Outside Activities & Adventures in Chattanooga
Let’s face it. Sometimes the gym is boring. Working out on an elliptical machine for 45 minutes every day can get old, even if you update your MP3 playlists every week. The winter months force most of us inside for the bulk of our cardio activity, so by the time the weather warms, we are ready to get outside and burn some calories under the sun. Making your home in the Chattanooga area means never running out of activities to do in the great outdoors. From walking along the Tennessee River to biking across a historic battlefield or braving the rapids of an Olympic-worthy river, the Chattanooga area offers a wealth of outdoor activities for every age and fitness level.
A Time for Outdoor Fitness and Fun
By Julianne Hale
Summer is synonymous with swimming, and using your body to propel you through the water is a fantastic way to get in shape. If you have children, a pool is a great place to work out in peace while the children play under the watchful eyes of the lifeguard. The Chattanooga area has a wide variety of private and member-driven pools, as well as two public pools. Rhonda Seeber, Communications Manager for Chattanooga Parks and Recreation, describes the public pool offerings: “The Department has two outdoor pool facilities — Warner Park Pool and Carver Recreation Complex. Both pools are open to the public and cost only $2 for adults and $1 for children.”
Another great outdoor activity for all ages and fitness levels is hiking one of the trails in Chattanooga’s beautiful setting. Ruthie Thompson, Events Coordinator for Outdoor Chattanooga, endorses hiking as a simple, fun outdoor fitness activity. She explains, “A walk in the woods is great fun. There are trails, literally, within 10 minutes of downtown Chattanooga.” Thompson recommends the following places:
• Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Park’s Lookout Mountain trails
• Chickamauga Battlefield
• Signal Mountain
• Raccoon Mountain
Thompson says biking or cycling is her personal favorite for outdoor exercise. From mountain biking to road biking, Chattanooga is loaded with cycling options for the whole family. She adds, “Biking is low-cost and low-impact on your joints. You can walk out your door and find virtually hundreds of places to bike.” Some choice locations in the area recommended by Thompson are:
• Chickamauga Battlefield
• Harrison Bay State Park
• Raccoon Mountain
Water sports provide other great ways to burn calories and enjoy the summer. Chattanooga offers a wide variety of water sports for everyone, from novices to experts. Chester Frost and Harrison Bay State Parks both offer waterfront access for boating, swimming, and canoeing. Greenway Farm, a 220-acre park in Hixson that is managed by the City of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation, offers three canoe access points from which you can admire the natural beauty of the North Chickamauga Creek while getting a workout. Greenway Farm is home to Outventure, a division of recreation that specializes in activities such as canoeing, sea kayaking, whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. The Outventure program offers lessons to Chattanooga residents for all these activities, so someone who has never sat in a canoe or kayak can learn to navigate the water with ease.
If thrill seeking is more your speed, take a trip just north of the city to the Ocoee River, home of the 1996 Summer Olympics Kayaking event, and get your feet (and everything else) wet on a whitewater adventure down the river. Half- and full-day trips are offered by several local guide companies.
Perhaps regimented activities are not your thing, and you just want to have fun in the sun and enjoy the beauty of the Tennessee Valley. No problem. The Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department has just what you’re looking for. With over 60 parks under the Parks and Recreation umbrella, there is something for everyone. From parks that run along the river to neighborhood parks with play equipment for young children, you can find all manner of outdoor fun for free around almost every corner in Chattanooga.
The riverfront parks will feature a new program this year called “River Play.” Rhonda Seeber explains, “The Parks and Recreation will have a trailer filled with volleyball nets and equipment, nerf balls, croquet, and many other items that people can use free of charge. We are encouraging people to utilize the riverfront for everyday fun as opposed to just festivals and events. There will be street performers, musicians, jugglers, and lots of fun surprises. This will take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.”
Summer fitness doesn’t have to be boring, especially in a city like Chattanooga. Ruthie Thompson sums it up best: “One of the things that makes Chattanooga so terrific is the accessibility of places to play outdoors. From almost anywhere in town, a hiking trail, bike path, or river is only a few minutes away. This access makes it easy for people to adopt healthy, outdoor lifestyles.” Getting healthy in the outdoors in Chattanooga requires no membership fees or expensive gear, just a good pair of shoes and a plan.
You can also check out our Guide to Chattanooga’s Walking Destinations, which provides an array of scenic spots for walking, jogging, hiking and cycling.