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Escape to the Outdoors - Visit Chattanooga and Alabama's Cheaha State Park

Over Spring Break, we took a quick trip to Chattanooga and Cheaha State Park in northeastern Alabama. The weather in late March was still a bit cool and very windy, but plenty warm for camping, hiking and biking.



Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground

Raccoon Mountain Campground, located in a valley with mountains surrounding it, was just outside of Chattanooga and very convenient to all the things to do in the area. The campground was primarily geared toward RV camping with full hook-ups. There was a laundry facility and a lovely pool that wasn't open yet for the season. The owners/managers were accommodating, and the campground was quiet and clean. The sites were close together, but we didn't spend much time at the campground, so it was okay. It was a 15-minute drive into Chattanooga and about the same up to Lookout Mountain.


Chattanooga Riverwalk

We drove into Chattanooga to bike ride on the Chattanooga Riverwalk. We enjoyed the ride, although there was a closed section near the western portion of the trail and another area where it was difficult to follow it. When we got downtown, we were confused about where to go until we figured out the path goes right through the Art Museum's grounds. We really enjoyed looking at the outdoor art installations. Downtown Chattanooga, where the Art Museum and Aquarium are located, is really lovely, with fantastic river views and beautiful houses. We rode 11 miles one way on the Riverwalk. It will eventually be 22 miles long. We added a four-mile segment by riding the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway. Eventually, this will be 14 miles long. While the Riverwalk section was urban and industrial, the Greenway was more suburban, passing through housing developments and parks while following the Chickamauga Creek. A highlight was the miles of boardwalks. All in all, we were able to put together a 30-mile ride.



Chattanooga Area Attractions

Lookout Mountain

We really enjoyed our hike at Lookout Mountain. We took the four-mile hike from Craven House to Sunset Rock. It was moderately challenging, with great views of the Tennessee River and Chattanooga. Sunset Rock is a popular rock-climbing destination, and we encountered several rock climbers along our way.


Chickamauga Battlefield

The National Park is located about 30 minutes south of Chattanooga, just over the state line in Georgia. Chickamauga was the first major battle of the war fought in Georgia and was the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater. The number of casualties was the second-highest, only to Gettysburg. We toured the battlefield on our bikes, riding 16 miles on the paved and gravel roads.


Rock City

We finally did it. Saw Rock City! Anyone who has traveled south on Interstate 24 between Nashville and Chattanooga has seen the large birdhouse signs urging travelers to See Rock City! We really had no idea what to expect, and it's a bit difficult to describe. Apparently, a woman from Germany married to an American had a vision for a pathway through their property. She used a string to mark a path that wound its way around the giant rock formations, ending at Lover's Leap. She also planted wildflowers and other plants along her trail, incorporating gnomes and other famous fairytale characters along the path. It was definitely worth the price of admission!



Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland is in northern Georgia, located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, about 45 minutes from Chattanooga. We arrived later in the afternoon, so we didn't get to explore much of the Park, but we did hike the five-mile West Rim Trail. The Park is home to deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, wild caves, creeks, and deep woodlands. The scenery was spectacular. Well worth the trip!

Chattanooga Brewery

The Brewery is located in the Southside district. The Chattanooga Brewing Company was started in 1890 and at one point occupied an entire block of Broad Street until Prohibition forced it to close. Two beer lovers began the next chapter of the Chattanooga Brewing Company on Chestnut Street a century later. The setting and the beer were really great.


Taphouse/Empyreal Brewery

The Brewery is in St. Elmo, a cool, historic, outdoorsy section of Chattanooga. The beer and food were both excellent.


Chief Ladiga Trail

We stopped to ride the Chief Ladiga Trail from Piedmont to the Georgia State Line on our way to Cheaha State Park. The trail is 33 miles long and connects with the Silver Comet Trail (63 miles long) at the state line. The rail-trail is named for the leader of the indigenous Muscogee (Creek) people who signed the 1832 Cusseta Treaty, surrendering the tribe's remaining land in the area. Once through Piedmont, the trail traverses through the Talladega National Forest. Duggar Mountains and the Appalachians are backdrops to farms that transition to forests. The trail was paved and in good shape. What a fantastic resource for the area! We really enjoyed our 30-mile ride.


Cheaha State Park

Cheaha State Park Campground was fantastic! Spacious, private, level sites with full hook-ups. All campsites are set in and among the trees and large boulders. We stayed in site 35 in the Upper Improved Campground and had a lovely fire pit in the woods away from our trailer. The Park hiking trails lead to fantastic views and overlooks. A large pool in the Park is available to overnight guests from the campground, cabins, and lodge. It wasn't open yet when we camped, but it looks terrific, set on the side of the mountain looking out over the valley.


Coldwater Mountain Brewpub

We ventured off the mountain a couple times and both times we went to the Coldwater Mountain Brewpub. We had lunch there when we went to town to grocery shop. The second time we went in for dinner when my daughter and her husband came to camp. We went in ostensibly to watch the NCAA final four game, but were enjoying sitting outside on their deck so much that we never ventured inside to watch the game. The beer and food were fantastic. If you go try the barbecue, the shrimp and grits, the smoked chicken wings, collard greens, mac and cheese, and the power food salad. All were great. We also really enjoyed the Naked Pig Pale Ale - both for the name and the taste!

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