I have been driving through Chatanooga for years. Every time I pass it, I think about how fantastic all the trails must be. This year, I decided I was going to make some of those hikes happen! So, I gathered up my kiddos and headed north for middle Georgia for a weekend adventure. I knew that the entire area around Chatanooga was a prime hiking country. Having already hiked through parts of Appalachia a few years ago, I was familiar with the terrain. Finding the right trails for my kids, however, was going to be tricky.
At first, I had a camping trip planned, but my mom wanted to meet us there so we stayed in a hotel instead. Which I can’t say I wasn’t happy with when it comes to comfort. We stayed at the Wingate Hotel, and although the kids missed having a pool, it was a lovely stay.
Arriving in Chattanooga and Finding Trails
Forever winging it, I didn’t really have any trails picked out before I got there Friday night. I spent the first evening scouring the web for articles that might help me chose trails. With the kids and mom with me, so, I knew I wouldn’t be doing anything extreme. I did a bunch of research that night in the hotel room and narrowed it down to a few trails that I thought we all might enjoy. I knew we weren’t going to be doing any steep climbing and that I needed to keep the length of the trail down below a 10k. We had also planned for a picnic and packed healthy snacks, lots of water, and easy lunches. I wanted to make sure that the kids were happy and had something cool to look forward to. The solution was to find waterfalls! It is the middle of April so the weather is just about perfect for hiking: mid-60s to low 70’s.
When looking up trails, I used a few different websites such as AllTrails and Outdoorchattanooga.com. They were both helpful in listing out the trails available and their distances. However, they left me wanting for more when it came to experience. I knew I just needed to go ahead and pick a few random short trails, and just get out there!
These are the three trails we explored:
- Ritchie Hollow Trail
- Cumberland Trail to the Indiana Rock House (and a little beyond)
- Glen Falls Trail
1. Richie Hollow Trail
The Richie Hollow Trail is a shorter trail (5.4 miles round trip), but it is steep (climbing over 1200 feet in elevation). I chose Richie Hollow Trail because it leads to a pretty cool waterfall called Blowing Wind Falls. The parking lot sits right off of the Tennessee River in the Prentice Cooper State Forest. The Pot Point loop is accessible from the same location, but it is more than 11 miles long. I knew that wasn’t going to happen with my three kiddies.
Heading north, the trail is well-trodden and easy to follow with blue-painted markings on the trees to guide you. With mature hardwood trees including Ash, Oak, Hemlock, and Sweetgum. With wildflowers, rushing waters, and moss-covered boulders, it was absolutely gorgeous and we got lucky with the weather. There were remnants of moonshine stills littered alongside the trail which brought in a touch of history.
Once reaching the Blowing Wind Falls, which is only about a mile and half in, we spent some time to relax and enjoy the nature around us. The kids loved playing in the water and splashing around, climbing the rocks, and gathering some flower bouquets.
From there, you have the choice of going further or you can turn around and head back. With the hike being quite steep, my kiddos weren’t up for continuing. So, we decided to head back to head to the next trail where we could have a quick lunch.
Luckily, my kids and I are not allergic to poison ivy or poison oak, but you do need to be aware that it is everywhere!
2. Indian Rock House Trail
Driving north, we found the Cumberland Trail parking lot. It had a couple of picnic tables available for us to have our lunch. We had packed veggies and fruit, and all the fixins’ for sandwiches.
From there, I was hoping to do at least one more small trail before the day’s end. We found a quick one-mile trail (A to A) that was perfect for my kids. After the steep Richie Hollow Trail, this one was easy for them.
Although it was short, this was a really neat trail with some very cool rock formations. About a half-mile into the trail you come to a stone staircase that takes you down between a crack in the large rock. From there you find yourself coming around the side of the same rock which makes up the Indian Rockhouse. It is a large boulder with a carved-out portion where you will find a lot of markings made by other hikers. There was a small put-out campfire and people were using the ashes to write their names on the rock wall.
From there we continued on for about another half-mile just because we had the extra time. If you want a longer hike, you have the chance to go ahead to Snooper’s Rock. It is 6.2 miles in or all the way to Mullen’s Cove Loop which is 9.3 miles in.
3. Glen Falls Hiking Trail
So, I couldn’t help myself. I was curious enough to drive up near Lookout Mountain. I wanted to see if there was anything we might be able to explore. (Without having to pay for it!) I was also hoping to see if we could find Lula Falls. Unfortunately, you have to reserve your place on that trail ahead of time right now. I am not sure why. So, we drove around and spent some time enjoying the views before finding a small parking lot to pull into. It was directly off the side of the road, so be careful! I am not one to pay for hiking, so we avoided the crowds around Rock City.
Just off the Ochs Highway there is a paved pull-off parking place for the Glen Falls trail. Please be careful when pulling in or out; its a tight spot.
Glen Falls Trail is a super short trail and was more than easily managed by my three rugrats. It’s an in and out trail of only 2 miles and features another beautiful waterfall – Glen Falls. Once you get around the falls, there are some cool stone steps that are laid into a cleave within the rocks. They will take you up above the falls where you can frolic along the creek bed. “Stay clear of the slippy rocks”, my daughter told me.
I am glad we found the Glen Falls trail on our way back. We were able to take one more short hike before we had to head back south. My kids are always bursting with energy and we needed to run before the four-hour drive!
I’ll Be Back: Where I Plan To Hike Next
So, the next time I am back in Chattanooga, I hope to either make it alone or with someone down for a full-day (possibly full-weekend) excursion. I will be further exploring the Prentice Cooper State Forest and as many of its amazing trails as I can. Particularly, I want to focus on the Tennesse River Gorge Segments.
- Cumberland Trails has several trail segments to choose from and the ability to connect from one to another. I would like to go back and do the Pot Point Trail and then connect to Mullens Cove which is said to make up almost 34 miles. I would like to expand this even further by heading out on the Poplar Springs trail so I can cross what looks like a pretty cool suspension bridge and find the Mushroom Rock.
- Near Altamont, Tennessee I eventually plan to take the Greeter Falls Loop and Trail on a quick 3.2 mile trail to Savage Gulf’s Greeter Falls
- We tried to make it over to Lula Falls, however, you have to reserve your place on this trail ahead of time so be prepared for that!
- Nearer to Spencer, Tennessee I am hoping to eventually make my way to Fall Creek Falls which is a 256-foot tall waterfall. With 35 miles worth of hiking trails, Fall Creek Falls State Park has 14 different hiking trails
- Northwest of Chattanooga and starting in Tracy City, you can find the Fiery Gizzard Trail that will take you to Foster Falls. It is said to be an absolutely gorgeous trail with diverse rock formations, waterfalls and 200-year-old hemlock trees. It is just about 12.5 miles long.
- South of Chattanooga in Clarkesville, Georgia I would like to take the Hemlock Falls Trailhead to Hemlock and Cherokee Falls which goes alongside Daniel Creek in the Cloudland Canyon State Park.