With an incredible panorama, fascinating history, and well-marked trails, Sunset Rock has long been one of Chattanooga’s most iconic destinations for both locals and visitors. On most sunny days, the parking lot is overflowing with cars belonging to hikers, runners, and climbers taking advantage of the Sunset’s easy access. The truth, though, is that Chattanooga has a wealth of other equally beautiful and interesting overlooks, and most of them don’t receive nearly as much attention as the famed Sunset Rock. Share the love (and escape the crowds) by visiting some of these lesser-known hiking trails with stunning views in the Chattanooga area.
1. West Rim Loop in Cloudland Canyon State Park
Just southwest of Chattanooga, Cloudland Canyon is one of Georgia’s largest and most stunning state parks. To get the most bang for your buck scenery-wise, tackle the 5 mile West Rim Loop trail. You’ll rove through lush forests, over wooden bridges and along the top of the canyon for epic views. The loop is traditionally completed clockwise in order to end with the canyonside section, but you can reach those views sooner and shorten your hike with a counterclockwise out-and-back on the loop. Another short option with a photo-worthy panorama is the paved Main Overlook Trail that extends off of the main parking lot.
2. Laurel Point Loop on Raccoon Mountain
Though widely revered among the Southeastern mountain biking community, the 30 miles of trails on Raccoon Mountain are largely untapped for hikers and runners. Because the system is maintained by SORBA, the trails are nearly always clear of debris and in great condition, though some intersections are not signed and a map will come in handy. The Laurel Point Loop leaves from the main parking lot and is just over 3 miles long, with the overlook right around the middle of the circuit. Since the loop is entirely atop Raccoon Mountain, there’s no significant elevation change, though the trail is narrow and rock-strewn in many places. This fun, technical hiking challenge will reward you with a glimpse into a remote section of the Tennessee River Gorge from Laurel Point.
3. The Cumberland Trail to Edwards Point
Lace your boots up tightly for this Signal Mountain hike, as it’s the longest one on our list. Edward’s Point is easily one of the best overlooks in Chattanooga, partially because of its incredible views and partially because cars can’t get anywhere near it (with the exception of ATVs). The most popular ways to reach Edwards are from Signal Point or Rainbow Lake, but the most scenic and rugged route begins at the Shackleford Ridge Park trails and follows the Cumberland Trail for five bluffside miles to reach the point. (From the trailhead, follow the red blazes for Mushroom Rock, where you’ll turn left and follow the white blazes to Edwards.) Once you reach the point’s large rock outcropping, you’ll see the tail end of the city on your left, and the Tennessee River snaking into a deep section of the gorge on your right.
4. Hogskin Loop at North Chickamauga Gorge
While North Chick is known for being one of the best places for summer picnicking and creek splashing, its lesser-known attractions include a rugged hike to Boston Branch Overlook. Beginning from the trailhead about halfway up Mowbray Mountain, the hike begins as an old creekside road before splitting off to the Hogskin Loop. You’ll climb up, up and up toward the bluffline, passing through mining remains and some steep sections along the way. While you’ll find some excellent views upon reaching the base of the bluffs, if you continue along the trail for another mile you’ll encounter a wooden staircase leading up to the real superstar view at Boston Branch Overlook.
5. Mullen’s Cove Overlook in Prentice Cooper State Forest
Starting down the trail directly across from the main parking area in Prentice Cooper, it’s just over a mile’s hike to this often forgotten spot. The narrow trail descends through a gorgeous forest, crossing two or three small creeks before coming to one major creek crossing where you might get your feet wet. After that, it’s just a short climb to reach Mullens Cove Overlook on the side of the ridge, which offers an extremely rare view of a landscape that shows no traces of humans. The rock outcropping is fairly small and doesn’t provide a great area for hanging out, so we recommend backtracking to the campsite at the large creek crossing for a woodland picnic before returning to the car.