Fall this year may be a little different than what we are used to, with fall festivals and outdoor concerts canceled. However, that does not mean we don’t have options for fun. With many people discovering the great joy of camping, fishing and cycling this past spring, fall is a great time to further explore the Chattanooga, North Georgia and surrounding areas, putting all that gear to good use. The bugs have left, temperatures are cooler, the weather is crisp and soon, the foliage will be changing colors, making fall the perfect time to get out and explore our natural gems, all within 3 hours of Chattanooga.
Many tried their hands for the first time, or first time in a long time this past spring and summer. While some interesting experiences occurred such as people realizing you still need a sleeping bag in the summer, for the most part, people seemed to remember and experience the joy of going back to nature. There is something about sitting around a campfire as the sun sets and waking in a tent that is just wonderful in the fall. The Chattanooga area is convenient to many beautiful and easily accessed camping areas. South Cumberland State Park, located in four counties and features 30,845 acres of hiking, backpacking and recreational areas. Campsites range from backcountry and primitive campsites to more traditional sites for tents and small trailers. Prentice Cooper State Forest is located just a short drive from downtown Chattanooga and is situated on the Tennessee River Gorge. The state forest offers first come first serve tent and small trailer camping as well as 35 miles of hiking trails including part of the Cumberland Trail State Park. This is a great place to go if you are interested in riding off road vehicles and the area also hosts deer hunt days during the fall deer season. Big South Fork National Recreation Area, located near the Tennessee and Kentucky border and just under a 3 hour drive, has 5 campsites to suite all types of campers including equestrian camping. The Great Smokey Mountain National Park is just a few hours drive from Chattanooga and is one of the most visited national parks in the fall due to the foliage changes. Both backcountry/ hike in camping is available as well as front country camping for tents and campers at 10 different sites throughout the park. Whether you want to stay close or travel a little further, you can spend the weekend in the woods this fall.
Fall is a great time to boat in Tennessee. The fall leaves begin changing around the middle of October and the Tennessee River Gorge is absolutely stunning. Whether you are in a canoe or a ski boat, you can enjoy a slow tour through the natural canyon made by the Tennessee River. Access Harrison Bay via Chester Frost or Harrison Bay state parks, and paddle through the inlets where you might see otters and cranes as well as the changing foliage. The Hiwassee River is low this time of year and wild birds including eagles, ducks, cranes and gulls can be viewed as you paddle near the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. Looking to rent a kayak or canoe, Outdoor Chattanooga offers daily rental.
One of my personal favorite ways to enjoy fall is hiking any of the hundreds of trails located within just a short drive from Chattanooga. The leaves, acorns, wildlife and lack of excessive humidity are just a few of the draws. One thing I have always wanted to do, but have never been able to justify is going on a guided hike. Outdoor Chattanooga and Experience Chattanooga are just two venues that offer numerous opportunities for guided hikes in the area. More interested in exploring on your own, this time of year is a great time to explore the trails both near Chattanooga and farther north and south. Trails such as Snoopers Rock, Upper Truck to Bluff and Skyuka Trail are just a few of the options available. Information can be found at Alltrails.com or Rootsrated.com, who’s owners live in Chattanooga and are adventure runners.
With record bike sales occurring this year, many families have updated and outfitted themselves with bicycles as we form of exercise and entertainment. The Chickamauga Battlefield and the Tennessee Riverwalk both offer scenic locations where the entire family can enjoy biking on a pretty day. The Tennessee Riverwalk travels along the Tennessee River from the Chickamauga Dam all the way to St. Elmo and passes along interesting wildlife features as well as playgrounds and sculptures. You can pack a picnic and stop and watch as the barges and tugboats travel down the river. The Chickamauga Battlefield National Military Park offers miles of quiet roads with minimal traffic and scenic views with wildlife such as turkey and deer popping up.
While we are in a unique time as far as gathering in crowds, we are fortunate that Chattanooga and much of the southeast experiences beautiful weather in the fall and that it lasts into December. With so many opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors and many people experiencing it for the first time in a long time, Chattanooga and North Georgia are the perfect place to live or visit for fall 2020.