Thursday, December 18, 2014 · 11:38 p.m.

Field Excursions: Five hikes near Chattanooga provide exercise, scenery

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The Prentice Cooper State Forest is one of many prime hiking locations near the Scenic City. (Photo: Linda O'Neal)

Hitting the trails is one of the best ways to explore the natural landscape of the Chattanooga area. Figuring out which trail to traverse is the difficult part—there are so many to choose from.

“There are at least 100 trails within the Chattanooga area,” Che Carico, a hike coordinator with the Chattanooga Hiking Club, said. “We are incredibly blessed by the geology of this area and all the beautiful trails to explore.”

Whether you are looking to get your kids outside for a family hike, enjoy some fresh air alongside a waterfall or catch a glimpse of some spring wildflowers, Chattanooga has your hike.

Here are a few possibilities:

Wildflower Hike: North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness Area
Distance:
Hogskin Branch Loop is 1.5 miles, Stevenson Branch Trail is 7.8 miles
Rating:
Easy to moderate
Description:
The North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness Area is set within Chickamauga Gulch. Two trails, the 1.5-mile Hogskin Branch Loop and 7.8-mile round-trip Stevenson Branch Trail, pass through mixed deciduous forest and feature overlooks, waterfalls, wildflowers, picnic tables and a camping area. Wildflowers found along the trails include phlox, trillium, chickweed, larkspur, Dutchman’s breeches and Jack-in-the-pulpit.
Directions from Chattanooga:
Take U.S. Highway 27 North to the intersection with Tennessee Highway 153. At the junction of 153 and 27, 153 becomes Dayton Pike. Continue on Dayton Pike for three miles to the intersection with Montlake Road. Turn left on Montlake Road, and go one mile to the North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness Area sign. Turn left on the access road, and continue to the trailhead and parking and picnic area.

Waterfall Hike: Glen Falls Trail (Lookout Mountain)
Distance:
Approximately two miles round-trip
Rating:
Easy
Description:
Glen Falls is a waterfall that begins just beneath the brow on the east side of Lookout Mountain. This easy trail allows hikers to take an up-close look at the geology of Lookout Mountain and enjoy the waterfall, especially in the spring.
Directions from Chattanooga:
Head up Lookout Mountain on Ochs Highway, and look for the Glen Falls trailhead, which is the first pullover on the left after passing the intersection of Sanders Road (marked by signs indicating a picnic area) and Ochs Highway. Heading down Lookout Mountain on Ochs Highway, look for a large Ruby Falls sign on the right to find the trailhead.

Family Hike: Pot House Loop Trail (Tennessee River Gorge Trust)
Distance:
3.5-mile loop
Rating:
Easy to moderate
Description:
The Pot House Loop Trail is a moderately strenuous trail with switchbacks that reach more than 1,000 feet in altitude around Azalea Point. The property also includes the historic Pot Point Cabin, which is surrounded by 491 acres of pristine forest and which is available for day and overnight rentals. The Pot House Loop Trail also features a Nature Braille Trail for the visually impaired, developed by American Hiking Society volunteers.
Directions from Chattanooga:
Take U.S. Highway 27 North toward Signal Mountain. Take the U.S. Highway 127/Signal Mountain Road Exit. Proceed toward Signal Mountain, and turn left on Highway 27 (Suck Creek Road). Head four miles, and at the end of the Suck Creek Bridge, turn left on River Canyon Road. Head four miles to the Pot Point Cabin and trailhead.

Bluff Views: Bluff Trail on Lookout Mountain
Distance:
4.5 miles from Covenant College to Point Park, with trail access to Sunset Rock
Rating:
Moderate
Description:
This trail, located at the top of Lookout Mountain, is noted for its historic significance and scenic overlooks. The historic Battle of Lookout Mountain was fought near this path, and notable signs indicate its historic value. This trail is not recommended for hikers with pets or young children because of sheer bluffs and numerous stairs.
Directions from Chattanooga:
Take Broad Street to U.S. Highway 41 (Cummings Highway). Turn left on Highway 148. Continue on Highway 148 to the top of Lookout Mountain. At the top, turn right on East Brow Road. The Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center is located at the end of the road. Note: There is an admittance fee to enter Point Park, part of the National Park Service.

Chattanooga Hiking Club Favorite: Snooper’s Rock Trail (Cumberland Trail, Prentice Cooper State Forest)
Distance:
Six miles round-trip
Rating:
Moderate
Description:
The Prentice Cooper segment of the Cumberland Trail, which runs from Chattanooga to the Kentucky border, features more than 30 miles of hiking trails with beautiful overlooks of the Tennessee River Gorge. Snooper’s Rock Trail offers a short day hike with breathtaking views.
Directions from Chattanooga:
Take U.S. Highway 127 North to the Signal Mountain Road Exit. Stay on Signal Mountain Road for 3.1 miles, and turn left on Suck Creek Road. Stay on Suck Creek Road for approximately nine miles, and turn left at Choctaw Road. Follow Choctaw for a quarter of a mile. Turn left on Game Reserve Road. Cumberland Trail parking is approximately four miles on the right. Snooper’s Rock Trail, which leads to Indian Rock House, begins across the road from the parking area.

For more information about hiking in the Chattanooga area or to join a group hike, visit the Chattanooga Hiking Club website at www.chatthiking.org.

Jenni Frankenberg Veal enjoys writing about the natural world and exploration opportunities found within the southeastern United States, one of the most biologically and recreationally rich regions on Earth. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.

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