Chattanooga is in my blood, y’all. I wasn’t born here and I didn’t grow up here, but Chattanooga is the place I chose. It’s the place I chose to put down roots and the place I chose to raise my kids. Chattanooga is crammed full of neat places and beautiful sights, and the beautiful town of Signal Mountain is among them!
Signal Mountain’s name is as literal as they come: during the Civil War, the area of Signal Point was used as a signaling location (similar to the aptly named Lookout Mountain). Signal Mountain still affords some of the most breathtaking views of Chattanooga and the Tennessee Valley.
Guide To Signal Mountain, Tennessee
Signal Mountain has some of the very best trails in the area; some well-known and others fairly quiet. Green Gorge is a personal favorite (because it’s easy and close to my house); the scenery within the gorge does not provide any mountain views, but it follows a beautiful creek, and allows for a one or two mile loop option. The one-mile loop around McCoy Farm is easy, and it has plenty of parking, a great lawn for kids to play, and some beautiful scenery. Rainbow Lake is a popular mountain view hike, although it is a bit more difficult depending on where you start the hike. Edwards Point allows a customizable hike, and it is easily one of the most recommended. The hike to Mushroom Rock combines several fun things (a trail head at a parking lot, a swinging bridge, and a cool rock formation), but the trail twists and turns can be harder to find. The Mabbit Springs Trail follows some winding streams for a two+ mile hike of moderate difficulty.
The small town feel is not lost on Signal, so you’re not going to find much that’s franchised. There are several small, locally owned shops in the area, and these places are my first go-to spots for any Christmas or birthday gift inspiration. Check out Accents for boutique-type shopping and gifts. Mountaintop Toys is a great place for gift ideas for kids of all ages (you may be familiar with their sister store, Learning Express) and The Signal Mountain Nursery has great gift options in addition to an extensive and beautiful plant selection. And if you’re a thrift store junkie like I am, there are not one, not two, but THREE great ones on the mountain as well: the Clothes House, Bachman Bargains and St. Timothy’s Thrift Shop.
For such a small community, there is a variety of food options to choose from (it is still the South after all). There is also a Domino’s and a Subway for a fast recognizable option or Guthrie’s Chicken or 517 Subs for something more local. For a sit down meal, you can choose from one of two Mexican restaurants (El Metate is my favorite), Chinese restaurant Fortune House, and The Pizza Place. The local grocery store Pruett’s Market has a glorious hot food bar, coffee bar, gelato bar, and a variety of fresh food options, complete with a beautiful outdoor seating area with plenty of room for the kids to play. Southern Star has a grab and go location on the mountain and Rallo’s Bar and Grill is a newer spot further out on the mountain – fantastic burgers and tots! Mayfly Coffee is a great morning pick me up with free trade coffee and delightful breakfast options, and the Signal Mountain Cookie Lady makes the cutest little themed cookies you have ever seen. And then there’s the Bread Basket which also exists in other outskirts of Chattanooga (Hixson, downtown and East Brainerd), but the OG is on Signal and it is glorious. Local tip: if you get there when they open, there is always a section of half price items from the day before (I usually buy all the things).
For the kiddos
Aside from the many hiking options that are appropriate for kids, there are several local parks to enjoy! One of the most familiar and prized places on Signal Mountain is the beloved Pumpkin Patch, a sprawling wooden playground nestled in the woods and coolness of the mountain.
Aside from the Pumpkin Patch, Signal Mountain has a host of other small parks throughout the community with playgrounds to fit even a very young child. They are well maintained and quaint places to enjoy some family time. My kids love Althaus Park because it has a sprawling set of playgrounds, a tennis court, a basketball court and several good pavilions.
McCoy Farm (previously mentioned for it’s easy hike) is a great little excursion and neat piece of history on the mountain. It is a park with an easy walking trail that circles the outskirts of the property. In the center of the property is the main house and house grounds. McCoy Farm is great for a short day hike, and they also host events on a regular basis.
Little Brown Church is another hidden gem. Nestled in the heart of Walden, it is exactly what it says: a little brown church. Every summer, the community holds church there on Sunday mornings with speakers from various local organizations. It is available for weddings, and it is also a great place for family photos.
The Mountain Arts Community Center (the MACC) hosts a wide variety of classes, shows, and community events. A former historic elementary school, the local community has refurbished the building to allow it to shine in new ways.
I know I can’t keep calling everything a hidden gem, but the Mountain Opry is one. At least once a month at the Walden’s Ridge Civic Center, local bluegrass groups perform 30-minute sets. It is simple, homey, and breathtaking to know these types of homespun concerts still happen here every week.
In the summertime, the Signal Mountain Playhouse provides the community with a musical production full of talented locals. It’s an open air, outdoor amphitheater that transforms into something magical every July with the help of local volunteers.