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The Best Hikes in Chattanooga, Appropriate for all Skill Levels

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Captain K retired!!!!!  Since I left the corporate world 8 years ago, I have been planning for the moment that my travel buddy and better half retired. Now we can TRAVEL MORE!!!! The first half of 2019 has lots of new adventures ahead for us. Before that begins, we have to tie up our loose ends in Chattanooga, TN. A lease on our condo fell into our lap, so we are headed there this weekend to pack up our belongings and move them south. As our “ex-patriot” time (I am a Florida girl at heart) in Tennessee ends, I can’t help but feel a little reflective.

Tennessee River Walk

Chickamauga Dam

Chattanooga exists because of its topography. Nestled in a valley between the Cumberland Mountains and the Smoky Mountains, the Tennessee River runs through downtown. The natural beauty of the area beckons you to play outdoors. On the south shore of the Tennessee River winds a 22 mile shaded, paved trail referred to as the Riverwalk, perfect for biking or walking. No bike, no problem, Chattanooga has a bike share program with stations along the Riverwalk. There are many places to stop for a meal or just a refreshment. We spent many Sunday afternoons riding out to the Chickamauga Dam after a breakfast at Rembrandt’s Cafe, in the Bluff Arts District.

Enterprise South Nature Park

Enterprise South Park Nature Park

Enterprise South Park Nature Park was another one of our weekend haunts. This beautiful wooded area has 5 Mountain Bike Trails for all levels and 10 hiking trails. Captain K found his love of Mountain biking while we lived in Tennessee. I never advanced past the easy or beginner trails. Our time in Tennessee did rekindle my love of hiking. Enterprise South Nature Park offered me lots of hiking trails and street biking while Captain K conquered the mountain courses.

Chickamauga Gorge Trail

Cumberland Trail Summit

When we moved to Tennessee in June of 2014, I purchased a book of the most beautiful hiking trails in Chattanooga. (Remember I am a baby boomer who loves books! I do have the AllTrails app as well.) I set a goal to hike all the trails in the book. Sadly, I have not hiked them all.  We have not completely severed our ties with Chattanooga so I will continue to hike through the book!  Four trails hold a special place in my heart and are well worth your time, when your travels take you to Chattanooga. My first solo hiking experience was on the Chickamauga Gorge Trail, which is part of the Cumberland Trail system. I will never forget the empowerment I felt, that beautiful Wednesday in April, as I hiked up to the top of the Cumberland Ridge and back, never seeing another human being.  The trail starts at a creek with blue holes where you could swim in the summer. The summit offers panoramic views of the valley below. Hiking solo proved to be a walking meditation for me. I was excited to experience it again.

Hiawassee Segment of the John Muir National RecreationTrail

Hiawassee Trail in Spring

My next favorite hike was another solo experience, this time in the Smoky Mountains. I hiked the Hiawassee Segment of the John Muir National RecreationTrail, in the Cherokee National Forest.  Another Spring weekday, it was warm enough to hike in shorts and cool enough to want to stay out of the water. This is a relatively flat trail that follows along the Hiawassee River. I occasionally passed fly fishermen, gracefully trying to entice the brown trout that inhabit the river. I hiked 10 miles out and back, with only wildflowers and a few newly hatched snakes sharing the trail with me.

Rainbow Lake Trail

Rainbow Lake Trail

Closer to Chattanooga, Captain K and I trekked Rainbow Lake Trail on Signal Mountain. This trail sees a lot of traffic because of its proximity to residential areas. It is nicely shaded as it winds through hard wood forests. There are some interesting remains of stone houses, as well  as creeks and ponds along the way to Rainbow Lake. Once you reach the Lake, you can continue on to Edwards Point, crossing a suspension bridge on your way.

SusetRock On Lookout Mountain

View from Sunset Rock on a rainy day

Also close to Chattanooga, a must do for any visitor, is Sunset Rock Trail on Lookout Mountain. If you start at Point Park, there is plenty of parking and information about the Civil War battles fought in the area. After walking down several steep staircases, the trail is relatively flat.  A peaceful walk, above the bustle of the interstate system, panoramic vistas of the valley greet you on the trail. In the warmer weather you will find rock climbers scaling the sheer vertical walls of the cliffs along the main hiking trail.  Hiking in the early spring and fall will give you the best views of the sunset. Hiking in the fall among the reds and golds of the changing leaves is spectacular. This trail is a pleasant walk anytime of day, any season.

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