Weekend Excursion: 72 Hours In Chattanooga, Tennessee
Explore one of the best adventure towns in America.
Whether you were born and raised in Chattanooga or you’ve only visited briefly, it being the only place to reign as Outside Magazine’s “Best Town Ever” on two occasions comes to no surprise. Now, if you consider yourself an outdoor enthusiast and you haven’t been to Chattanooga, let alone heard of it?! Well, it’s about time you pack up your bags and take a visit to this lively little hub in the South.
With 120 miles of singletrack within 10 miles of the city, the winding Tennessee River always within reach, world-class indoor and outdoor climbing, and some savory food and a locally-brewed beer awaiting you after every trek, Chattanooga is every adventurer’s dream town. So what kind of damage can you do with 72 hours? A lot. Maybe extend that long weekend of yours into a week or, like me, much, much longer than that.
Because I know you’re not one to waste any time, jump straight to one of the most iconic views of the Tennessee River up at Snoopers Rock. If departing from downtown, take a quick pit stop at Milk & Honey for a bit of jet fuel and a breakfast biscuit before you head towards Signal Mountain.
If you’re up for a hike, park in the Cumberland Trail Parking Lot and take the 6.5 mile out and back trail, past Indian Rock House, to the penultimate view of the Tennessee River bend. The area is excellent for a snack and recharge before trekking back to your car (you can take Tower Road back for an abbreviated hike). Not up for the mileage? You can drive through Prentice Cooper State Forest and park just yards away from the gorgeous viewpoint.
As you head back into town, don’t speed on by Shuford’s Smokehouse, an unassuming yet mouth-watering barbecue joint. Try the pork and fried okra and you’ll walk away more than satisfied. Before you’re onto the next activity, you may need to rest off that meal, so hang a hammock in Renaissance Park for a stunning panoramic view of downtown Chattanooga and the bridges in all their glory.
Next? L2 is your go-to spot for all water-related activities. Grab a SUP or a kayak and hop onto the Tennessee River, just yards away from the shop, for some paddling. Once you’ve wrung yourself out, take a stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge - one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges connecting Downtown to North Shore Chattanooga. From there, head down Frazier avenue and enjoy the eclectic selection of boutique shops and art galleries, but be sure to have Clumpies Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream in hand for the ride.
Now that you’ve gotten dessert out of the way, cruise down the road to Sluggo’s North Vegetarian Cafe for dinner. Nestled on the North Shore, it is guaranteed to appease vegetarians and meat lovers alike (Remember: this is coming from the girl who told you to get a plate of pork for lunch). Before you call it quits and rest up for the day ahead, down a local brew while playing a board game on Heaven and Ale’s backyard patio. This craft beer tasting room has plenty of options on tap and will serve you a flight of favorites if you’re a bit indecisive.
We’re going to go on pretending your entire itinerary is up to me. So, today, you’re going to head about an hour north of Chattanooga because there is no chance you’re leaving the Eastern Tennessee area without experiencing the 256-foot Fall Creek Falls. But not without swinging by The Farmer’s Daughter for a delicious farm-to-table breakfast first. After breakfast, head north and hop right onto the very well-marked Fall Creek Falls State Park trails, being sure to hike to the bottom and top of Fall Creek Falls while also catching sight of Cane Creek Falls en route.
Don’t forget your climbing gear because the next stop is Stone Fort (Little Rock City). This boulder field is easy to find and is home to lines of every level, so it’s perfect for beginners and seasoned climbers alike. Not ready to hit the rock? A day pass at downtown’s High Point Climbing Gym is sure to get you moving indoors.
Next, satiate your southern fried chicken needs at Champy’s. Try their signature sauce, put a dollar on the wall, and don’t fail to wash your chicken down with a 40 (you might get a strange look if you bypass this last step). After dinner, stroll down MLK Blvd to Hutton & Smith Brewery’s Tap Room - the neighborhood brewery perfect for any beer connoisseur (a growler to-go is recommended!). If you’re up for one more stop, hit JJ’s Bohemia for live music, open mic comedy night, and some libations.
No one should leave Chattanooga without getting a taste of Aretha Frankensteins famous, inch thick pancakes. Get them for the table so you don’t have to pass up their egg biscuit either. I promise the longer-than-desired wait will be worth it.
Now time to work off the deliciousness you just consumed. Rent a mountain bike from Cycle Sport Concepts over in Southside before jetting 15 minutes west to Raccoon Mountain for a 22 mile web of beginner to advanced trails. Park at East Overlook and hop onto Electric Avenue or any of the other East Rim trails in no time. Plus, from here, you can take in the sweeping view of the Tennessee River intertwining it’s way through Chattanooga and the surrounding areas.
If you’re in town during the spring, summer, or fall, check out Nooga made and grown goods at the Chattanooga Market on Sundays or Wednesdays. Grab a beer or coffee as you shop around for fresh produce, artisan foods, and locally-produced crafts.
If you ask anyone in Chattanooga where to get a drink, it is likely that they’ll recommend Flying Squirrel. This spot was voted #1 best designed bar in the nation and the food and drinks don’t disappoint either. Grab a locally-brewed beer, cocktail, and appetizer (Cuban tacos are my go-to) before heading onto dinner around the corner at Main Street Meats. This part neighborhood butcher, part restaurant will serve you a burger out to steal your heart. Plus, they have delicious cocktails on tap. What’s not to love?
Disclaimer: Numerous days were spent deciding which of Chattanooga’s hundreds of world-class activities could be fit into 72 hours. Have some to add? Let’s hear ‘em.
Cover photo: Clare Healey
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.