The Chattanooga landscape simply lends itself to gorgeous morning and evening views. Check out our seven favorite spots for taking in nature’s greatest show.
Where to Watch the Sun Rise
A part of Prentice Cooper State Forest just west of Chattanooga, this spot offers a sprawling view of the Tennessee River as it winds in a horseshoe-shaped curve around the gorge below. Depending on the weather, you may even find yourself above the clouds on a morning when fog is hugging the river. Prentice Cooper State Forest is home to 6,000 acres of protected land, but there’s no need to hike far if you aren’t up for it, as access to the sunrise views at Snooper’s Rock is just over half a mile from the parking lot. If you do want to stretch your legs after the sun comes up, there are plenty of trail options accessible in the immediate vicinity.
Known by locals as an urban forest, Stringer’s Ridge is located on 92 acres of protected woodland and is a popular spot for single-track mountain bikers, trail runners, and families alike. The best place to sit for sunrise is the observation deck off of Cherokee Trail, where you’ll find early morning golden rays dancing off the Market Street Bridge, Walnut Street Bridge, buildings along Frazier Avenue, and triangular peaks of the Tennessee Aquarium off in the distance. Access from the parking lot and trailhead at Cherokee Boulevard was closed in late 2020 due to a mudslide, but other trailheads remain accessible. If you’re hiking from the Spears Avenue trailhead, take the Blue Loop to Cherokee Trail to find the observation deck.
Chester Frost Park
Northeast of Chattanooga in Hixson, much of this lakefront park faces east for great sunrise views. You can simply pull up to the property and carry your coffee out to a picnic table or the bed of a pickup truck as you wait for those colorful morning colors to decorate the sky over Chickamauga Lake. Depending on who’s a part of your breakfast crew, Chester Frost Park offers sandy banks, wooden fishing piers, boat docks, a disc golf course, and three playgrounds. One of the best ways to make sure you’re in the perfect position at dawn is to make a weekend of it at a waterfront or inland campsite on the property.
Where to Watch the Sun Set
One of the most popular spots to catch a captivating sunset in the Scenic City, Sunset Rock is located on West Brow Road in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and offers 180-degree views of the Tennessee River, Wauhatchie Battlefield, and Prentice Cooper State Forest. A wide stone slab for spreading out with friends and family, Sunset Rock has multiple access points from trails on the mountain. Your first option is a 0.1-mile stroll down a dirt and stone walking trail from a small, marked parking lot off West Brow Road. If that lot is full, be wary of parking on residential streets for access to those sundown views; you’ll likely get a ticket. Instead, plan to take trails from Point Park or Craven’s House. From Point Park, you’ll pay an entry fee, follow signs to Och’s Observatory, then descend to a left turn onto Bluff Trail. From Craven’s House, it’s a 3-mile round trip to Sunset Rock and back, passing sandstone bluffs, boulders, and a few steep drop-offs. The gates at Point Park and the Craven’s House parking lot are locked up at dark, so once you’ve seen nature’s show, you’ll want to hike back out.
From Sunset Rock, continue southwest along the brow of Lookout Mountain for 10 more miles into Georgia and you’ll reach Lookout Mountain Flight Park. Here the runway ramp and cliff used by hang gliders and paragliders is the perfect perch for an unobstructed view of the sun setting over the valley. School’s not always in session, so you may not always find yourself cheering on paragliders and free flight hang gliders as they quite literally jump off a mountain. Other times, the peaceful silence is as stunning as the sunset itself.
Chattanooga’s first rooftop cocktail lounge, Whiskey Thief boasts a panoramic view of the Chattanooga area including the Bluff View Art District and the Walnut Street Bridge. Located atop The Edwin Hotel, the bar is named after the distilling tool that “steals” a sample of whiskey from the barrel. Whiskey Thief has options for both indoor and outdoor seating, and when you’re not busy taking in the industrial-meets-boho vibe in a brown leather banquette or red leather wingback chair, you’ll be captivated by the sun as it settles in for the night.
A part of Chickamauga National Military Park, Signal Point is one of the highlights of a visit to Chattanooga and offers sweeping views of the Tennessee River as it winds between Signal Mountain and Raccoon Mountain. Utilized by the Union army during the Civil War to keep an eye on river traffic and relay signals to fellow troops, Signal Point puts you 1,000 feet above the Tennessee River Gorge. The initial overlook is right off the parking lot. For a second view of the river, Raccoon Mountain, and Edward’s Point, take the steep wooden steps known as “the mousetrap” to the white blazes on the Cumberland Trail below. If you visit for a fall sunset between September and October, you may also catch a glimpse of a red tail or broad-winged hawk in migration.