Voted as Outside’s top outdoor town in 2011, Chattanooga is more than meets the eye, and the town is in the running again this year. The southeastern city nestled in the rolling hills of middle Tennessee offers more than many people, who simply pass by the exit, even realize. So if you thought the only way you could live an outdoorsy life is in Colorado or Utah, think again. Luckily for those of you in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, Chattanooga is just around the river bend.
Surprise often comes from the fact that Chattanooga was once dubbed the dirtiest city in the U.S., or the “Pittsburgh of the South.” The rise of the Cumberland Plateau formed new valleys and dimension in the area, while the shift to progressive construction has helped the city jump on board with more LEED certification building. In the 1980s, downtown Chattanooga was given $120 million to rebuild itself. This investment lead to the Tennessee Aquarium and an art museum. Still skeptical? Chattanooga was asked to host the U.S. Cycling Championships from 2013-2015, as well as its annual Riverbend Festival, a nine-day music festival with well-respected alternative bands.
You see, Chattanooga really offers the best of both worlds—hot summers and cold winters. This means the sports stores are bursting with kayaks and fishing poles, as well as snow shoes and down jackets. In the summer you’ll see a continual wave of hang gliders flying over the city and down into the trees where they proceed to climb the intimidating crags along the Cumberland Plateau, which towers one thousand feet above the Tennessee river. Climbers flock to these bases in the crisp, fall weather, but in the summer you’ll have the chance of getting the place to yourself. Not ready to jump with the best? Lookout Mountain has its own flight park for tandem training.
Summer is also, of course, for mountain biking. With more than one hundred miles of singletrack, Chattanooga is home to extreme bikers. Singletrack typically means the trail is about eighteen inches wide. The trails are sprinkled with fun surprises like rocks, branches, and sudden, steep drops. We suggest Raccoon Mountain or Stringers Ridge Park.
Possibly most popular of all, the options for paddling of any kind are numerous. Many people crowd on the Ocoee River, but within thirty minutes of downtown there are about thirty different, more secluded, creeks with Class IV and V runs for more exciting paddling. Our favorite flat water spots are Harrison Bay State Park, Richland Creek to the Tennessee River, and Parksville Lake.
After a long day of activity, head to Brewhaus Bar to watch the river quiet down and sip a local IPA.
We know this only scratches the surface on the great outdoors that Chattanooga has to offer, but you can see that this hidden gem is worthy of a trip. So get your tent and camping supplies ready and head to Chattanooga for a budget-friendly, adventure-packed vacation.