Historic significance, climbing opportunities and beautiful panoramic views are some of the highpoints that make the Bluff Trail a favorite among area hikers.
"It really showcases the best of Chattanooga," says Chattanooga Hiking Club President Elizabeth O'Connor. "In the winter, the leaves are down so we have views of the whole valley and in a few weeks when I go out there I'll be looking for the spring wildflowers. And in the fall it's perfect for fall colors."
Located on Lookout Mountain, the Bluff Trail is just a portion of more than 30 miles of trails that connect to the trailhead located at historic Cravens House. The Cravens House is part of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park and is the site of intense fighting that took place in "The Battle Above the Clouds" during the Civil War. The house was used as headquarters for both Union and Confederate troops, and although guests can't go inside without a pre-arranged tour, they are welcome to walk the grounds and enjoy the site from the outside.
From Cravens House, the Bluff Trail winds along the brow of the mountain with mostly even terrain and minimal rocks, making it a good option for the novice hiker.
However, there is significant drop-off along the trail, so it is not recommended for hikers wishing to bring along house pets or young children.
"The trail is nearly 5 miles long starting near Cravens House and ending at Ochs Gateway, which is right below Covenant College," says O'Connor. "It has the advantage of Sunset Rock (a well-known climbing destination) about halfway through, and from there you can see the Tennessee River. There are panoramic views. You can also park near Sunset Rock in case you don't have time to walk the whole trail."
For the hiker who is looking for a longer trip, O'Connor suggests hiking up from the Chattanooga Nature Center, then up to the Bluff Trail and take it all the way out to Skyuka Springs Trail. There are natural springs along Skyuka Springs Trail, which O'Connor says make a great spot to stop for lunch before heading back along Lookout Creek back to the Nature Center. This hike is about 10 miles, she says.
O'Connor says she's seen several different types of wildlife while on the trail, including hawks flying overhead and even a snake slithering nearby. According to Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife, the Bluff Trail area serves as a resting and feeding stop for migrating birds using the Cumberland escarpment and Tennessee River riparian corridor as a migration pathway, making it a good option for the birder, as well.