6 Hidden Places to Find Adventure Near Chattanooga, TN


It’s no longer a secret. Chattanooga, Tennessee has some of the best access to outdoor recreation in the country. Nestled among the rocky tabletop mountains of the Cumberland Plateau, Chattanooga is attracting new residents every year due to the abundance of hiking, paddling, climbing, and other outdoor adventure opportunities. For these reasons, Gociety has chosen Coolidge Park, Downtown Chattanooga on May 27, 2017 for the next Adventure Fest. While the cat maybe out of the bag, there are still some places that even the locals may not know. Here are a few of our suggestions for those hidden gems still ripe for exploration around Chattanooga.

Big Soddy Creek Gulf Trail
Big Soddy Creek Gulf trail near Chattanooga, TN | Photo courtesy of Sarah Serkownek
  1. Big Soddy Creek Gulf – Hiking
    Trail Head GPS: 35.301856, -85.166209

Only a quick 30-minute drive north of Chattanooga, Big Soddy Creek Gulf offers hiking, mountain and gorge views, a seasonal water fall, and an enticing swimming hole. After a family-friendly 1.2-mile hike hugging the banks of Soddy Creek, the trail opens to a picnic area and crystal clear blue hole situated at the confluence of Board Camp Creek and Big Soddy. This is a perfect location to cool off and relax on those hot and steamy days. To beef up the exercise factor, continue up the trail for an 8.3-mile round trip hike.

Join us for the most immersive outdoor festival of the year― Adventure Fest Chattanooga 2017!

Pep Boys Bouldering Location Map

  1. “Pep Boys” – Bouldering
    Trail Head GPS: 35.254867, -85.202550

Located on the Cumberland Trail, “Pep Boys” (yep, just like the auto repair guys) is a little-known bouldering spot approximately half a mile in on the Soddy Creek Gorge South Section. In this historic mining area, there are a handful of massive rocks ranging from 30 ft. to 50 ft. in height―perfect for bouldering. Continuing past the boulders, there are several old mining and geologic features to see on the 4.9-mile section of the Cumberland Trail. Make sure to bring plenty of water with you on this adventure. While there are streams and waterfalls to ogle, the water is filled with mine run-off. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!

Waconda Bay Kayaking Paddling
Waconda Bay | Photo courtesy of Schandra “Sunshine” Loveless
  1. Waconda Bay & John A. Patten Island – Paddling
    Boat Launch GPS: 35.127980, -85.137382

For an easy access boat launch, perfect for SUP and kayaking, with access to a beautiful chain of islands, visit Waconda Bay and paddle your way to John A. Patten Island. Starting at the TWRA boat launch, after 0.8 miles of paddling, a series of islands begin to emerge from the depths of Harrison Bay. Created in 1940 when the Chickamauga Damn was completed, the resulting flood submerged sections of the town of Harrison, Tennessee. On a clear water day, you can see part of the town as you paddle along. After 1.7 miles, John A. Patten Island is a great place to rest and take in more history left behind to deteriorate. The island also offers free primitive camping on a first-come, first-served basis for those who are brave enough to sleep among the ruins and Bell cemetery.

spelunking raccoon mountain caverns
Wild Cave Expeditions | Photo courtesy of Raccoon Mountain Caverns
  1. Raccoon Mountain Caverns – Spelunking
    Property GPS: 35.022420, -85.408325

The caves at Raccoon Mountain Caverns allow Chattanooga locals of all ages to explore exceptionally well preserved stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flow stone, and natural bridges in the show caves. However, for those who are looking to push their adventure to the extreme, the Wild Cave Expeditions allows spelunkers to crawl, climb, squeeze, wiggle, and inch your way through the natural, untouched portions of this cave system. This is truly an obstacle course created by Mother Nature herself.

Zahnd Natural Area Map Bouldering

  1. Zahnd Natural Area – Bouldering
    Trail Head GPS: 34.655006, -85.469672

Travel 45 minutes south from Downtown Chattanooga to the Zahnd Natural Area for some established classics in the V0-V10 range, as well as plenty of unsolved problems and projects, mostly in the moderate range. This little used spot is a great location to spend the day with friends among the boulders that appear to be popping up like mushrooms from the forest floor. The rocks range here range from 20 ft. to 30 ft. with vertical slabs, slopes, and overhangs. This spot is open year-round, but be sure to get a Georgia Outdoor Recreation Pass before heading out.

Bitter Alibi Restaurant
The Bitter Alibi | Photo courtesy of the folks at The Bitter Alibi
  1. The Bitter Alibi – Beer and Food
    Restaurant GPS: 35.045120, -85.305647

After a long day of adventure, covered in sweat and dirt, hit a local favorite for some good food and drinks. Down the small alley, at the back of a three-story building, The Bitter Alibi is a hidden gem with a unique atmosphere and engaging layout to compliment an adventurous spirit. Get your “El Burrito” anytime day or night for a chorizo fix, and pair it with one of the hard to get American craft beers they keep in stock. Perhaps the “Seoulful”, an Asian inspired roast pork shoulder, is more your taste. Either way, any pallet will be pleased to scarf down some much-needed calories here after a long day of adventure. Before you go home, don’t forget to drink a pint in the alley patio and squeeze into a conversation to make a new friend. Perhaps you’ll learn about a new trail or boulder for the next adventure.