Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Usual After Work Hike: Lookout Mountain

Cravens House to Sunset Rock
(Photos taken July 12, 2013)

One of the benefits of living and working in the Chattanooga area is the abundance of outdoor opportunities. I grew up outdoors and after finally finishing my college degrees at 28, I got back into outdoor sports and specifically moved to Chattanooga to take advantage of this. Working downtown allows me access to hiking and mountain biking within just minutes of the end of the business day. My favorite after work hike is a roughly 4 mile out-and-back from Cravens House to Sunset Point on Lookout Mountain.

The view adjacent to the Cravens House (which I didn't think to take a picture of). Below is Chattanooga, Tennessee. As you can see, there was some fighting here during the U.S. Civil War, resulting in the rebels being driven from the mountain.
The hiking trails on Lookout Mountain above Chattanooga are maintained by the National Park Service as part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. They are very heavily used but still beautiful and are a welcome relief from the "rat race" of working downtown. There are several trails interconnected but my favorite is the Cravens House Trail that goes fairly steeply up the mountain and connects into the Bluff Trail, that curves around the mountain just below the rock bluffs that ring the mountain near the top. Lookout Mountain is a flat topped mountain that would be called a "mesa" if it was in the Western United States. I follow the bluff trail for a short distance before coming to a connector trail that leads up to Sunset Rock, a popular rock climbing location with sweeping views of the Tennessee River Valley, Lookout Valley, and various mountains of the Cumberland Plateau Region, including Raccoon Mountain and Sand Mountain, both very similar flat topped mountains.

The view down Lookout Valley from Sunset Rock. In the distance is Georgia and Alabama, including Sand Mountain.
The main point of Sunset Rock with National Park Service signage. In the distance is Raccoon Mountain, a favorite place of mine for mountain biking.
A view along the shoulder of Lookout Mountain over Moccasin Bend on the Tennessee River. On the left is Elder Mountain. On the right is Chattanooga and the North Chattanooga neighborhood is in the low range of hills known as Stringers Ridge roughly in the middle.
The climb is a few hundred feet from Cravens House but the hike is not more than intermediate at worse. I'd recommend it for anyone in the Chattanooga area. I can get to the trailhead about 10 minutes after I pull out of the parking garage. Yes, it's amazing to have this type of opportunity for an after work adventure!

USGS bench mark at Sunset Rock - 1936 feet above sea level. The Tennessee River is normally at 639 feet above sea level (although it was flooding on the day I took this) so it's roughly 1300 feet above the river.
Source: http://www.tva.com/river/elevations.htm

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