published Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Five great places to walk in Chattanooga

As spring breezes bring fresh life to the city, it might be time to take a break from clunky gym equipment and venture outside to enjoy one of the simplest — and healthiest — forms of exercise: a good, long walk.

  • photo
    Charles Greene runs at the Tennessee Riverpark, a popular spot for walking or running.
    Photo by Allison Carter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Amanda and Scott Wojtalik-Courter, who walk, hike and run trails throughout the area, each have philosophies about keeping their fitness routines in the great outdoors.

“I always want to be going somewhere. I don’t like to just be staying in one place,” Scott Wojtalik-Courter said.

“You get to see all the seasons go by,” Amanda Wojtalik-Courter chimed in. “You can catch a beautiful sunrise or a beautiful sunset. It constantly keeps you engaged in your environment.”

Chattanooga boasts an abundance of trails with varied terrain and stunning views.

“It’s is an increasingly walk- and run-friendly city,” said Minya James, recreation specialist at Outdoor Chattanooga. “There are a lot of opportunities for walks and runs in safe and scenic places around downtown.”

Here are five sure bets for a satisfying stroll:

  1. Tennessee Riverpark

Skimming along the banks of the Tennessee River, this park spans about 8 miles from the Walnut Street Bridge to Chickamauga Dam. The trails are paved, with ample green space, picnic spots and restrooms along the way. If you don’t want to make the whole trek, there are several access points to the trails off Amnicola Highway. Follow the signs.

  1. South Chickamauga Creek Greenway — Brainerd Levee.

The Wojtalik-Courters frequently walk or run this paved trail, which runs along South Chickamauga Creek from Shallowford Road to Camp Jordan.

“Its great because it’s in the city, but there’s not too much traffic,” Amanda Wojtalik-Courter said.

The mostly-flat trail is about 2.5 miles in length. The Brainerd Levee is a portion of the greenway, according to Outdoor Chattanooga.

“Its along a wetland, so there’s all kinds of birds, and lots of bird watchers,” said Scott Wojtalik-Courter. The couple has spotted fowl of all stripes: herons, meadow larks, bluebirds and hawks.

  1. North Chickamauga Creek Greenway — Greenway Park.

This greenway near Hixson encompasses a 220-acre span that includes Greenway Farm. There are paved trails wrapping through the woods and wide, grassy trails belting meadows.

The paths at this Greenway get hilly, taking walkers along North Chickamauga Creek, up and down ridges and around a former quarry.

The greenway is also canine-friendly, featuring a dog park. You can access the trails from Greenway Farm at Hixson, near the north side of Chickamauga Dam.

  1. Walnut Street Bridge.

Probably the most famous place to promenade in Chattanooga, the bridge is well-trafficked by ambling tourists and local devotees. Melissa Cairns, who lives in an apartment off Walnut Street, walks her poodle mix Luna across the quarter-mile span several times every evening, weather permitting.

“Its just a nice, easy freeway and the perfect way to unwind after a long day,” said Cairns, who especially relishes the urban riverfront views and the people watching. “I actually had a gym membership but then I just decided, you know, this is free, and it’s so much better. And its right here,” she said.

  1. Chattanooga Nature Center — Reflection Riding.

A membership with the Chattanooga Nature Center is required in order to take advantage of the trails at Reflection Riding, but members have full access to 12 miles of trails. Paths meander up the side of the mountain, along the banks of Lookout Creek. They curve through woods, wildflower meadows, swamplands, and rock formations. In addition, there are plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife. For more information visit www.chattanooganaturecenter.org.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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