Chattanooga: A Guide for Outdoorsy Backpackers

Chattanooga is a city that is blessed with mountains, ridges, and rivers. From rowing in the Tennessee River to hiking in the Appalachians, this city offers many options for adrenaline junkies. It proudly calls itself the Scenic City and for good reason. Chattanooga occupies a scenic location at the meeting point of the Cumberland Plateau and the Appalachian Mountains. The city also plays host to the RiverRocks Outdoor Festival, where scores of professional athletes and amateur enthusiasts gather to test their mettle every year.

There’s no shortage of affordable hotels in Chattanooga, making the city ideal for backpackers who want a great experience without overspending. Take a look at some of the best outdoor activities that await in Chattanooga.

Trail Running

Image by Amanda Locklear-Traveling RN via

Chattanooga has dozens of delightful trails for those who love to run and stretch their physical limits. Most of these are less than an hour away from the city. Some of the most popular trails include the Big Daddy Loop, Cravens House Loop, Perimeter Loop at Raccoon Mountain, and Pot Point Loop. From mountains to rivers and pristine forests to deep gorges, these trails lack nothing. If you have time, explore some of the lesser-known trails, too.

Wilderness Camping

Chattanooga is a great place to experience true wilderness. Make your way to the Big Frog Wilderness, a forested area near the Big Frog Mountains. Here you can hike the wild slopes and go back to your primitive roots while camping overnight. Closer to the city, you can also camp at the Prentice Cooper State Forest or the Cloundland Canyon.


If you aren’t satisfied with a typical hiking experience, explore Chattanooga’s many options for rock climbing and bouldering. There are several steep cliffs around the region that have become climbing hotspots. The entire Cumberland Plateau is full of high-quality crags ideal for this purpose. Although there are several great climbing sites, the most popular is probably the Tennessee Wall. Beware of climbing here at the peak of summer, however, because the hard sandstones can heat up when the temperature rises.

River Rafting

The fast and mighty mountain rivers near Chattanooga are ideal for enthusiasts of whitewater rafting. Nearby, the Ocoee River played host to the rafting events during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, which should be enough to convey the reputation that this region enjoys among the professionals in this field. Even the beginners here will find many tour operators and service providers that can teach you the basics and help you get started.

Mountain Biking

Naturally, biking is also a very popular activity in Chattanooga. Beginners can start with small roads off the highway, whereas intermediate bikers can pursue service roads in the wilderness areas. Serious mountain bikers can explore steep trails on Stringers Ridge, Raccoon Mountain, Five Points, and more.

Chattanooga won’t disappoint if you love the outdoors and enjoy physically demanding activities. Before taking on difficult trails, however, make sure that you have the right kind of equipment, training, and experience. If you need additional gear or training, you’ll find many local service providers to guide you.

Jitaditya Narzary

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