locale can be enjoyed any time of the year and by hikers of any experience level.  

We’ve assembled the best hikes in and near Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

If you’re having trouble deciding where to go, are interested in learning more about the sights along the trail, or are looking for a group to hike with, consider joining one of REI’s guided Tennessee day hikes. 

 
The Tennessee Riverwalk  

  • Location: Chattanooga 
  • Length: 16.1-miles point to point 
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy  
  • Best for: River strolls 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

Sometimes called the Chattanooga Riverwalk, locals know this as a multiuse space for outdoor activities. Stretching from the Chickamauga Dam to Ross’ Landing Park in downtown Chattanooga, hikers can choose from several trailheads as the path winds along the southside of the Tennessee River. This paved trail is wheelchair accessible and used by joggers, bikers and families with strollers. It also has public art, playgrounds and fishing piers as well as several restaurants and coffee shops in the Bluff View Art District closer to downtown. Whether hikers want an urban hike in nature, or a romp around local businesses, there’s something for every taste on the Tennessee Riverwalk. Leashed pets are only allowed on a section of the trail, from the Bluff View Art District south to St. Elmo. 

South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Trail 

  • Location: Chattanooga 
  • Length: 13-mile point to point 
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy  
  • Best For: In-town treks 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

Follow along the South Chickamauga Creek as it makes its way from Camp Jordan Park to the Tennessee River on this in-town trail. It’s wheelchair-accessible, as it’s mostly made of asphalt with a few sections of wooden boardwalk. The trail is commonly used for jogging, biking and skating, but it was created to serve a more practical purpose for people living nearby: a path to commute car-free to work or school. Starting at the southern trailhead, the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Trail makes a loop around Camp Jordan, then eventually takes hikers along the west side of the Chattanooga airport, then under an active railroad. Continue the trail along a boardwalk through a wetland area. The trail eventually heads west toward the Tennessee River. A 190-foot bridge connects this trail to the Tennessee Riverwalk. For a similar adventure, check out the North Chickamauga Creek Greenway across the Tennessee River in Hixson, Tennessee. 

Stringer’s Ridge Cherokee Trail (via Strut Trail) 

  • Location: Chattanooga 
  • Length: 2.4-mile loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy 
  • Best for: Families with little hikers 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

Chattanooga hikers have this family-friendly hike inside a 92-acre park thanks to local protests against a plan to build condos in the area. Those protests eventually led to a nature-protected park that adds to the city’s worthy nickname: the Scenic City. Take the Cherokee Trail in Stringer’s Ridge to the overlook with some of the best views of downtown Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain. Be aware that at the time of posting, not all the original trailheads are open to the public. Many of the trails in this urban park are used by mountain bikers, but there are plenty of trails for hikers to enjoy too. 

Cravens House Trail & Bluff Trail to Sunset Rock  

  • Location: Chattanooga 
  • Length: 3-mile out and back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate  
  • Best for: Sunset views 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

The panoramic views at the pinnacle of this trail are what make the Cravens House Trail hike so special. Snaking around the city of Chattanooga, the Tennessee River is visible from this spectacular vantage point. The view is best enjoyed just before dusk, when the sun sets behind the mountains. The 1.5-mile hike to the top of Lookout Mountain starts at Cravens House, an old mountain home run by the National Park Service that’s the site of a Civil War battle. The most direct route begins on Cravens House Trail and then moves to the intersecting Bluff Trail to take the most direct route to Sunset Rock. Hikers making their way uphill can take in views of a mature forest and giant rock formations before making their way to Sunset Rock.  

Bluff Trail 

  • Location: Chattanooga 
  • Length: 5-mile loop 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best for: Panoramic views 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

If Cravens House Trail leaves hikers excitedly wanting more, the connecting Bluff Trail will give hikers everything they desire. The Bluff Trail takes hikers along the rim of Lookout Mountain with the same stop at Sunset Rock, but then continues to new vantage points like Ochs Gateway and Judith’s Bluff. This trail can be modified to several different lengths: If you desire a shorter hike, use the trail as an out and back after stopping at one beautiful lookout. For more adventurous hikes, combine it with other trails like the Skyuka Trail or the Upper Truck Trail inside Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park to make a multimile loop. 

Rainbow Lake Trail to Bee Branch Trail 

  • Location: Chattanooga 
  • Length: 2.2-mile loop trail 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best for: Hiking and swimming 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

Once hikers have had their fill of Lookout Mountain, they can make their way to another unmissable Chattanooga hiking destination: Signal Mountain. It takes 30 minutes or less on the Rainbow Lake Trail before hikers get to what some call Rainbow Lake Falls. It’s not a true waterfall, but rather water spilling over the dam on Rainbow Lake into Middle Creek. The lake offers a great spot to cool off midhike. Visitors looking for an easy trail stop there and return to the small parking lot off Ohio Avenue. Those who want a bit more of a challenge can continue across the water and turn right onto the connecting Bee Branch Trail, making a full loop. Hikers report that the Bee Branch Trail is not as well marked as others, so consider taking along a map or GPS device to stay on track. 

Cumberland Trail to Edward’s Point 

  • Location: Signal Mountain, Tenn. 
  • Length: 5 miles out and back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Hard 
  • Best for: Mountain views 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

Those who want to tack on beautiful mountain views to an already stellar Rainbow Lake trek can turn left onto the Cumberland Trail after crossing Rainbow Lake Falls. Or try out a longer version of the Cumberland Trail from its start at Signal Point to its crowning achievement, Edward’s Point. Enjoy the suspension bridge, stunning rock formations, and, of course, mountain and river vistas. This trail is on the moderate to hard side, with some steep and narrow sections. Though it may be doable for some intermediate hikers who are willing to take their time. 

Ritchie Hollow Trail to Blowing Wind Falls 

  • Location: Prentice Cooper State Forest, 10 miles west of Chattanooga 
  • Length: 4.4-mile out and back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate 
  • Best for: Waterfall lovers 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

Ritchie Hollow Trail is one of the newer trails available in the Chattanooga area and has quickly risen to become a local favorite. Intermediate hikers who aren’t afraid of a 1,200-foot elevation incline will enjoy this trail through a hardwood forest in view of some historic moonshine stills. This hike starts at Pot Point Cabin and goes through the Tennessee River Gorge, crossing over a couple of creeks and eventually ending up at Davis Pond Campground for those interested in hiking past the waterfall. Blowing Wind Falls, the highlight of the trail, is a beautiful 30-foot stairstep waterfall. It’s not always a bustling waterfall in the summer or during periods of limited rainfall, but it’s beautiful any time of year.   

Snooper’s Rock Trail 

  • Location: Prentice Cooper State Forest, 10 miles west of Chattanooga 
  • Length: 1-mile out and back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy 
  • Best for: Sunrise hike 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

There is no shortage of overlooks with gorgeous views to choose from in and around Chattanooga, but the view from Snooper’s Rock is arguably the best. It also has the coolest origin story, since it was named after the law enforcement that would use the overlook to “snoop” on illegal moonshine operations during Prohibition. Starting from the Snooper’s Rock parking lot, a half-mile trek takes hikers to the overlook where the Tennessee River horseshoes through the gorge. This makes for an excellent early morning promenade to soak in the beautiful sunrise views over the forest. Those who want to continue hiking can join nearby trails like the Pot Point Loop. 

Base of Fall Creek Falls Trail 

  • Location: Fall Creek Falls State Park, 68 miles north from Chattanooga 
  • Length: 0.8-mile out and back 
  • Difficulty Rating: Hard  
  • Best for: Waterfall views 
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

Inside Tennessee’s most beloved state park is the 256-foot-tall Fall Creek Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. At the trailhead, hikers encounter picturesque views of the waterfall; many stop to take pictures before heading down the trail’s initial steps. Hiking to the base of the waterfall is a short but steep traverse along ancient rock. On a hot day, hikers will feel the temperature dip as they get closer to the bottom of the trail. For those interested in longer hikes, there are connecting trails. Waterfall lovers will have plenty to gawk at as Fall Creek Falls State Park boasts six waterfalls across its 26,000 acres. 

Cloudland Canyon State Park Overlook Trail 

  • Location: Cloudland Canyon State Park, 27 miles south of Chattanooga 
  • Length: 1-mile out and back  
  • Difficulty Rating: Easy  
  • Best for: Hikers of all levels who love beautiful high-terrain views  
  • Dogs: Allowed on-leash  

Tennessee hikers will have to cross state lines to get to Cloudland Canyon State Park in north Georgia, but at just a 30-minute drive, the park is an easy commute for Chattanooga residents. The most popular hike in the park is the Overlook Trail, an easy route that takes hikers along the rim of Cloudland Canyon with stunning views into and across the river gorge. There are plenty of benches and picnic tables lining the trail, so visitors can stop to soak in the sights. For those looking for more challenging hikes, trails in the park reach down into the canyon where you can get a closer look at the waterfall and river. But the best views remain at the top. 

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