Taking an epic, all-day trip into the great outdoors is one of the best things you can do—when you have the time and energy. All too often, though, busy schedules mean that micro-adventures requiring little to no preparation are more realistic.
And with manageable excursions around every corner, Chattanooga makes it easy to get your outdoor fix in small doses. Here are a few of our favorite effortless ways to get outside in Chattanooga—no maps or gear required.
1. Signal Point
Tucked into the cliffside in Signal Mountain’s historic district, Signal Point is the perfect destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike. From the parking lot, it’s only about a hundred yards down a gradual staircase to the first overlook, a spot was used by the Union to send communication signals during the Civil War. From here, you’ll have a clear view of the Tennessee River as it cuts through the steep gorge. Raccoon Mountain is also visible to the west.
2. Riverwalk Cycling
Chattanooga’s Riverwalk is impressive both for its length and its scenery. The wide, paved path spans from St. Elmo to the Chickamauga Dam, passing directly through downtown along the way. The Riverwalk is almost entirely flat, making it manageable for all skill levels and ages, and it offers amenities such as restrooms, playgrounds, and picnic tables. A popular access point to the riverfront path is from the Bluff View Art District in the heart of downtown. Don’t have a bike? Pick one up at one of over 30 bikeshare docking stations and pedal to your heart’s content.
3. Reflection Riding Nature Center and Arboretum
Take a trip to this hidden gem for a relaxing day in a beautiful natural area. Located at the foot of Lookout Mountain, Reflection Riding offers 14 miles of hiking trails, a 3-mile scenic drive, calm water, wildlife, and much more. With more than 300 acres of beautiful meadows and forests—plus a native animal exhibit and vibrant gardens—Reflection Riding is a lovely place for people of all ages to spend a day outside.
4. Walnut Street Bridge and Coolidge Park
Connecting the trendy NorthShore neighborhood to the lively downtown area, the Walnut Street Bridge is one of Chattanooga’s signature attractions. The blue-trussed bridge was constructed in 1890 and was once the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Though it no longer holds that title, the beautiful bridge remains a favorite place for both locals and visitors to enjoy walking, running, and biking. Coolidge Park, located just below the Walnut Street Bridge on NorthShore, is a great spot to relax and cool off on the Tennessee riverfront after your stroll.
5. Outdoor Bars and Restaurants
For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything in between, Chattanooga restaurants are teeming with fantastic outdoor seating areas. For coffee, pastries, and café fare, visit the European-style cobblestone patio at Rembrandt’s Coffee House in the art district. At lunchtime, grab a seat outside of 1885 Grill for southern coastal cuisine and premium people-watching experience in the St. Elmo neighborhood. In the evening, have beers, burgers, and fried pickles on the rooftop deck of the Pickle Barrel, which overlooks the busy downtown Market Street. Or, for a slightly swankier outing, stop in at Beast and Barrel for cocktails on the back porch, which looks out over Coolidge Park.
6. Chattanooga Ducks
For a one-of-a-kind tour of the Scenic City, take a spin on the Chattanooga Ducks. The Ducks are amphibious military vehicles that offer a two-for-one tour of downtown and the Tennessee River. After an informative ride around some of the city’s main attractions, the Ducks coast right into the river for a trip around MacLellan Island and a unique view of the Tennessee Aquarium, the Hunter Museum, and the riverfront parks.
7. Sunset Rock
Another of Chattanooga’s most well-loved natural features, Sunset Rock is an easy-to-get-to panoramic overlook on Lookout Mountain. The parking lot is tiny, but if you manage to get a spot, it’s only a few steps to catch a gorgeous glimpse of Lookout Valley from Sunset Rock, which was also a key site during the Civil War. While it’s arguably the best place to watch a sunset in Chattanooga, this overlook is worth a visit any time of day.
8. Chattanooga Market
Every Sunday from May to November, vendors and artisans from around the region set up shop at the open air First Tennessee Pavilion for the Chattanooga Market. You’ll find gourmet cheese, local produce, craft beer, unique art, fresh popcorn, and much more among the market’s many aisles. Each week, there are an array of food trucks and local musicians, so you can easily make a day of your trip to the Chattanooga Market.
9. SUP on the Tennessee River
If you’ve always wanted to try stand-up paddleboarding, there’s no better place than Chattanooga. With the Tennessee River flowing right through downtown, getting on the river couldn’t be easier. And because of this easy access, there are several places around town to rent gear and get instruction. Rock/Creek Rentals and Outpost on the Riverwalk offers a variety of SUPs and kayaks, and their knowledgeable staff will make sure you’re comfortable and confident before getting on the water. Similarly, L2 Outside on NorthShore offers SUP rentals and weekly guided paddles on the Tennessee River.
10. Montague Park
This little-known park on Chattanooga’s Southside is part green space and part outdoor art museum. As the largest sculpture park in the Southeast, Sculpture Fields is home to more than 35 pieces of gigantic outdoor art from sculptors around the world. With walking paths and acres of grass, Montague Park plays host to festivals, yoga classes, school field trips, and much more. It’s perfect for a picnic or a casual stroll among the sculptures.
11. North Chick Blue Hole
One of Chattanooga’s favorite swimming holes, the North Chick Blue Hole is an easy walk from the parking area near Soddy-Daisy. Large boulders in the creek act as natural dams to create several deep plunge pools, perfect for cooling off on a hot day. Though the area is heavily trafficked, especially in the summer, its location in the valley between Mowbray and Signal Mountains makes the North Chick Blue Hole feel like an oasis.
12. Southside Coffee Shop Crawl
Enjoying a cup of coffee at one of Chattanooga’s many cafés is always great, but enjoying it on the porch of one of the Southside’s quaint coffee shops is even better. Take a little tour of the coffee scene and experience the variety of relaxing patios at each one. Treat yourself to locally roasted coffee and fresh-baked bread on the stony patio at Niedlovs, sandwiches and a view of the bustling Chattanooga Choo Choo at the Frothy Monkey, and biscuits and house-roasted coffee at Mean Mug.
Written by Madison Eubanks for RootsRated Media in partnership with Chattanooga CVB.
Featured image provided by Kathryn Crouch