Across the state, wildflowers are growing and waterfalls are flowing. Who wouldn't want to scout for some of these scenic spots? You can strike out on your own of course, but the Tennessee Division of Natural Areas will offer organized outings with park rangers as guides during its annual Spring Celebration. Formerly known as State Natural Areas Week, the statewide observance, to be held April 5-13 this year, includes nine outings in proximity to Chattanooga.
Here's a quick list of closest events. Proper footwear and clothing should be no-brainers. You'll also want to tote along water and snacks, and even lunch for a couple of the longer, more strenuous outings. Get more details at www.tn.gov/environment/natural-areas.
SATURDAY, APRIL 5
Altamont: Waterfall Hike at South Cumberland State Park, 10 a.m. CDT. Meet at the Greeter Falls parking lot for a short hike (1.5 miles) on the rugged Greeter Falls Loop Trail to see two waterfalls within the Savage Gulf State Natural Area.
Dayton: Laurel Falls Hike, 10 a.m. CDT. See wildflowers and historic remnants of Dayton Coal and Iron within the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area. The trek is a moderately difficult, 5-mile round-trip.
Spring City: Wildflower Walk. 10 a.m. Meet at Piney River parking area of Cumberland Trail for hike to see birds and early spring wildflowers in Piney Falls State Natural Area. Trail along Soak Creek and Piney River has some moderately difficult terrain, but the overall walk is considered easy. Total distance is four miles, to be completed in separate two-mile sections (do one or both). RSVP with phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org by today in case of weather cancellation. Lunch recommended.
SUNDAY, APRIL 6
Spring City: Stinging Fork Falls Hike, 10 a.m. Trek through Stinging Fork Falls State Natural Area passes by the former managed timber stands when the area was set aside as a Pocket Wilderness Area by Bowater in the 1970s. The 3-mile round trip is rated moderate.
FRIDAY, APRIL 11
Beersheba Springs: Savage Falls Hike, 1 p.m. CDT. Moderate, four-mile round-trip to view the waterfall within Savage Gulf State Natural Area at South Cumberland State Park.
Gruetli-Laager: Collins Gulf Wildflower Hike, 3 p.m. CDT. Strenuous, 4.5-mile hike to see wildflowers and waterfalls with Savage Gulf State Natural Area.
SATURDAY, APRIL 12
Beersheba Springs: Big Creek Gulf Wildflower Hike, 10 a.m. CDT from Stone Door Ranger Station in South Cumberland State Park. A strenuous eight-mile hike through Savage Gulf State Natural Area will be rewarded with abundant wildflowers in bloom. Lunch recommended.
Dayton: Waterfalls and Wildflowers Walk, 10 a.m. Trails in Laurel-Snow State Natural Area pass by remnants of the stacked rock walls and mine entrances from the area's coal-mining days. Round-trip is about 7 miles, with brief jaunt up the Snow Falls Trail to see if trilliums are in bloom. Participants may leave at any time along the way. Trail is rated easy along Richland Creek and moderately to mildly difficult to Laurel Falls. RSVP with phone number to email@example.com by Thursday, April 10, in case of rain cancellation.
Soddy-Daisy: Rogers Branch Overlook Hike in North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area, 10 a.m. Experience the steep slopes, cascading streams, spring wildflowers and the gorge's industrial past on this five-mile, moderately difficult round-trip.