I think we can all agree that Chattanooga is incredible in and of itself, yet one of my favorite things about Chattanooga is the area around it as well. Chattanooga is positioned ideally for day trips and adventures, particularly for those drawn to the outdoors. It seems that any direction you drive from the downtown area leads to opportunities for beauty and exploration.
In the time our family has lived in the area, these three state parks have stood out as places we not only enjoyed visiting, but that we desire to return to as often as possible:
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Fall Creek Falls is located north of Chattanooga along the eastern top of the Cumberland Plateau. Fall Creek Falls offers abundant opportunities for camping, hiking, water play, and play in general. Accommodations include tent camping, a lodge, and cabins including some that are waterfront “fisherman” cabins which have private porches over the water.
The actual Fall Creek Falls waterfall is one of the largest in the Eastern United States, and there are other waterfalls within the state park. Of course, there are hiking opportunities, ranging in length and intensity. For young children there are several playgrounds and an opportunity to simply walk to the waterfall scenic area without the hiking part.
Fall Creek Lake is a highlight of Fall Creek Falls as there are docks allowing fishing and rentals of kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats.
The State Park offers additional amenities including an 18 hole golf course, an Olympic sized pool, an educational Nature Center, and a Canopy Challenge Course.
Rock Island State Park
Rock Island State Park is also located north of Chattanooga, not too far from Fall Creek Falls. Even the drive to get there is beautiful with rolling pastures and peaceful countryside. Rock Island offers tent camping as well as cabin rentals, opportunities for hiking, and a playground.
The highlight of the area is the waterfront with incredible rugged views rising in front of the natural beach waterfront area. The waterfront has a boat ramp and draws boaters and kayakers, as well as just the simple opportunity to play, wade, and skip rocks.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Cloudland Canyon is located on Lookout Mountain in Rising Fawn, Georgia. Cloudland Canyon is located on the western edge of the mountain and offers incredible views of rock and trees, scenic backdrops to soak up, and an expansive sense of beauty.
It holds opportunities galore for play and exploration in the forms of camping, hiking, and picnicking. Camping options include tent camping, cottage rentals, and even yurts. Hiking trails range in intensity, yet there is a simple, paved overlook trail for families with young children or who simply desire an easier, yet incredibly scenic walk.
In warm weather, there is an opportunity for water play at the waterfall you can hike to. There is an Interpretive Center with outdoor swings, nicer restrooms, and educational material for adults and kids that offer a chance to regroup in the midst of an adventuring day. There are even opportunities for disc golf as well as trails for horseback riding and mountain biking.
Nearby Cloudland Canyon is the lovely Lookout Lavender farm, and one of our visits to the area allowed for lavender picking at Lookout Lavender with the yummiest glass of lavender blueberry lemonade and then a picnic and a hike at Cloudland Canyon. It was an incredibly memorable day.