Local’s Picks | Best Adventures in Chattanooga
Local: Mark Baldwin, L2 Boards
Pick: SUP to Audubon Island
A 15 minute paddle takes you out to Audubon Island, which is home to a bunch of different species of birds, including Blue Egrets, Herons and Ospreys. There are also portions of the island that have about 10 to 12 feet of visibility, which makes for some great snorkeling. You can also explore the caves on the island with a paddle board. There are two caves with one of them having some nice formations inside. I recommend packing a lunch, some binoculars and definitely some bug spray. Also, bring a pair of shoes because there are about two miles of trails on the island that are great for trail running.
Local: Dan Zink, Lookout Mountain Flight School
Pick: Ocoee River/ Hang Gliding on Lookout Mountain
A perfect day for me is to start the day out by paddling the Ocoee River. I love getting out on the Ocoee early in the morning because the water is warm, it’s dam controlled so the river levels are very consistent, the rapids are exciting, and there are usually a lot of us out there paddling. It’s like Disneyland for adults. After a good day on the river, I like to head up to Lookout Mountain Flight School for an afternoon flight with my hanglider. It’s a great feeling to circle around the valley like a hawk, or an eagle. To me, it’s the purest form of actual flight. In the afternoons, usually there are some really nice thermals, which allows us to circle up and climb above the surrounding mountains. There’s nothing quite like circling up on a thermal in a hanglider, soaring around the valleys, checking out the view – for me, that’s a perfect way to spend the afternoon.
Local: Dave Holliday, Chattem
Pick: The Gill Trail at Reflection Riding Trails
I like the Gill Trail at the Reflection Riding Trails. The wooded aspect of the area’s forest keeps the area pretty cool year round, and the nice canopy of trees offers good shade from the sun. I think trail running at that area is really interesting because of the variety of difficulty. You can go from easy, flat terrain, to steep, technical climbing up through really challenging boulder fields on the way up to Lookout Mountain. You can go as hard or as easy as you want just depending on which trail you choose to take. With about 12 or 13 miles of trail, the possibilities for different linkups are endless. I like to head out there early in the morning to beat the heat and after a long run, I like to head over to the Boathouse, a seafood restaurant that’s on the water near downtown.
Local: Mark McKnight, Rock/Creek Outfitters
Pick: Stringer’s Ridge
Stringer’s Ridge, a short bike ride or walk from downtown. The views back toward downtown and the historic significance of the area make this a true gem. You can still see the dugouts where Union soldiers bombarded Chattanooga during the Civil War. Mountain bikers, runners and hikers use the area frequently. The Trust for Public Land recently acquired much of the ridge from a developer who wanted to develop the 92-acre urban forest into a condo development. Public outcry and the vision of outdoor enthusiasts made this project possible. Thanks to a generous private donation, the existing trails, will be upgraded and stabilized according to sustainable, singletrack trail building standards. When you’ve spent the day out on the trail, you can’t beat Lamar’s Restaurant for a unique Chattanooga experience. With black and gold flocked wallpaper taking you back in time, this lounge on MLK has the strongest mixed drinks and the best fried chicken in town. It’s only open Thursday through Saturday.
Local: Ann Ball, RiverRocks
Pick: River Walk
The River Walk is one of my favorite things in Chattanooga and one of my most favorite adventures anywhere. It’s just a great way to get outdoors. You’re walking beside the river nearly the whole time, so you’ve got all of this aquatic life around you. There are fish jumping, birds of all kind, from little birds, to ducks, to Peregrine Falcons. In the winter you get these beautiful, crystal clear sunsets, while the summer often has these beautiful, glowing orange sunsets that make for a great way to end the day. After a nice long walk beside the river, one of my favorite things to do is to grab a good meal and a drink at one of the many great restaurants in the area.
Local: Ronnie Driver, River City Bikes
Pick: Raccoon Mountain Trails
I like riding Raccoon Mountain, just because of the wide variety of terrain in the area. The beginner trails are pretty fast, and the more technical trails remind me of how mountain biking was when I got started in the late ‘80s. The advanced trails out there are pretty raw, and a lot more technical, with a lot of big rocks, which makes it really fun. It’s also really nice because of the fact that these trails are out by themselves so the people you run into out there are either going to be people running or riding While the trail is one big loop, it’s also possible to head out and just do a short section of the loop that makes for a really fun ride.
Local: Sarah Quattrochi, TN River Gorge Trust
Pick: Reflection Riding Trails
I have a five year old kid and a one year old, and one of our favorite adventures is heading out to the Reflection Riding Trails. We really like it out there because there are creeks and ponds and hiking trails that are pretty family friendly. One of the best options for young children is hiking or riding bikes on the roads in that area because they aren’t very well traveled.