Centered on the banks of the mighty Tennessee River, Chattanooga is flanked to the east by the lofty Southern Appalachian Mountains and to the west by the rugged Cumberland Plateau. So it is within easy reach of an incredible array of hiking destinations. Explore 40 of Chattanooga’s best, five-star trails, divided into six distinct areas in and around the city.
With the expert guidance of Tennessee author Johnny Molloy, you’ll take a ramble through the backcountry of the Cohutta Wilderness, a trek to a natural bridge on the Cumberland Plateau, a history-rich stroll along a Civil War battlefield, or a quick escape on a greenway near your home.
- Descriptions of 40 five-star hiking trails for all levels and interests
- GPS-based trail maps, elevation profiles, and detailed directions to trailheads
- Insight into the history, flora, and fauna of the routes
- Ratings for scenery, difficulty, trail condition, solitude, and accessibility for children
Lace up, grab your pack, and hit the trail!
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Riverwalk at Chickamauga Dam
Scenery: 3, Trail Condition: 5, Children: 4, Difficulty: 2, Solitude: 1
- GPS Trailhead Coordinates: N35° 6.133' W85° 13.827'
- Distance & Configuration: 3-mile out-and-back
- Hiking Time: 1.8 hours
- Highlights: Tennessee River views, trailside art, fishing, picnicking
- Elevation: 640' at trailhead, 660' at high point
- Access: No fees, permits, or passes required
- Maps: Tennessee Riverpark; USGS East Chattanooga, Chattanooga
- Facilities: Restroom, benches near trailhead
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Contacts: Tennessee Riverpark, 423-493-9239, parks.hamiltontn.gov
Enjoy a slice of Chattanooga’s nationally renowned greenwayRiverwalk. Start on its eastern end, just below Chickamauga Dam, and walk amid landscaped grounds overlooking the mighty Tennessee River. Along the way, pass through a large greenspace enhanced with outdoor art. Make a little loop through Fishing Park, with its numerous angling piers extending into the water, before returning to Chickamauga Dam.
Chattanooga’s Riverwalk is a nationally acclaimed model not only as an exercise and hiking destination but also as a way to enhance river frontage and gather the community. Its actual name is Tennessee Riverpark, but the term Riverwalk has superseded the original in common nomenclature. In the early 1980s the idea was born to build a linear preserve along the Tennessee River extending from Chickamauga Dam to Lookout Mountain. The original plan was unveiled in 1985. Citizens and government personnel all realized the creation of the Riverwalk would come in stages, just as the building of the Appalachian Trail was a section-by-section endeavor. Tennessee’s master hiking path, the Cumberland Trail, is undergoing such a process today.
And so goes Riverwalk. This particular section travels from Chickamauga Dam to Fishing Park, the first section of path to be built. It opened in 1989. The trail currently extends to downtown Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain. It has been an incredible success, so much so that the newest sections have been the widest segment of trail yet, built to accommodate a high volume of hikers, joggers, bicyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
As magnificent as the Riverwalk is, it is but one greenway in an ever-expanding system of linear trails coursing through greater Chattanooga. The North Chickamauga Creek Greenway and the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway come to mind. Stay tuned for more expansion while enjoying the current open segments, including this one.
After parking as close to Chickamauga Dam as possible, begin following the Tennessee River on a series of the sidewalks bordered with picnic tables, benches, and more. Absorb the interpretive and historical information about the Tennessee River, the Chickamauga Dam, and the park through which you walk. Shortly pass under a railroad bridge, then reach a fishing pier and boat ramp after a quarter mile. This first segment can be busy with all sorts of park enthusiasts rather than just trail users. Beyond here, the path passes a shaded pavilion, leaving the dam tailwater area, and becomes more of a pure trail-centered greenway.
Here, you will continue westerly traveling the asphalt track with the river to your right and Chattanooga State Community College to your left. Some trail sections are shaded and some are not. Note the mileages of the Tennessee River embedded into the trail itself. These measurements are given in quarter-mile increments. Occasional shade shelters and contemplation benches are placed along the path. River views are nearly continuous. Surprisingly, the trail does have a little vertical variation, though the ups and downs are slight.
At 0.8 mile, the Riverwalk bridges a stream and opens onto an expansive greenspace, dotted with trees and trailside art. These sculptures and designs add a creative element to the park and greenway. See, the Riverwalk isn’t simply a nature trail, rather it is an agglomeration of greenspace, pathway, and public square. Art enhances the landscape much as other elements of any park. Befitting the scene, many of the art pieces have a water or river theme to them.
The open greenspace closes as you pass under the DuPont Parkway. However, this is where you enter aptly named Fishing Park. Notice the multiple piers extending into the water to enhance the angling experience. It’s fun to just sit a while and watch the fishermen tussle with the finned critters. Beyond the piers, Fishing Park has a central amphitheater along with a network of short interconnected paths and picnic areas that create a gathering space for park users, not necessarily only Riverwalk hikers. The park even has an on-site concessionaire selling food in season. Even though the trails at Fishing Park seem a maze, you can make a loop on your return trip. The Riverwalk continues westerly from Fishing Park but turns away from the river near the boat ramp, at 1.5 miles. The next greenway section stretches 1 mile to a place called Riverpoint, where South Chickamauga Creek flows into the Tennessee River. From there it’s about 5 miles to the downtown area. Eventually, the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway will connect to Riverwalk near Riverpoint. Enjoy wandering through Fishing Park before backtracking to the Chickamauga Dam Trailhead.
Chickamauga Lake is a water lover’s paradise, with swimming, fishing, boating, and other aquatic recreation.
From Exit 4 on I-75, northeast of downtown Chattanooga, take TN 153 north for 5.3 miles to TN 319, Amnicola Highway. Exit north on TN 319 and follow it 6 miles to the right turn to the Riverpark–Chickamauga Dam segment. Follow the entrance road for 0.3 mile, then veer left onto another road with a sign that reads riverpark recreation. Follow this road to park at the dam tailwater area.
Table of ContentsOverview Map
- Bay Loop Trail
- Greenway Farms Park
- Riverwalk at Chickamauga Dam
- South Chickamauga Battlefield Loop
- North Chickamauga Battlefield Loop
- Cravens House Loop
- Sunset Rock Loop
- Little Cedar Mountain Hike
- Pot Point Nature Trail
- Blowing Wind Falls
- Snoopers Rock Natural Bridge Hike
- Overlooks of Mullens Cove and Ransom Hollow
- Lawsons Rock via Indian Rockhouse
- Foster Falls Loop
- Grundy Forest Day Loop
- Greeter Falls
- Stone Door Circuit
- Chickamauga Gulch Hike
- Cumberland Escarpment Hike
- Possum Creek Gorge
- Rock Creek Gorge Loop
- Laurel Snow Waterfall and Vista Hike
- Gee Creek Wilderness
- Benton McKaye Trail on the Hiwassee River
- Big Lost Creek Hike
- Benton Falls
- Falls of the Scenic Spur
- Old Copper Road Trail
- Big Frog Wilderness
North Georgia and Northeast Alabama
- Grassy Mountain Tower
- Emery Creek Falls
- Fort Mountain State Park Loop
- The Pocket Loop
- Johns Mountain Keown Falls
- Dicks Ridge Circuit
- George Disney Trail
- Sitton Gulch
- Cloudland Canyon Vistas
- DeSoto State Park Loop
- Russell Cave National Monument
Appendix A: Outdoor Retailers
Appendix B: Map Resources
Appendix C: Hiking Clubs
About the Author