CRAVENS HOUSE LOOP
Distance: 3.4-4 miles
Time: 2 hours
Traffic level: Moderate-high
Drive time from downtown: 10 minutes
Highlights: Panoramic views, Sunset Rock, historic sites, rock climbing (trad)
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
After an unexpected week off due to Bryant's sprained ankle (among other schedule conflicts), I am back and more excited than ever to hit the trails. Bryant is still treating his injury, so I tackled the Cravens House Loop with Winston the Yorkie as my hiking partner. It is a 3.4-mile loop that connects multiple trails on Lookout Mountain for a quick, moderate hike. You can also extend the length by hiking to Sunset Rock and/or Point Park.
The initial trailhead sits behind the historic Cravens House, a Civil War site that served as a post for both Confederate and Union soldiers. It was also a significant battleground. Take some time to explore the site and read about its interesting history before you hit the trail. Alternatively, you can begin at Point Park and hike down to Cravens House for some extra mileage.
From Cravens House, head northwest on the aptly named Cravens House Trail. You will soon approach a split indicating the start of the loop. Take a left and continue southwest on Cravens House Trail for approximately one mile until it merges with Bluff Trail. As you merge, the trail becomes exposed, offering stellar views of the valley below.
Around 1.5 miles, you approach the Sunset Park climbing area. Be cognitive of the climbers above.
After you pass the crag, you will find stairs on the left leading to Sunset Rock. I love this overlook, and I always take an opportunity to view Chattanooga and the Tennessee River from above.
To continue on the loop, take Gum Springs Trail northbound back toward Cravens House. Gum Springs Trail begins at the three-way intersection with Bluff Trail and the Sunset Rock stairs. It descends down the western side of Lookout Mountain for half a mile.
At approximately 2 miles into the loop, keep right on Upper Truck Trail. It is a wide path, presumably constructed for truck use in the past. The signage near this section is not very clear, plus there are no trail markers on the trees. Be sure to stay right at all the upcoming intersections, heading northeast. I accidentally veered left around 2.1 miles and found myself on Guild Trail.
After a flat 0.5 miles on Upper Truck Trail, look for a small path on the right. This is Rifle Pits Trail, the last connector trail you need to complete the loop. It climbs at a moderate rate up the mountain, around 250 feet of elevation gain in under 0.5 miles.
I enjoyed the Cravens House Loop as a whole, but I wish the trails were better marked. It can be difficult to follow because it is not one single loop trail, but rather a series of many different trails. Also, the area can get crowded on a nice day. However, I did encounter awesome wildlife along the way due to the warm weather, including several cardinals, two woodpeckers and a red fox.
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 work 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.