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15 Best Hiking Trails in Chattanooga (Waterfalls & Majestic Views)

Explore the top 15 hiking trails in Chattanooga for breathtaking waterfalls and stunning views, perfect for every traveler. Find your next hike today!

Tobi Miles
July 1, 2022
15 Best Hiking Trails in Chattanooga (Waterfalls & Majestic Views)

Chattanooga is home to various historical attractions, delicious food, and many stunning views that have earned the nickname of the "Scenic City." With so many mountains, rivers, plateaus, and vistas to discover, you'll want to find the best hiking trails right away! Luckily, the city has plenty to offer to its outdoor enthusiasts.

The hiking trails range from backcountry experiences to urban paths with expansive views of the downtown Chattanooga area. You can find low elevation treks or steep climbs that get your heart rate up. Many of the trails are dog-friendly, meaning you can bring your furry friend along on the adventure as long as you keep them leashed.

Whether you're looking for an easy meandering trail or one with steep elevation, Chattanooga has something for everybody. Below you'll find the best trails in the area that will have you exploring nature, spotting wildlife, and breathing in that fresh Tennessee air.

1. Snoopers Rock Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

This trail is an out-and-back variety that will take hikers across several small water crossings before bringing them to a particularly stunning view of the Tennessee River Gorge. On hot days, you'll be glad for plenty of tree cover along the trail.

Wearing sturdy hiking shoes and packing plenty of water is important for a successful adventure. You'll be traversing across multiple rocky formations, so proceeding with caution is key to preventing an injury.

The elevation gain is described as moderate and there's no particular section that becomes overly steep. Trekking poles, while maybe helpful, are not necessary to complete this hike.

While this hiking trail is a popular one in the area, some reviews mention that at times the narrow path is difficult to follow and not as well-marked as one might hope. However, it's relatively easy to find your way back onto the designated trail once you realize that you've gotten off track.

During tick season, it's recommended that hikers beware and check themselves and their dogs thoroughly at the end of their excursion. Dogs are welcome as long as they remain leashed throughout the hike.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 5.9 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 1,167 Feet

2. Raccoon Mountain Reservoir Loop

Credit: Shutterstock

This multi-use trail is popular among all types of outdoor enthusiasts — including hikers, trail runners, and mountain bicyclists. The terrain is ideal for distance running and hiking and you're sure to appreciate the many beautiful Tennessee views along the way.

To break the loop down into more manageable segments, hikers can take a 9-mile loop and save themselves the exertion of that extra 5+ miles. Wildlife and wild berries can be found along the trail, though it's not recommended you pick and consume the blueberries or blackberries.

Depending on your fitness level and hiking ability, you should reserve 5-6 hours to complete this hike. It's best to get an earlier start by midmorning or early afternoon so that you're finished by the time the sun begins to set in the evening.

With so many miles of terrain to explore, you'll experience a few sections of climbing and creek crossings. Proper footwear is recommended to keep your feet comfortable during this long trek.

It's worth noting that if you're not a fan of switchbacks that zig zag back and forth, you may want to consider avoiding the Small Intestine Trail at the end. Reviews mention this being a difficult section at the end of an already moderately strenuous hike.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 13.5 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 1,414 Feet

3. Cravens House Loop Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

This quick loop will take you under two hours to complete, making it ideally suited for a quick morning hike or an afternoon excursion to work up an appetite for a picnic lunch. You can add some of the side trails in as well to add a couple more miles.

The trial is well-maintained and generally wide, though you may encounter some narrow sections. Even on a hot Tennessee day, there is plenty of tree cover to help protect you from the harmful rays of the sun.

Once you reach Sunset Rock, the views will be well worth the sometimes steep hike. Due to a few rocky portions of the trail, you'll want to plan ahead with a sturdy pair of hiking boots that offer you some extra ankle support over the uneven surfaces.

Though there isn't a main water feature along the loop, you'll see a few small waterfalls. Reviews mention hiking the trail counterclockwise if you don't want to endure a steep hike!

You'll park at Craven's House, where you can explore several old structures left over from the turn of the century. Not only do you get some exercise in, but a quick and educational dose of Civil War-era history as well!

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 3.4 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 679 Feet

Related Read: Best Time to Visit Smoky Mountains

4. Stringers Ridge

Credit: Samantha Wade / AllTrails

If you're looking for a quick but challenging route, this trail has a little bit of everything. Located near downtown Chattanooga, it's a popular spot for mountain bikers and trail runners, as well as hikers. You likely won't be out in the wilderness by yourself.

You can feel free to bring your dog but keep in mind that there are no off-leash areas along the loop. It's worth mentioning that the reviews say that not everyone abides by this rule, so be aware if you have a reactive dog.

There are a few twists and turns, so it can be easy to get off the trail as it's not always well marked. If you're not a fan of switchbacks, you may not enjoy this trail. However, it's a great way to get some solid cardio in along with the small hills and elevation gain.

The reviews also mention lots of opportunities for wildlife sightings along the loop, so bringing a pair of binoculars should be a priority. You may even get lucky enough to spot an owl if you arrive around dawn.

Once you reach the lookout, you'll be treated to a stunning view of the city. The trail backs up to a subdivision, so you won't feel totally lost in nature if that's something that you're looking for on your hike.

Use caution if you're planning on visiting this trail after a rainfall, as the dirt can become muddy and less than ideal to hike through. Another thing to note about Stringers Ridge is that there's a bathroom located in the parking lot, making it convenient for you to stay hydrated during your hike.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 3.3 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 508 Feet

5. Hardy Trail

Credit: Outdoor Chattanooga / Facebook

This loop should only take an hour and a half but you can make it in under an hour if you're especially active. While it doesn't offer any stunning views, it's a quaint little trail close to Chattanooga for people to enjoy.

For the first section of the trail, the path is gravel and as you continue onwards, the trail gets a bit overgrown. Wearing proper footwear is a must to keep your feet protected and to help you keep your balance.

Throughout your hike, you'll see the Incline train tracks and sections of a rock cliff. You'll also come across some intricate trestle work, which is a particular landmark that makes this hike unique.

With very minimal elevation gain, you can enjoy the relatively flat terrain. There are no paved portions of this trail, so it's not ideal for strollers or wheelchairs. Reviews mention parking off of the Ruby Falls parking lot for the easiest access to the trail.

On a busy weekend, you may see several other hikers and mountain bikers. If you're looking for a quieter hike, you'll want to come during a weekday morning or afternoon. Some of the switchbacks aren't always clearly marked, so be on the lookout for those.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 2.5 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 574 Feet

6. Mullens Cove Loop Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

This loop trail has a wide diversity in terrain and sights and that's one of the reasons why it's one of the most popular hiking options near Chattanooga. The trail is part of the 24,000+ acre Prentice Cooper Wilderness Management Area and is kept well maintained.

If you're nervous about heights, it's worth mentioning that a decent portion of this trail follows the edge of a steep drop-off. Located 1,000 feet above the Tennessee River Gorge, you'll want to watch your step and tread carefully.

For the budding arborists out there, you're likely to spot American Beeches, Hickories, and even Eastern Hemlock! There are many tree varieties to identify within the forest area here. Reviews recommend heading out on a clear day, as it can get a bit foggy and muddy within the forest and it can be disorienting.

Any hikers that are interested in camping as well will be pleased to discover that there is a primitive campsite along the way. You'll want to get an early start to ensure you can stake out a spot.

Dogs are welcome but must stay leashed and there are plenty of freshwater creeks for them to drink from. There are areas where the terrain gets rocky, so you may want to watch your dog's paws. The main overlook along this trail is at Snoopers Rock and it's incredibly beautiful. If you're searching for a hike with a good photo opportunity, this one certainly has it.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 9.6 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 1,587 Feet

7. Suck Creek Road to Mushroom Rock

Credit: Outdoor Chattanooga / Facebook

This out-and-back trail has plenty of opportunities for bird enthusiasts to whip out their binoculars and check out the many varieties that call this area home. Anywhere between March and October is a great time to tackle this route and you're likely to have plenty of space to yourself.

Before you hit Mushroom Rock, you'll encounter a creek that you can cool off in on an especially hot day. You'll also cross over a couple of bridges while on the trail, one of which is a swinging bridge that has been known to frighten especially timid dogs. Tread carefully so as to keep your balance.

An important word of caution is that since the first bridge has been washed away, hikers must cross the water by foot instead. At the second bridge, there is a nest full of hornets that also requires hikers to pass through in the water to avoid a painful sting. Waterproof boots are recommended.

It's best to pack some trekking poles, as there are plenty of steep spots that could benefit from a bit of extra stability. Due to the streams and creeks in the area, it can get muddy in spots.

Parking can be a bit confusing but keep an eye out for other cars parked on the roadside and you're sure to see the trailhead nearby! Look for a small metal bridge and you'll know you're on the right path.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 3.8 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 1,210 Feet

Related Read: 20 Top Treehouse Rentals in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

8. South Chickamauga Creek Greenway

Credit: Shutterstock

On this out-and-back multi-purpose trail, don't let the mileage deter you! This is actually a relatively easy hike due to the minor change in elevation throughout. You can expect to traverse over a consistently flat surface.

If you want to tackle the entire route in one go, you should dedicate between 3-3.5 hours to the task. You can also break the trail up into segments and do them on different days.

The terrain largely consists of a paved cement path and boardwalk features throughout. As of early 2022, there is a 2-mile-long deck walkway that follows the creek. This has been a popular addition and offers hikers picturesque views of the river.

As far as accessibility goes, the path is kept well-maintained and kept clear of any obstructions that would block someone in a wheelchair. If you rely on mobility equipment, you'll appreciate the paved parking lot and smooth trail.

Parking is easy and safe and is located directly beside the trail. There are also public bathrooms that allow hikers to relieve themselves before embarking on their 9+ mile adventure.

Frequently compared to the River Walk, you're unlikely to encounter as many people here. If you're searching for a quieter hike with the same amenities, you'll enjoy this one.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 9.4 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 383 Feet

9. The Tennessee River Walk

Credit: Shutterstock

This out-and-back path is a great way to take in downtown Chattanooga and you'll enjoy views of the Tennessee riverside throughout your hike. The road is wide and paved, making it accessible to those in wheelchairs and those bringing along strollers.

The river walk is well maintained and clearly marked, making it easy for everyone to enjoy without the chance of getting turned around. If you're looking to explore Chattanooga and what the city has to offer, this is a great place to start.

You're likely to see many road bikers utilizing this path, as it's ideally suited for bikes and it's important to share the road with them. With minor elevation, you won't be out of breath by the end of the hour-long hike.

If you're interested in adding more mileage, you can head on over to the Walnut Street Bridge and take in another stunning view from there. While the trail can get crowded during peak times, heading out at sunrise or near sunset are great ways to have the place to yourself (mostly).

The gate closes to the path 20 minutes before sunset, so make sure to leave yourself enough time to finish. If you have extra time, you can sit at the pier and enjoy watching the fish jump out of the river.

With so much beautiful scenery to take in, you'll want to come back to the river walk time and time again. There are several places to take a quick detour for lunch, which can make this an entire afternoon activity if you desire.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 2.7 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 118 Feet

Related Read: 40 BEST Places To Visit In Tennessee

10. Upper Guild Trail

Credit: Outdoor Chattanooga / Facebook

This is a great family-friendly hike, as there is very little elevation gain and the mileage is manageable for the younger children. The trail is out-and-back, so keep that in mind as you're hiking.

Since the trail is mainly gravel, you shouldn't attempt to bring a stroller along. However, you will see quite a few mountain bikes taking on the rocky terrain. The trail is wide enough for everyone to have enough space.

There are a few scenic overlooks throughout the short hike and they make a great place to stop and catch your breath and drink some water. During the fall, the leaves change color and it makes for a breathtaking view.

If you want to make a day of it, you can add on some of the connecting trails. There are several hours worth of hiking in the area and you're unlikely to get lost as there are plenty of markings along the path.

This is a great choice for when you want to spend some time outdoors but you don't want to take on an overly strenuous hike. It's pretty well-trafficked as well, so you're perfectly safe to go alone without fear of not having help nearby if an emergency were to arise.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 2.4 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 193 Feet

11. Blue Blazes Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

This short loop trail makes for a great hike with the family, including the younger children who perhaps don't have the energy for a challenging trek quite yet. To keep everyone safe, dogs are required to be leashed at all times.

While not accessible with a stroller, wearing young children in a backpack makes for a fun outdoor excursion for everyone. Reviews mention ticks, so make sure that you check everybody thoroughly once you get back to the car. You don't want to take any home with you!

There is a small beach area by the river that dogs love to enjoy, so feel free to take your canine here on a hot and humid day so they can cool off. There is also a view of the Tennessee River.

A major plus of this trail is that it has tons of shade. This makes hiking manageable when the temperatures rise and the sun is beating down during the summer. Waterproof hiking boots are recommended, as some sports can get wet and muddy due to the swamp area.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.5 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 42 Feet

12. High Voltage Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

This trail is an out-and-back that's popular with hikers and mountain bikers. If you're hiking, keep your ears peeled for any bicycles as they can come up on you quickly.

When preparing for this hike, pack enough food and water for 4-5 hours. You'll want to have more than enough to keep your energy and hydration up to complete the trail, if that's your goal.

If you're only up for doing half the trail, it ends at a parking lot on the river, so you can have somebody pick you up there to avoid having to go back to where you started. While there aren't any notable views along the trail, you'll see plenty of wildlife and get a bit of solitude from city life.

It should be noted that you'll be going mainly downhill at the beginning and then back uphill at the end. If you're already feeling drained halfway through, you may want to consider calling it quits before you have to make the trek up the incline.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 8.1 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 1,243 Feet

13. Blowing Wind Falls Via Richie Hollow Trail

Credit: Tennessee River Gorge Trust

If you're searching for a breathtaking waterfall view, look no further. At the end of this hike, you'll be rewarded with the 30-foot Blowing Wind Falls. This trail connects other trail systems, so you can easily tack on additional miles if you feel up to it.

You'll hike through a hardwood forest, full of mature trees and many species of wildlife. There are also leftover historic moonshine stills for hikers to admire. Waterfalls, history, and wildlife — what else do you need from a hike?

Be mindful that in the summer months, the falls may not be flowing to their full potential. June may see only a trickle of water, so it's best to read recent reviews before heading out so you're not met with a disappointing lack of flowing water.

The hike to the falls is uphill and can leave even the most experienced hiker out of breath but the trip back down is far easier and gives you a chance to take in your surroundings. Since the trail gets rocky in steep in some sections, reliable hiking shoes are recommended over athletic sneakers.

This is a popular trail for those with dogs. However, there are no off-leash areas by the water and due to the narrow trail, keeping them on a leash helps to make everyone safe and comfortable.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 2.8 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 649 Feet

Related Read: 20 Best Waterfalls Near Chattanooga

14. Skyuka and Bluff Trails Loop

Credit: Solamen Silva / AllTrails

Commonly referred to as the "Big Daddy" loop, this trail is popular amongst hikers and trail runners alike. This particular route combines 7 trails and is a testament to what Chattanooga has to offer as far as trail running is concerned.

Previous hikers mention seeing plenty of chipmunks and a few spiders. During the summer months, you should stay alert for any snakes as well.

This trail is located only minutes from downtown, making it easily accessible after a stressful day of working at the office. The trail is easy to follow but you can download a map beforehand, just in case you lose your way.

There are several smaller waterfalls to spot if there has been recent rainfall. During dry periods, you may even run into a few rock climbers as well. This is quite a diverse trail and is welcoming to a large variety of outdoor adventure seekers.

If you plan to park at Sunset Rock, beware that there are limited spaces available. Getting to the trailhead early is the easiest way to almost guarantee a spot near the front.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Distance: 10.8 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 1,742 Feet

15. Shackleford Ridge State Park to Cumberland Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

Located inside the Prentice State Forest, this trail is a difficult one, to say the least. Before you embark on this hike, you'll want to be fully prepared with snacks, water, and proper footwear and clothing.

Expect this trail to take a full day, between 7-8 hours. There are areas for camping if you want to break the hike up across the span of several days and spend more time slowing down and enjoying the natural beauty around you.

Throughout the trail, you'll be going up and down four mountains. This is where the intensity comes into play, as there's plenty of elevation gain. This hike isn't for little kids or those who aren't experienced with long-haul treks in the woods.

You'll see quite a few items of note, such as a suspension bridge, interesting rock features, and a diversity of wild vegetation. Keep your eyes peeled on your hike and you're sure to find something new everywhere you look.

Difficulty: Hard

Distance: 14.5 MilesTotal Elevation Gain: 2,946 Feet

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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