Who knew that one of the best outdoor destinations is located in Tennessee? That’s right—if you’re looking for tons of outdoor fun and beautiful temperatures, take a trip out to Chattanooga. From breathtaking hikes to scenic views everywhere you look, this city should be on your travel bucket list. And best of all—it’s the perfect place for vancamping! Now’s the time to stock up your van, build an itinerary, and hit the open road!
Keep reading to learn more about what makes Chattanooga a leading outdoor travel destination. We’ll discuss the best outdoor activities in the area, including the top campgrounds, restaurants, and more!
Located in Southeast Tennessee, Chattanooga is considered an exceptional city. Being situated along the Tennessee River and nestled between the mountains, this city is very scenic. In fact, many people refer to Chattanooga as the “Scenic City.” And while this area is home to around 180,000 people, it still has that small-town charm. Beautiful, old-style buildings and homes line the streets, and its lively downtown is the place to be on weekends.
Aside from the city attractions, Chattanooga offers plenty of outdoor adventure. Sitting at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, outdoor activities are just minutes away. You can find camping, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, and so much more.
Where to Stop Along the Way
As Chatanooga is an outdoor lover’s paradise, you can find tons of adventure on the drive over. Here are some awesome places to stop along the way:
If you’re driving up to Chattanooga, you may pass through parts of Florida, Georgia, or Alabama. While these places aren’t considered the leading destinations for outdoor adventure, there is actually plenty to explore.
In Georgia, here are the top places to check out:
- Cloudland Canyon’s Waterfall Trail
- Amicalola Falls
- Cumberland Island
- Arabia Mountain
- Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island
If you’re passing through Alabama, consider stopping at Cathedral Caverns State Park, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, Bankhead National Forest, and Buck’s Pocket State Park.
A western drive towards Chattanooga also provides plenty of adventure opportunities. You can go on epic hiking trails, trek down a raging river, take a relaxing fishing trip, and so much more. If you’re headed through North Carolina, our favorite activities include rock climbing at Hanging Rock State Park and hiking at Grandfather Mountain. If you’re traveling through South Carolina, consider checking out Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, and Whitewater Falls in the Salem Mountains.
If you’re driving south towards Chattanooga, tons of outdoor activities are right outside your door. In Indiana, our favorite attractions include hiking at Indiana Dunes State Park and mountain biking in Brown County. If you’re passing through Ohio, our favorite destinations include Hocking Hills State Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Kentucky also offers plenty to see and do, so be sure to visit Red River Gorge, Black Mountain, and Mammoth Cave National Park.
An eastern drive to Chattanooga is a trip worth taking. If you’re trekking through Oklahoma, keep these activities on your to-do list:
- Swimming at Turner Falls
- Seeing the view from Mount Scott
- Hiking the Bison Trail in the Wichita Mountains
- Exploring Natural Falls State Park
Arkansas is another amazing place with tons of beauty and things to do. Mount Nebo State Park, Devil’s Den, Mystic Caverns, and the Cossatot River are some of the best areas in this great state.
Outdoor Fun Made Easy in Chattanooga
After you finish some sweet adventures on the drive over, you’re now ready to see what Chattanooga is all about! Below you’ll find the best outdoor activities in the area.
Chattanooga has some top-notch hiking trails. From steep mountain climbs to peaceful walks in the forest, there are trails for everyone. One hike that needs to be on your list is located at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Located near Pikeville, this area is Tennessee’s largest and most visited state park, and the beauty you’ll find here is incredible. Once you hike up to the viewpoint of Fall Creek Falls, you’ll be blown away! The 256-foot waterfall is the largest in Tennessee.
Here are some other hiking areas to check out around Chattanooga:
- Moccasin Bend
- Rock Island
- Starr Mountain
- Raccoon Mountain
- Benton MacKaye Trail
If you’d rather head to the backcountry for a few days in nature, Chattanooga has plenty of backpacking excursions to enjoy. The Benton MacKaye Trail is a top consideration. It spans 300 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Davenport Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For something closer to the city, you could try Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail, which is only 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. You could also hop on the Great Eastern Trail—which cuts right through town!
Over recent years, Chattanooga has quickly become a biker’s mecca. From easy treks to strenuous climbs, routes can be found all over. Also, there are plenty of trails for both road cyclists and mountain bikers. You can find 75 miles of roadways, bike lanes, and paved pathways to ride on around Chattanooga, and mountain bikers have more than 100 miles of singletrack routes within an hour from downtown. Some of the area’s best mountain biking areas include Bauxite Ridge, Big Soddy Creek Gulf, and Lookout Mountain Trails.
Looking to get out on the water? From raging rivers to peaceful lakes, the Chattanooga area is the perfect place to grab a paddle for a relaxing day. We recommend checking out the amazing scenery at Rock Island State Park, which features breathtaking waterfalls. You should also consider paddling on the Hiwassee River, Chattanooga River, Lookout Creek, or Harrison Bay.
Looking to jump out of your van and hop onto a rock wall? If so, Chattanooga has plenty of rock climbing areas for you. In fact, this city is considered one of the best rock climbing destinations in the country.
Here are the top climbing spots to check out in the Chattanooga area:
- Boulders at Old Wauhatchie
- Stone Fort
- Sunset Rock
- Tennessee Wall
These rock climbing spots are sure to get your heart racing! Luckily, many of these places are located at or near several campgrounds.
Are you ready to dip into the unknown and witness some magnificent beauty? If so, you have to check out the many cave systems around Chattanooga. Some notable areas to explore include Cumberland Caverns, The Lost Sea, Ruby Falls, and Raccoon Mountain Caverns. You can either take guided tours through these caves or adventure on your own. Furthermore, you can experience challenging excursions through tight spaces, or easy walks through expansive, open caves.
As you’re experiencing the many outdoor activities around Chattanooga, you’ll need a place to park your campervan. Luckily, you can find tons of RV parks and campgrounds in the area.
Here are some top places to check out:
- Raccoon Mountain Caverns & Campground
- Harrison Bay State Park
- Chester Frost Park Campground
Many of these campgrounds have full RV hookups and exceptional views! Several of them are even right in the middle of nature.
Here are some insider tips to make the most of your trip to Chattanooga:
- Explore the river: This is arguably the city’s best feature.
- Take a ghost tour: The city is known for being a spooky, haunted place.
- Check out the Chattanooga Zoo, featuring over 300 animals.
- The busiest time in Chattanooga is May through August, so plan accordingly.
- The fall months are the best time to visit, which is after the summer peak period.
Check out these links and locations of some points of interest in Chattanooga:
- Moccasin Bend: Just west of downtown
- Starr Mountain: Located in the Unicoi Mountains
- Raccoon Mountain: Located just west of downtown
- Benton MacKaye Trail: Located about 90 minutes east of Chattanooga
- Raccoon Mountain Caverns & Campground: 319 West Hills Road, Chattanooga, TN 37419
- Harrison Bay State Park: 8411 Harrison Bay Road, Harrison, TN 37341
- Chester Frost Park Campground: 7872 Causeway Road, Hixson, TN 37343
- STIR: 1444 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
- Southern Squeeze: 1301 Dorchester Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37405
- J. Alexander’s: 2215 Hamilton Pl Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37421
Looking for something off the beaten path? If so, check out these hidden gems in the area:
- Take a boat ride on the Southern Belle
- Have a peaceful walk through Coolidge Park
- Visit the Chattanooga Market on a Sunday
- Watch a minor league baseball game at AT&T Field
Choose Your New Campervan Today!
Before packing your bags and driving to Chattanooga, you need a high-quality campervan to make your trip one to remember! Here at Rec Van, we carry a wide variety of options at incredible prices. Check out our available vans today, and contact us with any questions!