We don't know about you, but when it gets to be the busy holiday season all we want to do is bug out and hit the woods. Don't feel bad!
Instead, take a day and go up Highway 27 to Savage Gulf. About an hour north of downtown and located in the South Cumberland Recreational Area, Savage Gulf is the perfect place to hit the trails for a day or two and live life outside of distraction. Sights like Stone Door, a large rock formation used by the Native Americans to reach the gorge, is a must see and easily accessible.
58 miles north of downtown Chattanooga
Drive time: 1 hour
From any of the few road access points, you can reach all of the trails throughout Savage Gulf. From the Savage Gulf Ranger Station, the Savage Day Loop is a nice, moderate 4.2-mile excursion that will connect you with both the South and North Rim trails that will take you throughout the area. On the SDL, a quick hike will take you to beautiful Rattlesnake Point Overlook and Savage Falls, but the long walk through the forest is perfectly serene. On the western edge of the area, the Stone Door Ranger Station gives access to more falls and the Stone Door with shorter hikes that connect to the North and South Rim trails as well.
Savage Gulf has many first come, first serve backcountry camping sites available throughout the area. Taking the kids? Camp at one of the sites just 100 yards behind the ranger station, close to running water and bathrooms. Going in for the long haul? The Savage Gulf Falls campsite is past the Day Loop, followed by more miles down the trail. There are 10 camping areas in all of Savage Gulf located near and far. December average temps are in the low 40s, so it's a good idea to test out some of that cold weather gear.
If you're camping, remember that what you take into the woods you have to take out. Trashcans are only located at Ranger stations and parking areas. It also might be a good idea to tie your food up a tree-bears are known to stumble through the area.
Why don't you detour to the Grundy Forest State Natural Area and take a hike on Fiery Gizzard trail? Sure it's on the long way home, but this challenging trail system reaps rewards of overlooks and beautiful falls just a short distance from the trailhead. Got a day? Hike the 14 miles from the trailhead to Foster Falls and arrange for a ride back to Grundy Forest. Your muscles may be screaming but you won't leave disappointed.