published Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Fall is prime time for area hiking enthusiasts

Hikers take a break to enjoy the panoramic view at Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain.
Hikers take a break to enjoy the panoramic view at Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

Outdoor enthusiasts are flocking here.

In 2011, readers of Outside Magazine voted Chattanooga the Best Town Ever. Rock climbers, campers, slack liners, rafters, bikers, hikers and others tout the area's many outdoor assets.

Indeed, Scenic City is not a misnomer.

With the summer heat fading, it's a perfect time to take advantage of the area's many hiking trails. A Times Free Press Facebook poll asked readers to name their favorite spots. Here are a few of their responses.

Kiddie Trail and Sunset Rock

Characteristics: Kiddie Trail begins at the base of Lookout Mountain. The once heavily forested trail is now a sunny, weedy slope due to blowdowns from the Southern Pine Beetle. Parts of the trail are still heavily shaded.

Challenges: Look out for poison ivy and some steep rocks in places.

Distinctive features: Great views from Sunset Rock, colorful fall foliage, spring wildflowers.

Expert opinion: "This trail is my old friend, and I most enjoy experiencing it in different seasons-spring flowers, a dusting of snow, or after a refreshing rain. I love the cool/cold wind that greets me at Sunset Rock and the feeling of accomplishment of getting there by foot.

-- Elizabeth O'Connor, member of the Chattanooga Hiking Club.

Reflection Riding

Characteristics: The main path was built by the park service as a fire road. There are offshoots. Some go up the mountain to Point Park. The main path is generally easy, with some slopes at times.

Challenges: Overgrowth at some points, some risk of poison ivy. Look out for snakes and skunks.

Distinctive features: Beautiful views of fall foliage over the next month. Rock formations and caves.

Expert opinion: "I really like the diversity. You might see a deer one day, or certain plants one day. In springtime, you'll see a lot of flower life."

-- Bob Baxter, land steward, Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center

Stringers Ridge

Characteristics: Easy to moderate trails for hiking. Accessible to downtown. In the summertime, there is a lot of dense foliage. The trail surfaces are often old road beds and are easy for people who don't have a lot of technical hiking skills.

Challenges: There are some short, steep hills on the trail system that might challenge beginners.

Distinctive features: The overlooks that provide "spectacular" views of downtown Chattanooga.

Expert opinion: "My favorite thing about Stringers Ridge is some of the old trees that are up there, some of the old tulip poplars you'll find on the north side of the ridge."

-- Ruth Thompson, Outdoor Chattanooga

Signal Point

Characteristics: Technically difficult if you begin at Signal Point. Rugged terrain. Rocky. Visually stunning with views of the Tennessee River Gorge. Uneven footing in places. Some spectacular stream crossings.

Challenges: Lots of rock scrambles. Seasonal stream crossings during the wet season. Be careful of poison ivy and bugs in the summer and ice build-up in the winter.

Distinctive features: House-sized boulders and rock formations. Mushroom Rock is about four miles from Signal Point. Edward's Point Overlook.

Expert opinion: "The view of the gorge is absolutely beautiful."

-- Ruth Thompson

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Characteristics: Waterfalls, views of the canyon from above or below. You can do the rim trails or the siton's gulch trail along the bottom of the canyon. The trails are generally well maintained. There are a few places that are narrow and rocky with exposed tree roots.

Challenges: Moderate to difficult in places. There are some places you can go for an easy walk along the top. If you choose to hike the bottom, you have a steep climb out. Beginners should stay along the rim trails.

Distinctive features: Waterfalls, overlooks, rock overhangs, the beautiful fall foliage.

Expert opinion: "You go by the waterfalls and you can see the canyon from a different perspective. Most people see it from an overlook, but not as many people go see the canyon from the bottom."

-- Kendra Cross, member of the Chattanooga Hiking Club

Lula Lake Land Trust

Characteristics: Easy trail. Fairly wide and well maintained. Some uphill areas, as some of the trails are mountain biking trails. Some loose rocks.

Challenges: For the most part, the trail is even. There's nothing excessively steep.

Distinctive features: Beautiful overlook over Chattanooga Valley. The Lake area. Lula Falls is picturesque.

Expert opinion: The variety. The hike I typically lead goes along Rock Creek, so you're getting the creek experience followed by along the bluff road, so you get to enjoy the view over Chattanooga Valley. You've got your overlook, your waterfall and your creek.

-- Kendra Cross

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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