Must See Places in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Area!
A sea of green and lots of water
Having never been to Tennessee, we were pleasantly surprised as we left the flatness of Florida to visit the epic waterfalls that the Chattanooga area has to offer. Having see great waterfalls on Cebu, Philippines, I was longing to see some in the USA. Being from California, the towering waterfalls in Yosemite National Park are hard to beat.
Now, Florida is green also and in places it gives a wall of green along the Interstate 4 from Orlando to the coast. I was not expecting to see so much more of this in parts of Tennessee. Tennessee has a lot to offer besides Nashville.
The Chattanooga Area
Having driven through much of the state, the Chattanooga area has a lot things going for it with regards to outdoor activities within a two hour drive or less. The amount of foreign visitors we encountered in the Ruby Falls area was amazing, kind of like Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The downside to this area is the city itself, which seems to be going under some sort of renewal rehab in parts. It really needs it, as there is not much there to offer in the way of industry. The city layout is a bit scattered towards the east fringe area where many of the shopping areas are.
Must See Bucket List
- Falls Creek Falls State Park - this is a huge, granite gorge that plunges down over 100 ft. It is about 2 hour drive from the city through some beautiful country. The park entrance is free and just follow the signs. Make sure you enter the park from the north end, which is much closer to the falls. Entering from the southern end will just make you go towards the northern entrance. It is best if you hike down to the base of the falls, about a mile. The terrain can be steep and rocky. Once at the bottom, the size of the gorge opens up and one simply is in awe. You can swim at the pool but where water shoes because there is no sand just a lot of jagged small stones. The hike back up is a good cardio workout, so be prepared.
- Whitewater rafting - if you want to have some level 3 and 4 rapids, travel to Ocoee, about a 45 minute ride. There, you can find several outfits taking buyers on whitewater rafting trips. The most popular is Quest in the town. The ride once you are on the river will offer 1.5 hours of rapids, some will get you wet for sure (especially, if you are in front!). It is a beautiful river trip through a jungle like forest. Most of the whitewater rafting businesses force the riders to actively row and steer through the rapids, so taking photos is a bit hard. It is a great experience for ages 10+.
- Ruby Falls Cavern and Lookout - This is one-time must do item. Usually crowded, once inside, you will walk through an underground cavern with some interesting sights until you reach Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall. The WOW factor is much less than some of the other waterfalls visited. After 10 minutes at the falls, you walk back the same path you arrived in. The Lookout offers a more dramatic vista out across the country with its own waterfall, but for the price, some feel it can be bypassed.
- Greeter Falls - Again, within a two hour drive from the city, you can experience this more remote awesome waterfall that usually is never crowded. You do have to hike to the falls, not more than a mile or so, but the path is not too steep. Walking to base is worth the effort because it is serene and beautiful with cascading water. From the city, you will eventually take Hwy 56 from the Interstate and past Altamont. Once past it, start looking for the ONLY small road sign on your right a few miles down the road. We did miss it and had to turn around. If you are coming down from the north, there is no sign, look for Greeter Falls Rd. The road to the falls is gravel with potholes, it is in a more remote area. At first, you will wonder where the road is going, but at the end, you will see a large parking lot at a State Park sign. The trail entrance it also a bit hidden. Not seeing it, we ventured through the picnic area onto a fire road, which was totally in the opposite direction. The entrance is really right off the parking lot. You will also want to go to the Upper Greeter Falls area, where it is just as beautiful and the water is shallow enough to walk through huge granite boulders. Very cool. One could spend their day there.
- Closer to the city, about 45 min, is the epic Foster Falls. Epic because it easily as good as the ones in the Philippines (Kawasan Falls on Cebu). This is right off Hwy 41, which connects to Interstate 24. Once you past Jasper, about 10 miles later you will see the sign leading you to it. Plenty of parking, bathrooms, hike down the steep, rocky, base of the falls (about a mile or so) and you will be greatly rewarded with dense vegetation, lush green, a waterfall cascading with tons of water dropping over 50 feet into a cool pool. Go for a swim! In fact, it is a popular swimming hole but wear water shoes. The falls can be covered in shade because it is recessed and you can also hike to the upper portion of the falls. Like Greeter Falls, just further down the road going north, both places offer nature and serenity in addition to swimming.
Visiting Tennessee in the Chattanooga area for a week was a great road trip. We also went further north to Burgess Falls and Cummins Falls. Burgess Falls is a miniature Niagra Falls and easy to get to. Beautiful with so much water. So, if you are limited in time and in the Chattanooga area, one can experience the nearby waterfalls and maybe even some whitewater rafting!