North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area
The North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, located 15 miles from downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a beautiful deep central gorge cut into the sandstone plateau of Walden's Ridge. It is approximately 10 miles long--steep, and rugged with forested slopes and very limited access. This gorge is the upper portion of the 32-mile North Chickamauga Creek, one of the main tributaries of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga.
The Gorge is listed by the National Park Service in their Nationwide Rivers Inventory for its "outstanding scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, and cultural values." In addition, it is on the "Top 200" list of the American Rivers Conservation Council, on AWA's Top 40 list for 1993/1994 "Most Deserving of Attention for Protection," and is one of the highest quality and most difficult whitewater creeks in eastern U.S.
The North Chickamauga Creek Gorge is protected as a State Natural Area. Trails are for foot traffic only. North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy serves as the conservation group for the area.
Pet Friendly Notes
No pets allowed at Little Rock City.
1. Seven miles of the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail run through the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge. The trail starts out following the creek, then climbs up on top of the plateau to provide breathtaking views of the gorge. The trail then descends back down to the creek and ends at a popular swimming hole that is appropriately named Paradise. To reach the trailhead, take 27-N out of downtown Chattanooga. Take the Dayton Pike exit, turning left off the exit ramp. Take Dayton Pike into Soddy Daisy. Turn left onto Montlake Road. Just before the switchbacks, turn left into the trailhead.
2. About 15 miles of trails, or 2 approximately 10-mile loops, are available on top of Walden's Ridge. These trails wind through beautiful upland forest and lead to fantastic overlooks. Take the Flipper Bend Trail (white blazes) to reach the overlook of the gorge, or take the Clear Branch Trails (blue blazes) to reach the overlook of the Tennesse Valley. To reach the trailhead, take 27-N out of Chattanooga. Take the Dayton Pike exit, turning left off the exit ramp. Go about 1 mile, then turn left onto Roberts Mill Road. Take Roberts Mill Road to the top of the mountain, then veer right onto Hixson Springs Road. At the intersection with Standing Rock Road, turn left into the trailhead.
1. Leida, just past the trailhead for the Cumberland Trail, provides ample opportunities for sport climbing of all levels. Follow the directions to reach the Cumberland Trail parking lot. Instead of turning left into the parking lot, stay on Montlake Road. Go around the first switchback, then park in one of the pull-offs on the right side of the road. Cross the road, and take the trail up to the climbing area.
2. Little Rock City, a world-class boulder field, is located just past Leida, at the top of Mowbray Mountain. With seemingly endless boulder problems, this is a favorite both among locals and climbers from across the country. Follow the directions for Leida, but instead of pulling off the road after the first switchback, stay on Montlake Road to the top of Mowbray Mountain. At the top of the mountain, take your first right into the Montlake subdivision. Sign in and pay your dues inside the golf pro shop.
Whitewater kayaking and canoeing are popular activities in the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge. Boaters can begin on Cain Creek near Paradise for a section known as "The Drainpipe" or can hike up the Cumberland Trail and put in at the Gorge for a section known as "The Bowling Alley."
Hiking and climbing are great in all seasons. Boaters should check the water levels before planning a trip. Parts of the creek run dry during certain times of the year.
Little Rock City charges $3. All other activities are free!