When we moved to Nashville, Chattanooga quickly became a spot on our must-visit list. As outdoor lovers, we knew it would be a great place for a mini-vacation. A lot of people head to the Great Smokey Mountains but we knew we wanted a destination that we felt we could conquer in a long weekend. The best part, it is only a 2.5hr drive from Nashville.
Chattanooga is nestled in a valley among the Appalachian Mountains and built around the Tennessee River. The landscape provides the perfect setting for endless outdoor adventures, and wonderful swimming holes to cool off in when the summer heat sets in. I talk a lot about my planning process in this post here but thought it would be fun to do a travel guide blog post rounding up a few must-see spots!
- We decided to rent an RV on Outdoorsy and stay at Chester Frost Park. It’s about 30 minutes from downtown Chattanooga but it was a great spot to relax and the location was actually a great springboard for all the other sights we wanted to see. This lakefront park offers sites for tents & RVs, a fun sandy beach, boat docks and the water is great for SUP/kayaking. We also loved the beachside hammock hangs. This spot is right on the lake and really peaceful — can’t beat it.
- For those of you who aren’t familiar with Outdoorsy, it is basically airbnb for trailers, RVs and Sprinter van rentals. We ended up renting a trailer that was already based out of Chattanooga. We did this so we wouldn’t have to tow anything ourselves. We paid a small fee to have the owner deliver the trailer to Chester Frost and when we arrived it was already set-up and ready to go! We could have used our Jeep but instead, we opted to drive our Prius and save on gas. This ended up being perfect. We are used to tent camping, backpacking or staying in our Land Cruiser so honestly, this was so LUXURY for us. We had a full kitchen, WiFi, TV, full bath, queen bed and an outdoor grill. It was spotless and very well kept. I would 10/10 do this again.
- Snoopers Rock: This is one of my favorite hikes. The viewpoint reminds me of horseshoe bend or dead horse point. The U shape view of the Tennessee River is beautiful. If you don’t feel like hiking, you can basically drive to the overlook to see these stunning views.
- Sunset Rock from Point Park: One of the more popular bluffs in the city, from Sunset Rock you get long-range views of downtown Chattanooga in the distance and views of the Tennesee River. It’s a scenic hike that crams a ton of outdoor beauty into a relatively short distance. As you might guess, it’s a great place to catch sunset too.
- Signal Point -> Edwards Point/Rainbow Lake Wilderness: This is a great day hike. We loved it because you see a little bit of everything — summit views, swinging bridges, creeks, and waterfalls. For a bit, I felt like I was back in the PNW.
OTHER DRIVEABLE HIKES
- Chilhowee Overlook: So this is a bit of a drive and honestly not much of a hike but the view of the famous Ocoee River and surrounding mountains in the Cherokee National Forest is worth it. This overlook is in Benton, TN — about 45-60 minutes away from Chattanooga. What makes this view super cool is the uniquely pyramid-shaped Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance.
- Middle Creek: This is an upstream hike on the creek off suck creek road. The trail is mostly shaded and a bit rugged. Expect a bit of route finding and some scrambling but you will find plenty of spots to swim and waterfalls to explore.
- North Suck Creek: Similar to Middle Creek, North Suck Creek is located off Suck Creek Road after it turns away from the Tennessee River. There are several pull-offs alongside the road for parking.
- Big Soddy Creek Gulf Park: We loved this area for hiking and swimming. The initial gravel pathway if very family-friendly and easy to navigate. I think it’s an old access road. There are several shady spots to swim within the first mile of walking, many of them being super kid-friendly.
- North Chickamauga Creek/Blue Hole: This is a popular swimming hole for visitors and locals alike. The hike is relatively short to the blue hole and features some stunning rock formations perfect for jumping! Get there early — this spot can get insanely busy during the summer.
- Foster Falls: If you’re coming from Nashville, this is a great stop on your way to Chattanooga. The hike is rocky and a bit steep but very short, which makes it the perfect pit stop. The bottom of the falls is shaded and great for swimming.
- Julias Falls: Start your hike at Signal Point Park. Take the short paved path to the overlook and pavilion down the hill for your first view. Then follow the split rail fence to the right to an opening in the fence to get on the Cumberland Trail. We attempted to access the falls and Cumberland Trail a different way by walking past Rainbow Lake and the swinging bridge but after about a mile the trail got overgrown and we hit some fallen trees which blocked the path (we were looking for Rainbow Falls but didn’t do enough research to find it). The other way works though to see Julias Falls, once you go through the opening in the fence, you head down the mousetrap stairs and continue on the white blazed trail for several stunning overlooks of the falls.
- Benton Falls: This is a short hike outside of Chattanooga with a 65-foot cascading waterfall.
- Yellow Deli: An eclectic lunch spot for sure!
- Market South: We got a spot on the patio. This little market is a lot like a mini food mall. A few different menus and something for everyone. We chose to eat here because of the outdoor dining option and there wasn’t a wait. Clyde’s and other restaurants on Main were too busy and we didn’t feel comfortable dining there during Covid-19.
- Clumpies Ice Cream: SO Good. Nuff said.
- STIR: The ambiance is great and the drinks are YUM. Also, cheeseburger egg rolls.
- Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel: We did not get a drink here but we did venture out back to check out the old trains — great picture opp. This hotel was originally the first railway terminal in the south.