Staff Photos by D. Patrick Harding -- Storm Foster, left, 6, and her brother, Ryan, roast hotdogs during a camping trip with their parents at the 280-acre Chester Frost Park in Hixson.
Opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Chattanooga area are as vast as the mountains, valleys and rivers surrounding the city.
Whether their preference is for land, water or air activities, outdoor enthusiasts flock to the area for its scenic beauty and rich landscapes.
“There are some extreme things here,” said downtown resident Raley Parker, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate whose outdoor activities include rock climbing, hiking, backpacking and ultimate frisbee. “There’s great climbing, a great hang-gliding park, but it’s really what you make of it. Walk outside and take a look around. You can see mountains, and from some places you can see water. There’s adventure to be had.”
Camping, caving and biking are other ways many residents and visitors choose to take advantage of the Tennessee Valley’s terrain.
Campgrounds at Fall Creek Falls, Harrison Bay, Chester Frost and South Cumberland parks offer a variety of options for an overnight stay outdoors. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll along the walkways of the Tennessee Riverpark or a strenuous trip along the Cumberland Trail, hiking locations abound.
The city’s parks offer a variety of paths for cyclists, while the surrounding mountains have enough peaks to challenge the most dedicated mountain bikers, and also offer tempting crags for rock-climbing enthusiasts.
Lookout Mountain Flight Park has long been a popular site for hang gliding, and the Adventure Sky Diving Center in nearby Cedartown, Ga., offers even more extreme thrills. The Tennessee River that winds through downtown and the nearby Ocoee and Hiwassee rivers and Chickamauga Lake provide endless opportunities for boaters, paddlers and fishermen.
Middle Valley resident Jim Farmer is an avid cyclist, paddler and runner who enjoys the convenience of the city’s proximity to such a variety of outdoor activities.
“I can basically go from my office right to the river,” Mr. Farmer said. “It’s incredible.”
The city’s outdoor culture also has given rise to a number of organizations such as the Chattanooga Hiking Club and Chattanooga Bicycle Club that facilitate active lifestyles and organize outdoor activities.
For those seeking competition along with their recreation, triathlons and road races are held throughout the year, and the increasingly popular adventure races utilize many of the area’s outdoor assets.
“I kind of refer to it as the smorgasbord of multisport racing,” said Mr. Farmer, who serves as the race director for the North Chick Greenway Challenge held in May at Chattanooga’s Greenway Farm. “Adventure racing is typically team based, and there’s usually a mental and physical aspect. A typical race has a run, bike or paddle, and they can include everything from rappelling to horseback riding to rollerblading.”