Wednesday, November 26, 2014 · 10:04 a.m.
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A number of hiking clubs in the Chattanooga area make it easy to get out and hike by providing outings, trip leaders and hiking companions. (Photo: Chattanooga Hiking Meetup)

Hitting the trails is one of the best ways to explore the natural landscape of the Chattanooga area, and getting out with others can make the experience even more enjoyable. A number of hiking clubs in the Chattanooga area make it easy to get out and hike by providing outings, trip leaders and hiking companions—all you have to do is show up.

For three years now, the Chattanooga Hiking Meetup has been organizing weekly outdoor adventures in the tristate area for all ages and abilities. The goal of the club is to explore the natural beauty of the region and develop a social network for people with similar outdoor interests. Activities include hiking, backpacking, camping, paddling and biking, ranging from easy to strenuous.

Hiking is not only fun, but it's good for you, too. (Photo: Chattanooga Hiking Meetup)

"This is a great way to get out hiking with others," Rhonda Bulman, Chattanooga Hiking Meetup organizer, said. "We want people to feel like they are part of the group, even if they are new to the club."

Best of all, the club is free and open to all ages and skill levels.

Events are generally scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays, and hikes can range from 2 miles to 20 miles in order to provide a variety of hikes for different skill levels. Each outing is led by a trip leader who knows the trail and has already hiked it themselves, Bulman said.

Outdoor activities are planned throughout the year in East Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama. Bulman said some of her favorite hikes with the club have been at Frozen Head State Park, Fiery Gizzard Trail, Burgess Falls State Park and Mount LeConte in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Even winter weather does not deter the group.

"We try to do a lot of waterfall hikes in the fall and winter because generally there is more water flowing that time of year," Bulman said. "We’ve even hiked in snow."

According to Bulman, part of the group’s mission is to give back to the community through volunteer and fundraising efforts, such as trail maintenance; park cleanup; toy drives; and participation in the Ultimate Hike, which raises funds to support children’s cancer research.

Hiking is not only fun, but it's good for you, too. Countless studies and research have consistently shown that regular exercise not only improves overall health and fitness, but lengthens and improves the quality of our lives. Regular physical activity substantially reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease and decreases the risk for colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. It also helps control weight; contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints; helps relieve the pain of arthritis; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression; and is associated with fewer hospitalizations and physician visits.

Hitting the trails is one of the best ways to explore the natural landscape of the Chattanooga area, and getting out with others can make the experience even more enjoyable. (Photo: Chattanooga Hiking Meetup)

Although many activities and sports have a limited lifespan for participants, hiking is a sport that can be enjoyed throughout life. Hiking is also a great way to introduce kids to the outdoor world.

The Chattanooga Hiking Meetup has a number of events scheduled in November, including a 6-mile hike from Greeter Falls to Stone Door in South Cumberland State Park on the Cumberland Plateau; a 6-mile hike on Stringer’s Ridge in Chattanooga; and paddling at Harrison Bay State Park and hiking on Patten Island.

To learn more about the Chattanooga Hiking Meetup or to sign up for a hike, visit their website.

Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist living on Walden’s Ridge. She 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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