Trail Running in the Scenic City

Chattanooga’s nickname as the Scenic City is well-deserved. While known for its mountains and the Tennessee River that runs straight through downtown, there are so many ways to take in the city’s epic views and stunning scenery – and one of the best ways to do that is with a trail run! The trail running community in Chattanooga is growing every day, and with more than 34 running trails across the city, it’s easy to get outside and take in this city’s incredible surroundings. Plus, with the weather cooling off and the leaves starting to change, now is the perfect time to lace up those running shoes and enjoy the fall foliage.

Trail running is serious business, and thanks to the commitment of the trail running community and nonprofits like The Land Trust for Tennessee and Friends of the Cumberland Trail, there’s bound to be a trail for every type of runner. Whether you’re interested in short out-and-backs or longer runs that go the distance, read on to find the perfect trail run for you.

man running at Stringers Ridge

Less Than Five Miles

If you prefer shorter trail runs, there are lots of popular options under five miles. One option, located northeast of the city, is the Enterprise South Nature Park. Home to roughly 25 miles of wood chip-lined trails with a variety of difficulty levels, it’s a great place for newbie trail runners and experienced pros alike. The Poe Run Path is an easy 2.3-mile trek through the woods on an out-and-back-style trail that’s a perfect place to take in the change in seasons. Or, head to Hixson’s Greenway Farms for a clay- and gravel-covered trail that makes for a quick 2-mile loop. For a slightly longer, slightly more difficult path, the 3.8-mile trail from Suck Creek Road to Mushroom Rock provides some hills and rockier terrain if you want to add a bit more adventure to your trail run. Fans of this trail say the over 1,200-foot elevation gain makes for a few steep inclines, but it’s worth it for the gorgeous views and peaceful atmosphere. If you’re looking for first-rate trails a bit closer to downtown, then Stringer’s Ridge is for you. This 92-acre property is known for its winding hills and beautiful views of downtown and the Tennessee River. And of course, you can never go wrong with a trail run at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. Hop on the Kiddie Trail for a 3.7-mile run to Sunset Rock – just make sure you grab a day pass first!

fall trees at North Chickamauga Gorge State Natural Area

Five to Ten Miles 

If you’re looking for longer runs in the range of five to 10 miles, you’re in luck. The Cumberland Trail is an extensive trail that is maintained mostly by volunteers with 12 segments and more than 50 trailheads that run across Southeast Tennessee. The North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, located 15 miles north of downtown, is an 8.3-mile section of the Cumberland Trail that features waterfalls, rapids, and rock formations. With some steep slopes and rugged ascents, this trail is for more experienced trail runners. If you’re a history buff, then the Skyuka and Bluff Trails Loop is the run for you! Clocking in at a little bit over 10 miles, this loop provides a moderately challenging trail run through the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Dubbed the “Big Daddy Loop” by locals, this loop combines history and nature with opportunities to visit the historic Cravens House and other Civil War monuments. Bluff Trail also connects to Ropers Rock if you’re looking for a 9-mile out-and-back that provides opportunities for bird watching, too! Another great option is the Ritchie Hollow Trail to Snoopers Rock Trail in Prentice Cooper State Forest. A moderately strenuous 8-mile out-and-back trail gives you a near-1,500-foot elevation gain plus some beautiful views, including the 30-foot Blowing Wind Falls.

Raccoon Mountain Loop

Ten Miles Plus 

For the serious trail runners looking for routes in the double digits, the Scenic City has a number of wonderful, long trails. The Raccoon Mountain Loop is a 13.5-mile-long adventure that takes you sky high for perfect distance running. This site has multiple trail options and some of the best views in the city. If you really want to push your distance run to the limit, you can tack on the Small Intestine portion of the trail – a twisty, turny adventure that extends your run to a nice 15 miles. But watch out for mountain bikers, as this is a favorite trail for them, too! Looking for a slightly shorter distance run? The South Chickamauga Creek Greenway is 12 miles of asphalt, boardwalk, and gravel surfaces along Chickamauga Creek through East Chattanooga. The southern portion of the trail ends at Camp Jordan, so after your run, maybe throw in a round or two of disc golf or hit the ropes course! Looking for an elevation challenge? Then the Shackleford Ridge State Park to Cumberland Trail is the trail for you. This 14.5-mile out-and-back trail has nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gains and fantastic views of the Tennessee River Gorge. This trail also features a suspension bridge that passes over Suck Creek. This is a difficult trail and not for newbies, so make sure you’re experienced and bring plenty of water before you hit this trail.

Related Articles