A Chattanooga Field Guide for the Decidedly Indoorsy

I am decidedly indoorsy. My fair complexion, hatred for all things creepy crawly, and general aversion to sweating keep me indoors. But when you live in a city like Chattanooga, renowned for its natural beauty, and award winning outdoor sports, it is difficult to ignore the call of the wild. People travel from all over the country to climb our sandstone, hike our trails, and show off their athletic prowess. I, however, am not particularly athletic (aka: I am wildly out of shape). Last summer I overcame my distaste for the great outdoors and began exploring an unfamiliar side of Chattanooga. Even with my caveats and excuses, I realized even the most indoorsy person could find something new to try.

Slather on the sunscreen, put on some comfy shoes, and get ready to explore.

Don’t let the word hiking put you off. There are many beautiful, invigorating, non-rugged hikes all around town. When I do it, it’s less of a hike and more of a stroll. Start with the trails around Point Park. Home to the Lookout Mountain Civil War battlefield known as “Battle Above the Clouds,” the trails wind down the side of the mountain to several beautiful outlooks. You might break a sweat, but you won’t have to worry about breaking in new hiking boots. Keep in mind the trail winds along the side of a mountain, so if you have one of those fearless kids who might accidentally jump off a cliff, you might want to do this hike solo.

Want to take it to the next level?

Head to Raccoon Mountain Caverns for a guided hike through their expansive cave systems. Wind through the labyrinth of stunning cave formations to the Crystal Palace Room on the walking tour. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous take the wild cave tour. Either way, be sure to wear clothing that can get dirty as there are some tight squeezes through the formations.

I know what you’re thinking. There is NO form of camping that a truly indoorsy person will enjoy. Right? Wrong! Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of “glamping” (Glamorous Camping). I am not going to sleep on ground in a sack where all the bugs and snakes live. Rent a cabin or yurt at Cloudland Canyon and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors alongside the beauty of indoor plumbing. The Cloudland Canyon cabins offer unparalleled views of Lookout Valley. The park boasts sandstone mountains, and well-carved trails winding down to a natural waterfall. The hike to natural waterfalls, Hemlock Falls and Cherokee Falls, are a doozy, so be prepared with water and make good use of the benches along the trail.

Want to take it to the next level?

Camp in the Lost Sea Adventure. Seriously, you can do that! Spend the night exploring the less traveled passageways, learning a little history, and resting easy knowing that there is no natural vegetation in the cave system, which means there are no creepy crawly things to disturb your sleep.

Throw on your swimsuit and a pair of sturdy sandals. Explore the many cricks, creeks, streams, rivers, swimming holes, and waterfalls surrounding Chattanooga. Not sure where to start? Check out the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge. The trail provides tons of paths to get straight into the water. I took my kids and dogs along for the fun. We stopped off at the first entry to the water, where the creek was shallow enough that I wasn’t afraid for the kids to explore, but deep enough to be fun. We brought a picnic lunch along and camped out on the rocks in the shade and made an afternoon of it. The cool water makes it a wonderful place to play during the summer, but keep a sharp eye out for snakes!  

Want to take it to the next level?

{Photo Credit: Emily Lapish Photography}

Jump in the Blue Hole! The trail to get to the Blue Hole is a bit of a hike, but well worth the extra work to get there. Daredevils can swing in on a rope swing or plunge from rock faces. If you decide to hike to the Blue Hole be sure to pack lightly. The trail is long and rugged, but not treacherous.

I’ll admit, I was fairly skeptical about kayaking. My darling friend assured me that it would not require skill or super human strength, which was mostly true. The current in the Tennessee River is strong, so while the trip up the river was a little challenging, the coast back to the dock was very relaxing. We had a few moments of spinning in circles, but I managed not to land in the water, so I count it a victory. If you really want to avoid the workout, rent a two-person kayak, sit in the back and make your partner do the heavy paddling. Head downtown to L2 Outside where you can rent everything you need to explore the Tennessee River, passing under the bridges and bluffs, and around Maclellan Island

Want to take it to the next level?

Go white water rafting down the Ocoee River Rapids. The course was built during the 1996 Olympics, when the Ocoee River hosted the world’s first whitewater event held on a natural river. But you don’t have to be an olympian to test them out. The Class III and IV rapids annually draw whitewater enthusiasts of every skill level.  

To all the decidedly indoorsy folks out there, challenge yourself to try something new this summer. Outdoor adventures may not be your cup of tea, but they are great fun and can create lasting memories with your kiddos. Don’t let your indoorsy attitude keep you from all that Chattanooga has to offer. Get out and explore! Adventure awaits!

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