As September rolls around, we've spent our summer vacations at faraway lands and the heat is surely getting to us. Lucky for us in Chattanooga, we're surrounded by nearby weekend getaways perfect for cooling off outdoors.
Cumberland Mountain State Park is a great day trip for those September weekends. Right up Highway 127 and through the Sequatchie Valley, the large state park near Crossville not only offers everything you need for a quick trip, its proximity to other natural wonders makes it a perfect getaway.
You're not going to be hiking up and down mountains at this 1,720-acre park located on the Cumberland Plateau, but this park has miles of trails that take you through backcountry area. Winding along Byrd Creek and surrounding wooded areas, complete with an overnight camping area, the trails at Cumberland Mountain State Park are a great primer for our littlest outdoor adventurers.
If day trips aren't your thing, or you want to take someone on their first camping adventure, Cumberland Mountain is a great place to pitch a tent. Complete with 145 tent sites, the camping area has picnic tables, grills and even bathhouses, making this a family-friendly place to get out.
For our anglers, Byrd Lake centers the park and offers a variety of fishing opportunities. Fishing from the bank is permitted, and you can expect to hook rainbow trout, catfish and bass if you try your luck. Canoes and paddleboats, row boats and electric-trolling fishing boats are also available to rent until October, and personal kayaks and canoes are also permitted on the lake.
On your way out of town, take a trip down I-40 to Ozone Falls Natural Area. Off of the Crab Orchard exit and east on Highway 70 for four miles, an amazing natural waterfall lies just off of the road.
A sign denotes the natural area and an obvious footpath will take you to the top of the 110-foot fall. From here, you can watch the creek run off into the cavernous pool, but be careful-it can be slippery and there are no guardrails on the edge.
There is another path leading from the entry sign alongside the road and down a very steep path to the bottom of the falls. With extreme caution, take the narrow trail alongside the road, and when it deviates around the stone wall follow the path down. You'll hear the falls, and with summer's rain filling the pool you'll likely feel mist and a breeze. The rocks down can get slippery, so if taking adventurous kids it may be helpful to go down first.
At the end, you'll be at the pool of Ozone Falls, where years of water erosion has formed an amphitheatre-like surrounding.
Sometimes the pool is more like a puddle, but this summer has left the pool around 7 feet deep.