A Natural Fit: Greater Chattanooga Offers the Ideal Landscape for Outdoor Recreation
You don’t have to be an outdoor enthusiast to understand the recreational appeal of Greater Chattanooga. All you have to do is look around at the mountains spreading in nearly every direction and the stately Tennessee River cutting through it all to recognize why Lonely Planet designated Chattanooga the “Best in the U.S.” for outdoor activities in 2018.
“There’s so much to do around here that you have something for every skill level,” says Lacey Wilson, president of the Walker County Chamber of Commerce in northwest Georgia. “You can take a leisurely bike ride, go rock climbing or enter an Ironman Triathlon. We have so many great places and things to do right in our backyard.” And what a yard it is, providing a picturesque playground for hiking, biking, climbing and all manner of watersports. Beauty abounds at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Spencer, Tennessee, highlighted by a 256-foot waterfall.
Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, Georgia, is a favorite of cavers and climbers, while the Walls of Jericho along the Alabama state line feature a small canyon gorge that opens into a stunning rock amphitheater. Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park in Caryville, Tennessee, offers trails running along high ridges and through deep gorges.
Another popular outdoor destination in the region is the nearly 25,000-acre Prentice Cooper State Forest just outside Chattanooga. All this makes Greater Chattanooga a popular location for outdoor athletic competitions, such as marathons and triathlons.
In addition, the annual Head of the Hooch is one of the world’s largest rowing regattas, with approximately 2,000 boats participating in races on the Tennessee River.
Promoting Nature with Technology
In response to the increase in outdoor recreation tourism, the Walker County Chamber of Commerce launched the Walker Rocks initiative. Visitors to walkercountyga.gov now have easy access to a list of the outdoor activities available throughout the region.
“We’re trying to help people connect the dots of all there is to do around here,” Wilson says. “So if they come into the area for caving, we can show them that there’s also a great place nearby for kayaking. We’re trying to showcase all the outdoor tourism assets that we have.”
Adventure Sports Innovation (ASI) also marries nature and technology, allowing customers to rent new high-tech products for outdoor recreation activities. “There are all these great new products for outdoor recreation that you can only find on the internet. You can’t sample them first,” says Patrick Molloy, who opened ASI in 2018 along with his wife, Carolina. “We figure most people aren’t going to buy these products until they can touch and try them. So we’ve created experiences around each of our products.
Chattanooga is well known for outdoor activities, but it’s also well-known for its technology infrastructure and entrepreneurship. We’re trying to take what Chattanooga is already famous for and blend the best of both those worlds.”
By Cary Estes