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Local Hiking Guide: 16 Must Do (Winter) Hikes in Chattanooga

Outshine Adventures Winter Hike Challenge + A List of Our Favorite Hiking Trails Near Chattanooga

Feeling the winter blues? Looking for a way to improve your health and the environment? We invite you to join our winter hike challenge and commit to hiking 90 miles in 90 days from December 21, 2022 to March 20, 2023. For those that sign up and complete the challenge, we will plant a native tree to contribute to the Tennessee Tree Program’s quest to plant one million trees by 2025. To incentivize you further, we have three different hiking levels to choose from that includes Outshine Swag, invitations to our free monthly group hikes, access to our Facebook group with meetups and motivation plus this hiking guide of our favorite local trails. You’ll not only reap the health benefits of spending more time outside exercising and connecting with nature, but you’ll also help the environment through planting more native trees. You don’t have to be local to Chattanooga to participate in the challenge, but since we call Chattanooga home and want to inspire more folks to get outside and hike this winter, we’re offering up a list of our favorite trails to hike near Chattanooga.

Hikes are listed roughly in order of proximity to Chattanooga and grouped together by location – Lookout Mountain, Raccoon Mountain, Signal Mountain, Cumberland Trail – Soddy Daisy + Dayton, TN and South Cumberland State Park.

1. Stringer's Ridge

  • Location: downtown Chattanooga
  • Distance: 3.5 mile loop
  • Elevation: 508 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate

Stringer’s Ridge | This 92-acre urban wilderness park located in the heart of North Chattanooga has 7 miles of multi-use trails for pedestrians and bikers. The trails are directional depending on the day of the week (hikers and bikers go opposite directions). The trail terrain is considered moderately strenuous. The best way to access the park is from the trailhead on Spears Ave and do the 3.5 mile blue loop that leads to the deck overlooking the city. Dogs are allowed on leash. Open year round. Free parking. This is a heavily used trail system due to its proximity to downtown Chattanooga.

 

2. Boulders on Old Wauhatchie Pike + Guild Trail

  • Location: Lookout Mountain Conservancy
  • Distance: Varies
  • Elevation: 508 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate
 

The Guild-Hardy Trail is a local favorite that slowly climbs the east brow of Lookout Mountain along an old railroad bed. The trail passes under the Lookout Mountain Incline, by Ruby Falls and numerous structures from the Civil War. More adventurous hikers can access Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park’s 40+ mile trail system from Craven’s Terrace. The trail system is particularly beautiful in the winter, when seasonal streams for ice fall on the mountain’s rocky bluffs, and in the spring, when mountain laurel, azaleas, and rhododendron are in bloom. Open year round. Dogs allowed on leash. Free parking on LMC property, Ochs Highway and Ruby Falls.

We like starting at the Boulders on Old Wauhatchie Pike | Discover this 1-mile loop trail at the base of Lookout Mountain that’s scattered with massive boulders and stone work from the interns at Lookout Mountain Conservancy. Considered moderately strenuous, this trail is great for hiking and rock climbing. It’s kind of a hidden gem in Chattanooga and we debated including it in our list. It connects with the Guild Trail for those that want to add more distance. Dogs are welcome on a leash. Open year round. Free parking.

3. Glen Falls Trail

  • Location: Lookout Mountain 
  • Distance: 2.3 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 554 ft
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate

Glenn Falls Trail | Located a few miles outside Chattanooga, this easy, 2 mile out and back hike is Michelle’s favorite trail! If you want more distance, this trail links with the Guild Trail on Lookout Mountain. There is some elevation change, rugged rock formations, a natural rock tunnel, and of course, Glenn Falls. The trail leads to a bridge next to the lower falls, which is only half a mile from the parking area off Ochs Highway. Continue past the bridge and turn right up some stone steps, through a natural rock tunnel to rock hop along the creek. Be careful after heavy rains as water current can be swift. Open year round. Dogs allowed on leash. Free parking in a small pull off located on Ochs Highway.

 

4. Kiddie Trail to Sunset Rock | Reflection Riding

  • Location: Reflection Riding – Lookout Mountain 
  • Distance: 3.7 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 1,234 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

Kiddie Trail to Sunset RockTry this 3.7-mile out-and-back trail that starts at the base of Lookout Mountain and climbs to scenic Sunset Rock. Considered a moderately strenuous trail with over 1,000 ft of elevation gain. The views are especially nice in the winter from the overlook at Sunset Rock. This trail is great for hiking and running, and is not heavily used compared to other trails on Lookout. For those seeking more distance, this trail connects with Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park’s 40+ mile trail system. For a family friendly option, we recommend getting a day pass to Reflection Riding and exploring their trails and wildlife exhibits. Dogs are welcome on a leash (on the trail, not at Reflection Riding). Free Parking at the Kiddie Trailhead (donation based entry to Reflection Riding). Open year round.

 

5. Cravens House Loop Trail

  • Location: Lookout Mountain 
  • Distance: 3.4 mile loop (or shorter out and back option)
  • Elevation: 649 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

Cravens House is the oldest surviving structure on Lookout Mountain and was a major focal point in the Civil War “Battle Above the Clouds,” on November 24, 1863. Today, it’s owned by the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and allows visitors a free parking area to access the multitude of trails and hiking routes that intersect here. The area offers stunning views and is rich with Civil War history. We encourage you to use a hiking app or carry a trail map as it is easy to get turned around out here with several intersecting trails. You can hike a short out and back or piece together several trails to get in more distance. Dogs are welcome on a leash. Free parking. Open year round. Here are 3 of our favorite hiking routes from Cravens leading to overlooks that are even more visible in the winter.

6. Lula Lake Land Trust

  • Location: Lookout Mountain 
  • Distance: 4.6 mile loop (or shorter out and back options)
  • Elevation: 623 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate

Lula Lake Land Trust is a privately owned property on Lookout Mountain in Northwest Georgia dedicated to preserving the Rock Creek watershed since 1994. It is home to over eight miles of trails filled with two tumbling waterfalls on Rock Creek, scenic overlooks, and beautiful hardwood forests. Lula Lake trails can only be accessed by reservation on open gate days (first and last weekend of the month) or during special events. Open gate day reservations cost $15 per vehicle, which is a conservation use fee. Lula Lake hosts several special events and races throughout the year. They also offer group and private hikes upon request. Dogs are welcome on leash. Open on select days. Fee to enter. We recommend the Lula Lake Classic Loop | 4.6 mile – moderate

7. Cloudland Canyon State Park

  • Location: Lookout Mountain 
  • Distance: Varies
  • Elevation: varies
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

Cloudland Canyon State Park is a 3,488-acre Georgia State Park located 45 minutes from Chattanooga on Lookout Mountain. The park features some of the most spectacular scenery on the Cumberland Plateau and the rugged geology of the trail system includes multiple waterfalls, 1000 ft sandstone cliffs, and multiple caves to explore. The park offers over 64 miles of hiking/running trails, along with 30 miles of mountain biking trails. There is a $5 day use fee per vehicle. Dogs are welcome on leash. Open year round. We recommend these hikes.

  • West Rim Loop Trail | 4.8 mile loop – moderate – offers sweeping views of the canyon.
  • Sitton’s Gulch Trail | 4.8 mile out and back – strenuous – This trail climbs up the mountain to Sitton’s Gulch and the other waterfalls within Cloudland Canyon.
  • Hemlock Falls Trail | 1.1 mile out and back – strenuous – On your way to Hemlock Falls, take the side trail to view Cherokee Falls. There are a lot of metal grate stairs on this hike so even though dogs are allowed, this section is not dog friendly. 
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8. Raccoon Mountain Reservior Loop

  • Location: Raccoon Mountain
  • Distance: 13 mile loop
  • Elevation: 1,414 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

Raccoon Mountain, located just 15 minutes from downtown Chattanooga, offers over 30 miles. This is a popular mountain biking destination. The trail system winds around the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Facility, which creates a large reservoir on top of the mountain. The Raccoon Mountain Reservoir Loop is a moderately strenuous 9 – 13 mile hike depending on which side trails you include. The views in winter are hard to beat and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best overlooks of the Tennessee River Gorge on this long loop hike. Trails are open year round but the gate leading to the top gets locked at 8 pm CST. There are limited restroom facilities here. Please practice leave no trace principles. Dogs are welcome on leash. Free parking.

9. Rainbow Lake to Edwards Point

  • Location: Signal Mountain 
  • Distance: 4.5 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 800 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

Rainbow Lake Wilderness Area located on Signal Mountain is a classic hike leading to Edwards Point, one of the best views of the Tennessee River near Chattanooga. Along the 4.5 mile out and back trail you’ll descend to Middle Creek to enjoy the view of Rainbow Falls, before making your way across a suspension bridge and climbing up to Edwards Point overlook. The trail is considered moderately strenuous with some big boulders and interesting rock formations. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash. Parking is free, but the lot is rather small so plan to arrive early. If it’s full, don’t park in street. You can also access Edwards Point via Signal Point, which adds an extra mile to the hike and a little more elevation gain. Rainbow Lake to Edwards Point Trail

10. Snoopers Rock Trail

  • Location: Signal Mountain | Prentice Cooper State Forest
  • Distance: 5.9 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 1,167 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

Snoopers Rock Trail | This trail follows the Cumberland Trail in Prentice Cooper State Forest just outside of Chattanooga, TN. The trail is mostly shaded and follows the natural terrain from Indian Rockhouse to Snoopers Rock, offering incredible views especially in the winter. There is a steep stone staircase leading to Indian Rockhouse, a couple of small water crossings and numerous rock formations. At Snoopers Rock, you will be treated to one of the best views of the Tennessee River Gorge. Considered moderately strenuous, this 5.9 mile out and back hike is one of our favorites. Looking for more distance? Combine this trail with some of the other intersecting trails to create a large loop hike. Prentice Cooper State Forest is closed to hikers and other users during scheduled hunt dates. Please check online before heading out. Dogs are welcome on leash. Free entry.

11. Ritchie Hollow Trail

  • Location: Tennessee River Gorge, base of Signal Mountain
  • Distance: 8 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 1,476 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

The Ritchie Hollow Trail to Snoopers Rock connects the Tennessee River with the Cumberland Trail system on top of Signal Mountain. Located about 25 minutes from Chattanooga, this moderately strenuous to difficult trail climbs over 1,450 feet in just 4 miles. Built and managed by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, this trail passes historic moonshine stills, rugged rock formations and a beautiful 30-foot waterfall called Blowing Wind Falls at mile 2.7. You can stop here for a shorter out and back hike (5.4 miles) or continue up the mountain to Snoopers Rock, arguably the best overlook of the Tennessee River Gorge. The rock got its name from the law enforcement officers, that would “snoop” on illegal moonshine operations from the rock’s vantage point around the prohibition era. Snoopers Rock is located just off Prentice Cooper’s Fire Tower Road and is adjacent to the Cumberland Trail. The trail is open year-round but please check Prentice Cooper State Forest for hunt dates before heading out if you plan to hike up to Snoopers Rock. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

12. Cumberland Trail | North Chickamauga Creek Section

  • Location: Mowbray Mountain – Soddy Daisy
  • Distance: varies up to 14 miles out and back
  • Elevation: varies up to 2,841 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

North Chickamauga Creek State Natural Area is located 25 minutes north from Chattanooga on Mowbray Mountain near Soddy Daisy. This trail is extremely popular in the summer months for it’s swimming holes, but we love to explore these trails in the winter months when it’s not so crowded and we can enjoy expansive views, flowing waterfalls and frozen icicles on the rugged rock formations. The best part about this trail is that you can choose your own distance and difficulty as there is plenty to explore here. Our personal favorite is the Strip Mine falls hike. Please note that the parking area off Montlake Rd. closes at 7 pm and reopens at sunrise. Overnight backpackers must register on the Friends of the Cumberland Trail website. Open year round. Dogs welcome on leash. We recommend these hikes: 

13. Big Soddy Creek Gulf

  • Location: Soddy Daisy
  • Distance: 3.5 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 341 ft
  • Difficulty: easy

Big Soddy Creek Gulf is a 285-acre wilderness area located 30 minutes north of Chattanooga. This family friendly and ADA accessible trail is popular in the summer for is swimming holes and picnic areas. We love going in the winter to avoid the crowds and enjoy the solitude. You’ll enjoy creek views, a waterfall, swimming holes and rugged rock formations along Big Soddy Creek Gulf Trail. An easy 1-mile hike along the creek takes you to the confluence of Board Camp Creek and Big Soddy, where a blue hole and open recreation area provide opportunities for swimming and picnicking. For those seeking more distance, continue on to connect with the Soddy Creek Gorge (South) Section of the Cumberland Trail. We recommend going left towards Little Soddy trailhead and crossing the bridges over the creek where you’ll pass by historic mining areas.  Big Soddy trail is ADA accessible on the third Saturdays, April through October. Free parking. Open year round.

14. Denny Cove

  • Location: South Cumberland State Park
  • Distance: 2.8 mile out and back
  • Elevation: 410 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate

Denny Cove Waterfall Trail | Located about 45 minutes from Chattanooga in South Cumberland State Park near Sequatchie, TN is an ideal winter hike option. This relatively easy 2.8 mile out and back hike to Denny Cove waterfall offers sweeping views of the Cumberland Plateau and rugged rock formations that draw climbers from all over thanks to SCC acquisition of the property to preserve it as a climbing destination. Denny Cove, along with Foster Falls are well known for their rock climbing, but they also offer fantastic hiking trails and spectacular waterfalls, which tend to flow more in the winter. Open year round. Dogs allowed on leash. Free parking.

15. Fiery Gizzard Trail

  • Location: South Cumberland State Park
  • Distance: 16 mile out and back
  • Elevation: 2,410 ft
  • Difficulty: hard/strenuous

Fiery Gizzard Trail | Located 45 minutes from Chattanooga in South Cumberland State Park, the Fiery Gizzard trail may have a funny name, but it’s a seriously beautiful and challenging hike. We recommend starting at Foster Falls for beautiful waterfall views and hiking until you want to turn back. In total, the out and back trail is over 16 miles and rated as difficult, taking over over 7 hours to complete. The Fiery Gizzard trail was listed as one of top 25 backpacking trails in the U.S. by Backpacker Magazine and we think it’s even more spectacular in the winter. You won’t be disappointed with this one no matter the season. Dogs welcome on leash. Open year round. Free parking.

16. Laurel Snow Falls Trail

  • Location: Rhea County – Dayton, TN
  • Distance: 4.7 mile out and back
  • Elevation: 708 ft
  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

Laurel-Snow Trail | Laurel-Snow is a 2,259-acre state natural area located in Rhea County near Dayton, TN. The area is named after two scenic waterfalls, Laurel Falls (80 feet) and Snow Falls (35 feet), and features two prominent overlooks, Buzzard Point and the Bryan Overlook (also known as Raven Point).  The trail forks about 1.5 miles in beside Richland Creek. Turn left at the fork to reach Buzzard Point and Snow Falls. The trail to the right leads to Laurel Snow Falls and then eventually climbs to the top of the falls. The views on this trail are even better in the winter and you’ll often be rewarded with icicles and frozen particles in the winter. Open year round 8 am to 7 pm. You must obtain an overnight hiking permit from the Friends of the Cumberland Trail website or your vehicle is subject to towing or being locked inside the gate. Free parking. Dogs are welcome on leash. 

Have a favorite trail that isn’t on this list? Share it with us in the comments below.

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