Whitewater Rafting the Ocoee River Near Chattanooga, Tennessee

7 Essential Outdoor Adventure Experiences in Chattanooga

Chattanooga, I heart you.

After an all-too-quick trip to the Scenic City this year, I was shocked by all the amazing things to see and do in Chattanooga.

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The downtown, in particular, is hip, fun, lively, and vibrates with the energy of a city on a serious upswing. Outside the city, there’s a lifetime worth of outdoor experiences to keep any adventure-loving traveler happy. Here’s the low-down on the essential things to do in Chattanooga …

Adventurous Things to Do in Chattanooga TN

#1: Whitewater Rafting on the Ocoee River

Whitewater Rafting the Ocoee River Near Chattanooga, Tennessee
Whitewater Rafting the Ocoee River Near Chattanooga

You know how you’re always pondering: I wonder what it’s like to run through the washer like a pair of Nana’s socks? Luckily you can find out just an hour outside of downtown Chattanooga. The middle section of Tennessee’s Ocoee River is over 5 miles of continuous Class III and IV whitewater — considered by many to be one of the best stretches of whitewater in the entire country. Of all the things to do in Chattanooga, this was my favorite.

Outdoor Adventure Rafting (OAR) offers half-day tours (of the river’s middle section) or full-day, six-hour tours (of the entire river). Individual prices start at just $33.30 for Sunday/Monday runs.

And while you’re on the Ocoee looking for other things to do in Chattanooga (technically near Chattanooga), check out …

#2: Ziplining the Ocoee River

Ocoee Zipz Ziplining Over Ocoee River, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Ocoee Zipz – Ziplining Over Ocoee River, Chattanooga

Ocoee Zipz is the Ocoee River’s first zipline-ery, offering seven ziplines and more than 6,000 feet of line over the course of their full two-hour tour. Guests zip along at heights of up to 95 feet and speeds up to 45 miles per hour. If you’re nice, they’ll even throw in a helmet.

#3: Kayaking the Tennessee River

Outdoor Chattanooga - Kayaking Tennessee River in Chattanooga
Downtown Kayaking on the Tennessee River with Outdoor Chattanooga © Mike Richard

Chattanooga’s prime waterfront location is ideal for getting out on the Tennessee River virtually any time of year. Whatever your poison, Outdoor Chattanooga offers a variety of watersports and outdoor-centric things to do.

Their Downtown Chattanooga tour is the “quintessential paddling trip in Chattanooga … a two-hour tour of the downtown waterfront via kayak, canoe, or standup paddleboard on the Tennessee River.” No matter the season, the water is smooth as glass, making it the ideal adventure for kayakers and paddlers of all skill levels.

#4: Rock Climbing @ High Point Climbing and Fitness

High Point Climbing - Outdoor Rock Wall in Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee
Scaling the Outdoor Rock Wall at High Point Climbing, Chattanooga © Mike Richard

Of course you needn’t venture outside downtown to [ahem] get high. High Point Climbing offers a ridiculously awesome, state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor rock climbing space. It totals more than 28,000 square feet, making it one of the nation’s largest gyms. It features everything newbie and pro climbers could want, including an auto belay area, multiple bouldering rooms, sport climbing, top roping, and a speed-climbing wall. There’s even an exterior public art piece that doubles as a climbing wall.

#5: Explore Miles of Underground Caves at Raccoon Mountain

Raccoon Mountain Caverns in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Raccoon Mountain Caverns, Chattanooga © Jeff Gunn

I fell in love with the simple, natural beauty of Raccoon Mountain. Especially for kids or anyone who’s never been caving (spelunking in cool kid terms), their Crystal Palace Tour is a great introduction.

If you’re looking to go deeper (literally) and do some serious exploring, check out their Wild Cave Expeditions. These extended tours focus on viewing life within the cave system. Visitors don lights, helmets, gloves, and pads and venture miles into the cave for hours at a time, or even overnight.

#6: Hang Gliding Lookout Mountain

Hang Gliding at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
Hang Gliding at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee © Mike Richard

Of all the really adventurous, fun things to do in Chattanooga, TN, I’m gonna say this is quite possibly the most extreme …

The area in and around Tennessee’s Lookout Mountain is literally where modern hang gliding was born. Head over to Lookout Mountain Flight Park for a stunning bird’s-eye view of the valley below from a hang glider.

Visitors are pulled up to altitude (as high as 3,000 feet) via a tow plane and cut loose upon the instructor’s signal. From there, it’s fifteen minutes or more of flying like a bird. The glider is guided via subtle body movements — pull back on the bar to accelerate and nose-down, push out to slow down and nose-up.

No experience is necessary, as first-timers fly “attached” to an instructor. The best part is that even beginners are offered the opportunity to fly the hang glider themselves with the instructor right alongside them. Single flights start at $199 and reservations are required.

#7: Explore Chattanooga with Pints & Pedals

Pints and Pedals, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Pints and Pedals, Chattanooga

So this isn’t adventure in the traditional sense of the word (unless you count falling off your stool while in motion), but Pints & Pedals Chattanooga is still a great way to get outdoors and see the city.

The idea is simple: hop on a group-powered bike with 14 of your closest (or soon to be closest) friends and pedal around the city. The tour passes through your choice of either the southside or downtown, all the while blasting whatever music your group wants to hear (by way of a smartphone dock). It’s eco-friendly, easy to pedal, and features an over-the-top LED lighting system because … why not? Tours start at $250 for the entire bike or $25/person for smaller groups.

Other Fun Things to Do in Chattanooga?

Have you been to the Scenic City? What are your favorite adventurous, outdoor-centric things to do in Chattanooga TN?

Founding Editor
    1. @Julian: Haha! Sadly, it was one of the few things I had planned to see but just didn’t have the time. All the more reason to plan my return trip!

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