It’s not every day you can wake up with a morning SUP sesh, hit a trail run at lunch, hike the Appalachians after work and cap it all off with a farm-to-table feast for under $10. Actually, you can do that every day in Chattanooga, Tennessee – Outside Magazine’s Best Town 2015 Winner! Aptly nicknamed the Scenic City, Chattanooga is a proud river town with industrial roots and high-tech aspirations. With a booming tech industry attracting new business to the city every day, young companies like RootsRated, an adventure app company, are molding the city into an eco-tech-utopia of sorts. With a little bit of everything and a lotta Southern hospitality, Chattanooga has certainly earned it’s claim as one of America’s Best Towns Ever.
For starters, Chattanooga is staking its claim as one of the country’s premier outdoor meccas. Located on a bend in the Tennessee River, at the southern terminus of the Appalachian chain, the city is geographically blessed and proud of its river heritage. Northwest of the city the river cuts a dramatic canyon into the Cumberland Plateau, which locals refer to as the “Grand Canyon of Tennessee.” Downtown, the Chattanooga riverfront plays out like a postcard: Stand-up paddle boarders, kayakers and canoeists dot the water against a backdrop of dramatic stone bluffs. It’s a sight to be seen, so cruise the 10 miles of riverbanks by foot or boat, or roll up your sleeves for some renowned whitewater rafting if you’re feeling adventurous.
The backcountry isn’t half bad either. Those little mountains called the Appalachians loom over the north, while countless ridges, plateaus and sandstone cliffs surround the city. Rock climbers of all levels rejoice in the cliffs and boulder fields, while hikers will revel in turquoise waterfalls that seem to flow from every nook and cranny. The Cumberland Trail may very well be the most gorgeous hike in America with its various side trails and Jurassic Park-like greenery. Signal Mountain and Bluff Trails are perfect for epic views of the valley, and the Lula Lake Land Trust sports luscious rock gardens and, of course, tons of waterfalls. Whatever path you take, the trailhead is likely less than 30 minutes from the heart of downtown.
With so many activities, you’ll need to fuel up. For breakfast, it doesn’t get much better than The Farmer’s Daughter—a farm-to-table cafe in North Chattanooga that serves up Southern-infused favorites like Grits and Greens or Cornmeal Pancackes. Their in-house partners, Copacetic Coffee, will get your day started with a swift caffeine kick and some soft fiddle tunes. After a day in the woods, stop into the Flying Squirrel to rub elbows with the locals and weekend warriors who know these hills like the backs of their hands. Trade climbing tips and chow down on fried rice with pork belly or killer fish & chips. Huge burgers and tons of craft beer can be found at the Tremont Tavern, and if you’re looking for pizza and a spiritual awakening, Lupi’s is the parlor you’ve been searching for. You may consider moving to Chattanooga right then and there.
If not, then a weekend getaway will surely do the trick. For a few days in Chattanooga, our lady friends are packing the Swifty Tunic (a hiker’s moisture-wicking best friend) and the Shadowstripe Dress for the perfect casual date night (or lunch date, breakfast date, leisure picnic… anything really). And for the outdoorsy dude, we think you can pretty much go anywhere and do anything in the Dogma Shirt and Mission Ridge Pant combo – super soft, sustainable fabrics and classic backcountry colors mean you’ll fit right it with the locals. Happy exploring!