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  • Writer's pictureEmily Rojas

4 of My Favorite Hikes Near Chattanooga, Tennessee

This post is dedicated to my constant hiking buddy, Ally. Thanks for always being down to hike with me & talk about life.

If it's the weekend and the weather is decent, you'll probably find me on a hiking trail somewhere. I've lived in Cleveland/Chattanooga for 5 years now, and I've tried out many of the local hikes, so now you don't have to! Today I'm listing off my 5 favorite hiking spots for you to try out.

I've never hiked before, how do I get started? I hear you, strange person asking this question! When I first started, I had little to no experience hiking. Start off with shorter or easier hikes that are well-trafficked, and work your way up from there. Make sure you're always prepared when you hike, and take precautions to be safe. But most of all, have fun!

1. Red Clay State Historic Park - Council of Trees Trail

Red Clay State Historic Park is halfway between Cleveland and Dalton. The Council of Trees Trail is an easy starter if you're not an experienced hiker, and it's also a nice afternoon walk that can be slightly strenuous at times.

As you can see from the picture, the trail is marked and cleared. There's some small water features, and since it's a historic park there are some historical sights. Sadly, this park was one of the last places the Cherokee government controlled before the Trail of Tears. It is a good place to learn more about the Cherokee nation, the Trail of Tears, and to reflect on the horrible things the U.S. did to native people across the country. It's important to educate ourselves on the past so we can do better in the future. Also here's a great article on ways to truly support Native Americans.

You can read more about this trail at this link.

2. Fort Mountain State Park

Fort Mountain State Park is about an hour away from downtown Chattanooga. It's home to several different trails for all levels, and some beautiful views.

There's an 8 mile loop for the more experienced hikers. Then there's a couple trails closer to 1 mile. One of them includes views of the fire tower I have pictured here and a scenic overlook.

It's a great park for a weekend camping trip, or just a day trip to get some hikes in. Last time I was there I went with several friends and we did two of the 1 mile loops and a portion of the 8 mile trail. We packed a lunch and spent the whole day looking at the views this park has to offer. It was a day well spent. I would definitely recommend spending at least a whole day here, there's so many different things to see and do! Be sure to stop at the visitor's station to grab a map, and stick to the right trails to avoid getting stuck on a 8 mile trail accidentally. Read more about Fort Mountain State Park at this link.

3. Ritchie Hollow Falls

This is my new favorite trail in the area. It's only about 30 minutes or less from downtown Chattanooga.

This is definitely a more strenuous hike. I can't emphasize that enough. The last mile of the hike before the falls is straight uphill, and it's not easy. But it's so worth it.

There is a gorgeous waterfall about 2 miles into this hike that makes it all worth while. Last time I went on this trail, I brought snacks and my friend and I dipped our feet into the pool beneath the waterfall for a while before making the trek back. It's not a loop so you'll need to turn around and go back the way you came. But again I say, it's so worth it! The waterfall is refreshing and beautiful and perfect in fall and summer (I'm sure in spring and winter as well, I just haven't hiked it in those season yet!). Plus, you'll get your steps in for the day (+ more) and feel like you've exercised enough for the whole week after getting up that hill.

Read more about Ritchie Hollow Falls at this link.

4. Rainbow Lake Trail

This is another trail that was much more difficult than I originally anticipated. I went here with my friend Ally one weekend, not totally sure what to expect. We were just hoping to try out a new trail. It's close to downtown Chattanooga on Signal Mountain.

When we got to the falls, we were disappointed by the length of the hike. It's a very short trek to the falls, so if you're looking for a very, very short hike for small kids, the trail to the falls area is short. The falls are huge and very beautiful though!

After getting to the falls, we saw a trail continuing across a bridge and decided to follow it. This trail brought us to several beautiful views, additional water features, and scenic overlooks. However, after about 3-4 additional miles into the woods, we realized we had gone a long way and needed to turn around and go back. Needless to say, by the time we got all the way back out, we were exhausted.

This is exactly why it's good to be prepared when you're hiking! Luckily, Ally and I always bring snacks, plenty of water, and first aid supplies just in case. With the snacks and water we were able to make it back out of the woods with only exhaustion as a side-effect. I can't advise how we got on this trail exactly since we didn't plan it ahead of time, but we did have a lot of fun and experienced some great views. Read more about Rainbow Lake Trail here!

Those are my current 4 favorite hikes around Chattanooga, but I'm sure they'll change as I keep exploring the area, and keep trying new hikes. All I can say, is take the time to get into nature this weekend (or the next, or during the week). Spending time in nature is good for your mental health & physical health.

Go on a hike this weekend, and share your adventures with me! You can follow me (& tag me in your pics) on Instagram @emilyamartinblog, and you can always subscribe to get updates on new posts at this link.

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