With a crisp breeze blowing, the sound of last season’s dry, crackling leaves underfoot, and the sunlight peaking through the bare branches, I set off on one of Chattanooga’s easier adventures to some favorite area hiking trails.
I begin with Stringer’s Ridge, only a five-minute drive from downtown and located just above the North Shore. Looking around there are families everywhere, riding their bikes, walking their dogs or just out enjoying time together. Nature has a way of bringing us together, but also allowing us to escape reality.
The trees allow the sunshine to gleam through the empty branches. With the leaves covering the path ahead, woodsmoke is in the air as I begin one of my favorite loops.
The 92-acre park consists of three multi-use loops that offer roughly 10 miles of trails. About midway I come across patches of Kudzo and find myself surrounded by it. The squirrels plunge into it and chase each other up the bordering trees.
The overlook, one of the Stringer’s Ridge signature features, is just over a half mile from the trailhead and I wonder how many Chattanoogan’s know of this view. From Lookout Mountain on the far right, to Veterans Bridge on the far left and everything between, this is an amazing panorama.
Although the trails are specifically marked for foot or bike traffic, there are some that are used for both. Those trails engage more of a workout. However, there are designated days for trail traffic that are posted at the beginning of each trail head. The bike trails are not to be used on rainy days to prevent erosion.
There are two main entrances to the park that have parking lots, and a few neighborhood entrances with no parking. There is an entrance off Old Bell Ave. (right behind Nikki’s Diner). This is the location you should come to if you want a quick hike (.7 miles) to the overlook of Chattanooga, or for all of the easy trail access. The other entrance is located at the end of Spears Avenue. At this location visitors will find the multi-use single track “blue loop.” This is a more difficult six-mile track that has hills and tight turns for the cyclist. Stringer’s Ridge provides directional and informational signage along the trails. The park is open from dawn to dusk, is pet friendly and has on-site public restrooms.
Enterprise South Nature Park:
During every hiking trip there is chance to find wildlife and at Enterprise South Nature Park, that’s exactly what you may find. Squirrels, rabbits, and deer are visible throughout this adventure.
With about a 25-minute drive from downtown, the 1,300-acre park offers many different trails to choose from. The Poe Run Trail follows a seasonal stream past historic bunkers, previously owned by the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant.
One thing that sets this hiking experience apart from others, is the network is more spread out, so on some trails you don’t encounter many people. The quiet surroundings are pleasant—just the sound of the leaves, the song of the birds and the faint sound of water running in the small creek.
Although there are no spectacular views of the city, you may watch the squirrels chasing each other up trees, rabbits scampering at the slightest move, and graceful deer making their way through the trees. I sit and watch them for about 10 minutes, trying not to scare them off. When they finally catch a glimpse of me, they stare with the same curious look, as if they are trying not to scare me, as well.
Enterprise South Nature Park is open daily at 7:00 a.m. and closes at sunset during the year. Guests can check in at the visitors center for posted hours and helpful maps. The park provides directional and informational signage along the trails, is pet friendly and has on-site public restrooms.
Sunset Rock: Lookout Mountain
Sunset Rock is located on top of Lookout Mountain, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga. After parking and hiking down to the open rocks, the view takes my breath away. Waves of rolling mountains that seem to go on for miles and miles are ahead. Looking over the western flank of the mountain its as though time stands still, a moment you wish could last forever. It’s a relaxing feeling to sit back and allow life’s everyday stress to roll away.
The trails are just as beautiful as the open view. Huge rocks, the size of buildings and covered with moss—all are shimmering in late afternoon sunlight. There are many other hikers of all ages and most of them have their dogs. The pups look just as excited to be there as I am. Hikers often say Sunset Rock is their favorite place to come because they enjoy the challenge of climbing the rocks.
The trails near Sunset Rock offer a few different path options, including one to the Cravens House, Point Park, or if time permits, take the trail to Covenant College. That six-mile trail offers the most beautiful views in winter.
Eager to catch the sunset, I make my way back up to the opening where I find the sky is now varied shades of orange and red—the sun a deep yellow. Once the sun begins to disappear behind the mountain, it’s gone in a flash. The only lights remaining are the ones below—the street lights, the lights from the buildings and red tail lights from the cars. Chattanooga in winter is still a beautiful place to be.
What to take this year for your favorite day-hiking trips:
• Osprey Stratos 24 backpack—$119.95
This durable lightweight daypack is made with a 3D mesh back panel and also has various adjustable straps that will provide the best fit for you. It also has extra zipper pockets just big enough for phone and keys.
• CamelBak Antidote Reservoir—$29.95-$34.95
50 oz, 70 oz, 100 oz
CamelBak is easy to fill, easy to drink from and is the best value bladder. It is also one of the most durable and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
• LEKI Corklite trekking poles—$139.95
Adjustable cork good grips, lightweight and strong. Trekking poles save the legs and back and will give backpackers many years of enjoyment.
• Vasque Sundowner Boots—$220
This is the new 2015 edition.
• Vasque Breeze 2.0 Boots—$170
One of RockCreek’s best sellers! Both pairs of boots give great ankle support, comfort, good arch support and great traction. They are durable and water resistant. They and provide warmth in low temperatures.
• Arc’Teryx Atom LT hoody—$250
• Rain Jacket Patagonia Piolet Jacket – $299
All items may be found at Rock/Creek in Chattanooga. Story by Brittney Combs. Photography by Jessica Anzai