Those who made New Year's resolutions to get outside — and others interested in hiking new trails — are in luck.
Outdoor Chattanooga is bringing back its popular Cumberland Trail Hiking Series for a second year. The series will provide guided hikes across the developing trail system throughout 2019.
"It was really good last year," Outdoor Chattanooga customer relations specialist Schandra "Sunshine" Loveless said. "All the hikes were full with a waitlist."
Dates of hikes
The series featured nine day hikes and three overnight backpacking trips last year. Despite the success of the day hikes, the overnight trips failed to gain interest. Outdoor Chattanooga leaders decided to scrap the overnight trips for the series this year and focus on the day hikes.
The half-day hikes will be held once a month on Saturdays with the exception of the summer months of July, August and September.
"It's no fun to hike when it's blazing hot," Loveless said.
Trip leaders will shuttle hikers to and from the start of the hike. Each hike will be between 4 and 7 miles and mostly downhill. The organization is hoping to appeal to a wide audience and get new hikers involved.
"We've been able to cut the trail segments into shorter distances and shuttle to make it less intimidating for those not used to finding trailheads, following trail markers and the logistics," said Terri Chapin, who will be leading some of the hikes. "We handle a lot of that to make it easier."
Last year's hikes also featured people traveling from Knoxville and other outside cities who were interested in hiking new sections of the Cumberland Trail system. The guided hikes offer those users a safer experience and introduce them to the unfamiliar area.
Participants also will receive credit for the Cumberland Trail Conference's 50 Miler Club. The club honors those who have completed 50 unique miles on the trail system and also volunteered 10 hours of service to work with the conference building and maintaining the trail system.
Outdoor Chattanooga's main goal is to introduce people to the outdoors, and hiking is the easiest way to do that, leaders said. It's free, nearby and accessible for many residents, but organization leaders also believed the trail system was being underused.
The Cumberland Trail is being built by volunteers and will stretch about 340 miles when finished, with a main corridor of about 300 miles of trail. Now about 210 miles are completed. The trail begins in the Chattanooga-located Prentice Cooper State Park and stretches north through Tennessee. The target date to finish the trail on state-owned land is late this year.
Trail leaders are excited to see groups and individuals already using open sections of the trail.
"I think it's great; it's something we're definitely trying to do, also," said assistant Cumberland Trail park manager Jordan Sikkema, who oversees the section through Chattanooga. "We're still building the park, so more aspects to get people out there, we are grateful and excited."
Interested participants are required to RSVP due to the popularity of the hikes. They should email info@OutdoorChattanooga.com or call 423-643-6888 to make a reservation. More information will be provided upon reservation.