Hey Chattajacks! If it’s your first time racing the gorge and you are looking for some ways to explore the
course this info might help. It’s definitely not necessary to study or dissect the gorge geography to navigate but if it helps mentally prepare these are some good options! The gorge is HUGE which is why Chattajack is a long race. With that in mind these options all take a decent amount of time so they would primarily be best for folks who have an extra day before or after October 25.
Signal Point (Signal Mountain, TN) – It will take approx. 15-20 minutes to drive up to this overlook from downtown Chattanooga. From the overlook you’ll be staring down into the Tennessee River Gorge from about 800 feet above. If you have time and want to hike the trail it’s a great trail. The trail follows the canyon rim for quite a ways offering great views & vistas into the gorge. All in all this option will allow you to see the first 3 miles of the remaining 27-miles of the gorge.
If you wish to explore the trail it is dog friendly although you’ll be atop very tall cliffs. Take your camera! There are many other trails that offer amazing views and vistas into the gorge but you will have to work harder to get to them and spend a little more time getting there. These other options include the Cumberland Trail, Pot Point House Trail, Prentice Cooper State Park and Snoopers Point (Snoopers Rock).
Tennessee River Gorge Explorer:
The Tennessee River Gorge Explorer will get you deep into the 27-mile river gorge. It doesn’t go all the way to the Chattajack finish line (haha!) but it will give you a sense of what to expect. Take your camera! (2 hours)http://www.tnaqua.org/plan-your-visit/river-gorge-explorer
If you want to see the entire gorge and explore it on your own consider renting a pontoon boat from Hales Bar Marina located at the Chattajack finish line. You’ll be deep in the mountains at the marina. Upon renting the boat just head upstream and enjoy the scenery. Pontoon rentals start at $135 plus gas for a ½ day. Not a bad option especially if you split the price with a couple other people. If anyone is considering this option post on the Chattajack Facebook page as there will probably be others who would love to explore the gorge via pontoon with you!
Another option to see the gorge is to drive it. The gorge is pretty remote and this option may not be the best option to see all the details of the course, as you can from the water, but it will definitely give you a sense of the grandeur. You will also find many places along the way where you can pull over and see/photograph the surrounding mountains, cliffs, and ridges that form the gorge. Just type in River Canyon Road into your GPS and start driving. It’s a long drive and the road is pretty slow going so give yourself plenty of time, approx. 2 hrs. if you plan to go all the way and back. Maybe more than 2 hours if you plan to stop often.
The absolute BEST way to see the gorge is from a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe, which you will be doing on Oct 25. No matter how fast or slow you paddle Chattajack you will have some serious moments of peace and tranquility in there.