Tennesseans aren’t the only ones calling Chattanooga one of the best outdoor cities in the United States.
Four years ago, readers of Outside magazine ranked Chattanooga the “Best Town Ever.” The New York Times included it on its list of “45 Places To Go in 2012.” Now, the Scenic City has reclaimed its title as Outside’s 2015 Best Town Ever.
So what makes this city on the banks of the Tennessee River so great for outdoor enthusiasts? Consider these four ways to enjoy your leisure time in Chattanooga:
Swim and Sail
The Tennessee River flows right through the middle of Chattanooga. And just a few miles north, the river’s dam creates Chickamauga Lake — with plenty of boating, sailing, swimming and fishing opportunities to explore. Also nearby is the Ocoee River, which hosted the 1996 Olympics’ whitewater rafting competition. Because of its fame among rafters, the Ocoee gets crowded, especially in the summer. Nonetheless, you’ll find 30 lesser-known creeks with class IV runs or higher within a half-hour drive of Chattanooga’s downtown. Additionally, the “Head of the Hooch” is an annual rowing regatta that takes place in early November, and attracts more than 2,000 boaters each year.
Fly and Glide
The Cumberland Plateau encompasses 24,000 acres between Kentucky and Alabama. Right around Chattanooga, the plateau’s ridges tower 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the city, providing many beautiful vistas. Probably the most famous spot is Lookout Mountain, where, on a clear day, you can see into seven states in every direction. For the most adventurous, the area is a hotbed of hang-gliding activity. The Cumberland Plateau forms the eastern ridge of the Sequatchie Valley, heralded for years as the hang-gliding capital of the East Coast. A national competition takes place annually in nearby Dunlap, Tenn.
Discover more ways you and your family can enjoy a day in Chattanooga.
Climb and Scale
The plateau is also home to some interesting topography around Chattanooga. Craggy ridges, deep gorges, boulder gardens and caverns are just waiting to be explored. Stone Fort, sometimes called Little Rock City, is located 20 minutes from downtown and provides quite the versatile spot for boulder climbers of all abilities. Chattanooga is also well known among rock climbers for its hard sandstone bluffs, which range in difficulty from easy to expert.
Hike and Bike
With the Cumberland Plateau to the west and the Appalachian mountains to the east, Chattanooga is full of places to explore on foot or bike. More than 100 miles of forest service paths, greenways and single-track trails offer mountain bikers plenty of interesting rides. Hikers will find 150 miles of trails on public lands, whereas backpackers can take the city’s Great Eastern Trail north to the Appalachian Trail or south to meet up with the Pinhoti Trail in Georgia. The Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail provides ample opportunities to meander through the plateau’s gorges in the greater Chattanooga area. And, within an hour drive of the “Best Town Ever,” you’ll get to explore 7,000 caves that include the popular destinations of Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Ruby Falls.
With so much to offer, it’s no surprise the city of Chattanooga is considered one of the best outdoor cities in the country. To learn more about its recreation, you’ll have to see for yourself!