It's official—Chattanooga is the coolest city in the country. (Okay, maybe it's not actually official, but if you're reading this, then you probably think it's at least partly true.)
In order to make the most of what the Scenic City has to offer, we've compiled a list of 50 must-do outdoor-related activities in the area. From the best local hiking trails, to the most memorable camping getaways in the nearby area, to the top places for refueling after a long day in the woods, here's our definitive list of everything we love about this city.
A staple for Chattanooga trail running, the 10-mile Big Daddy Loop is composed of seven different trails on Lookout Mountain, each offering convincing evidence that the Scenic City is a premier trail running town.
RiverRocks is an outdoor festival spanning the entire month of October, offering a series of over 20 outdoor events for both elite-level athletes and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Whether you're participating or simply spectating, it's quite a party.
3. Run a lap around the Maclellan Sanctuary on Audubon Island.
You know that island beneath Veteran's Bridge? Well, did you know that it has a 1-mile loop trail on it? Running a lap or two around it will definitely bring out your inner-Tom Sawyer adventurous side.
The highlight of hiking in this pristine wilderness area is reaching the forested summit of Big Frog Mountain. Standing at 4,222 feet, this peak earns the unique title of being the highest western-most mountain in the Appalachian Chain.
Stone Fort has been a part of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series since the beginning, and it's pretty easy to see why. Special to this event is the access to the golf course area boulders, which are normally off limits. This means 50+ additional problems to the already densely concentrated number of prime sandstone lines.
With over 6,000 acres of protected land and 35 miles of hiking trails, Prentice Cooper is a vast expanse of dense forest just half an hour from downtown. A night of primitive camping alone in these woods will certainly give you some outdoor street cred.
7. Paddle the Tennessee River from downtown to Suck Creek Road.
If you're looking for an all-day affair on the water, paddling downriver from downtown to Suck Creek Road is just the ticket. Taking you under the city's bridges, around the contour of historic Moccasin Bend, and right to the entrance of the beautiful Tennessee River Gorge, this trip isn't short on spectacular scenery.
While a 16-mile run on pavement, from Walnut Street Bridge to the Chickamauga Dam and back, might seem like a bit of an undertaking, the flatness of the path and the riverside beauty along the way makes it a realistic and worthwhile goal.
Only two hours from downtown Chattanooga, the Smokies are America's most visited national park—a magical place where hikers and backpackers can experience high altitudes, stunning views, enticing forest biomes, and incredible natural diversity.
With over 500 established problems spread out over a large area, the bouldering at Rocktown is about as good as it gets (and it's less crowded than other boulder fields in the area, which is an added boon).
17. Volunteer with a trail maintenance crew.
Find out what it's like to help build the trails you frequently enjoy. You'll probably gain a much deeper appreciation for what goes into it.
18. Hike a 50 mile section of the Appalachian Trail.
Many sections of the Appalachian Trail are just too close to the city not to visit. Some of our all-time favorites include Roan Mountain, the Smokies, and Grayson Highlands.
19. Spend the night at the Overmountain Shelter on the AT.
Yes, this shelter is cool enough to have its own category. Known more commonly as "The Barn," this two-story shelter, in the Roan Highlands, offers one of the best overnight experiences along the entire AT. Enjoy an unforgettable sunrise over the outstretching valley below and be sure to drink the wonderfully refreshing water from the piped spring.
Located on the Cumberland Trail, Deep Creek's picturesque cliff line backs up to the confluence of two creeks: Big Soddy Creek and Deep Creek. What makes this place so great is the ample number of swimming holes you can jump in on the hottest days.
The site of the whitewater portion of the Atlanta '96 Olympics, the Ocoee River is one of the most popular whitewater paddling destinations in the world. Even if you're not an experienced kayaker, there are quite a few rafting companies that run trips in the summer.
23. Rent one of the Chattanooga city bikes.
You've seen them around. Practically every street corner in the city seems to have a docking station for these blue and green, three-speed bikes. Why not give one a spin? It's actually quite a fun activity for a sunny Sunday afternoon.
24. Cycle down the "W" Road.
For a huge burst of adrenaline, it doesn't get much better than bombing down Signal Mountain's most iconic road.
The fertile floodplain of Moccasin Bend was once home to some of America's earliest known inhabitants. Now it's home to a golf course, a mental hospital, a police firing range, and a waste management facility.
It might seem counterintuitive to drive past Hamilton Place Mall to find some sweet singletrack. But that's just what you'll get at Enterprise South—miles of amazing singletrack trails perfect for trail runners and mountain bikers alike.
Tennessee is blessed with some pretty spectacular state parks . And Fall Creek Falls, with its towering waterfalls, steep gorges, dense rhododendron tunnels, and virgin hardwood forests, is one of the best.
This doesn't mean you should plan your weekend backpacking trip during hurricane season, but you also shouldn't let a little rain keep you inside. Truthfully, there are few things more downright miserable for a backpacker than getting caught in a cold, pounding rain. But it's also an invigorating life experience worth having.
Meeting other local trail runners is a great way to spice up your running routine. Not only is it a great way to help motivate you, but these group runs are also quite a bit of fun.
34. Complete a half or a full IRONMAN.
Chattanooga is officially an IRONMAN city. If you were lucky enough to witness the inaugural event in September 2014, you'll know just how exciting it can be and just how rewarding it is to cross the finish line.
The upstairs lounge at the Squirrel has a sophisticated charm that's perfectly suited for a romantic evening. And with the dim lighting, mellow music, and wide range of spirits to choose from, it's an easy place to feel comfortable in a one-on-one situation.
37. Eat a Tavern burger after going on a long hike.
It doesn't get much better than gorging on a juicy Tavern burger after having earned the calories on the trail. We recommend the Jalapeño Jack Burger with the addition of crispy onion ring straws, and tots on the side.... just make sure it was a really long hike.
38. Take a nap at Coolidge Park in the spring.
There are few things more relaxing than dosing off on a warm spring day in Coolidge Park—especially if you've just completed a run along the riverwalk or a tour of the town on a city bike.
It might sound cheesy, but an innocent day date at Reflection Riding is actually quite enjoyable—strolling the gravel paths, taking in the scenery, and just maybe sneaking a kiss in the bamboo forest when no families with children are around.
You can't beat the feeling of heading into the office knowing that you've already gotten in your workout for the day. And Stringers is just about as convenient as it gets for snagging some early morning endorphins.
42. Scale the outdoor climbing wall at High Point.
Even if you've never been climbing before, scaling the side of a parking garage in the middle of a city is certainly something to write home about.
43. Find your go-to cup of Joe.
Every weekend warrior needs a caffeine boost before hitting the trail. Will it be the coffee aficionados at the Camp House, Brash, Mean Mug, or Copacetic? That's your call.
If you’re looking for a place close to Chattanooga with a truly remote and rugged feel, Savage Gulf is a 15,590-acre natural playground on the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau that features 50 miles of trails, pristine waterfalls, and unforgettable canyon views.
The brewers at Chattanooga Brewing Company are always coming up with new ways to improve their craft, and they've got quite a few delicious brews on tap to show for it. Not to mention, their motto of "Beer for Adventure" is really what it's all about.
48. Go on a headlamp trail run.
Rock/Creek frequently hosts headlamp/group run demos where like-minded runners can head out into the night for some adrenaline-inducing, flashlight fun.
49. Have the ultimate adventure day at Raccoon Mountain.
Raccoon Mountain is home to a wealth of outdoor recreation. Think you have what it takes to mountain bike, trail run, and road bike here all within the same day? Because it's possible.