GLEN FALLS ALTERNATE TRAIL
Distance: ~2 miles
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Traffic level: Moderate to high
Highlights: Waterfall, cascading pools
Rating: 4/5 stars
This week was pretty hectic. We had snow, my family came to town, and Elise had her six (yes, six!) wisdom teeth removed. So, while she lay on the couch recovering, I took to the closest trail I could find for a quick hike with the dogs. Fortunately, Elise and I have hiked this trail before, a great 2-mile out-and-back leading to Glen Falls.
The trailhead starts at the eastern base of Lookout Mountain, so this route may be familiar to folks who live in the St. Elmo neighborhood. While there are multiple ways to get to Glen Falls, this one is certainly a quieter alternative to the more established Glen Falls Trail. However, if you want an easier hike, I recommend taking the official trail that starts on Ochs Highway.
Finding the trailhead for the alternate hike may be the trickiest part of the endeavor. Park around the intersection of West 47th Street and Alabama Avenue and then walk up 47th toward Guild Trail. Where Guild Trail and 47th meet, there is a three-way intersection. On Google Maps, the lower road on the left is labeled as Guild Trail while the higher road is Michigan Avenue; unfortunately, the road sign is confusing when you look at it. Follow the lower of the two roads. You'll walk along this road (Guild Trail) until you almost reach the first house on the right. About 50 feet before this house, the trailhead starts. It is marked by a blue dot low on a tree. There are multiple trees with blue dots, so I've included a picture to help you out if you get lost. The trail is also visible on Google Maps, but unlabeled.
The first quarter of the trail climbs steadily up the mountain at a fairly steep grade. Once you've gained some elevation, the trail turns left and begins to wind through the forest at a more moderate grade. When Elise and I first hiked this trail in December, the path was much harder to find due to fallen leaves. It was much easier to follow this week now that the leaves have blown away, and it certainly was much less slippery. Therefore, I would generally avoid this route when the leaves are falling or else you may lose the trail.
The middle segment of this trail is really lovely. It slowly winds its way up around knolls, climbing at an easy grade after the more challenging start. As you follow the trail you will eventually cross a clear-cut swath of land. Continue approximately 50 feet through this clearing until you intersect a large, well-established footpath. This is the official Guild Falls trail. Take a left at this intersection.
You'll begin to see large boulders and small cliffs emerge on your right. You're almost to the falls! The trail leads directly to it, and you'll know you're there by a wooden bridge that crosses a small pool next to the falls. From here you can keep following the trail around a large outcrop of boulders. Or — and this is my suggestion — follow a set of stairs up and to the right over the falls to a stream and some great views.
Total distance for this hike is about 2 miles, depending on how much you explore around the falls. The best part about hiking year-round is that you get to see places when very few other people are out. On my visit, for instance, the falls were covered in ice and I didn't see a single other person on the trail. My round-trip time, including the time I spent taking photos, was an hour and a half — a perfect quick trip to fit in between work and picking up soft food for my bedridden wife.
In late December, Bryant and Elise Hawkins, recent Chattanooga transplants, kicked off a yearlong hiking project. Every week, they choose a different trail, varying in length and difficultly and located within one hour of Chattanooga, to hike and review.
Bryant is a photojournalist whose works has appeared in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other places. Elise is currently working on a Master of Education at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Together, the outdoor enthusiasts hope to discover the region's endless outdoor opportunities.
You can follow the Hawkinses' hiking adventures by "liking" Get Out Chattanooga on Facebook, where we share their write-ups every Friday.
Have a trail suggestion for the Hawkinses? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.