As the fourth largest city in Tennessee, Chattanooga boasts plenty of exciting things to see and do, but it's also a great place to base yourself if you're interested in doing some day trips around the area. Whether you'd like to pan for gold in the Cherokee National Forest, take a ride on one of the world's steepest passenger railways, or venture into the heart of Lookout Mountain to see a spectacular underground waterfall, you'll find exactly what you're looking for within driving distance of Chattanooga. Choose one of these incredible destinations, and plan a day trip you'll never forget. Scroll to see the full list with photos or jump to the table of contents.


Chatsworth, Georgia

Chatsworth, Georgia

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A great place to visit in Georgia's northwest mountains, Chatsworth is often referred to as the "Gateway to the Appalachians".

Most visitors are drawn here by the abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation; the city provides easy access to the pristine Cohutta Wilderness Area, and the nearby Fort Mountain State Park boasts a 17-acre lake and plenty of hiking trails, one of which leads to an ancient, mysterious stone wall.

You might be exhausted after a day of enjoying the great outdoors, but before heading home, try to stop by one of the wineries in the area to sample their delicious fruit wines and meads.

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Cherokee, North Carolina

Cherokee, North Carolina

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Named for its location on the reservation land of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, the town of Cherokee offers an excellent selection of historical and cultural sites for visitors of all ages.

You can get a glimpse of the 18th-century Cherokee lifestyle through the living history exhibitions at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, watch an authentic Cherokee story unfold at the Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama, and learn about the community's history at the Museum of the Cherokee.

The town is also located near the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and there are two beautiful waterfalls within driving distance. More places to visit in North Carolina


Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga Battlefield

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One of the largest Civil War parks in the country, the Chickamauga Battlefield was the site of an important battle between the Confederate and Federal forces in 1863.

The first stop on your itinerary should be the Visitor's Center, where you can learn about the battle, see an impressive gun collection, and watch a short orientation film about the park.

If you're lucky, you can join a ranger-led tour of the park, but it's also entirely possible to drive through the park on your own. The driving tour takes about two hours either way, and all key stops are equipped with information panels. More things to do in Georgia

3370 Lafayette Rd, Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742, Phone: 706-866-1159


Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland Canyon State Park

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Encompassing more than 3,500 acres on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon State Park is a spectacularly scenic park filled with cascading waterfalls, sandstone caves and cliffs, and canyons cut deep into the mountain.

The park offers more than 25 miles of enchanting hiking trails, including a popular 5-mile loop that meanders along the forested rim before descending into the canyon, and there are also approximately 20 miles of mountain biking trails.

Other attractions in the park include an 18-hole disc golf course, a fishing pond, and caves that can be explored by guide tour.

122 Cloudland Canyon Park Rd, Rising Fawn, GA 30738, Phone: 706-657-4050, (website link)

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Coker Creek

Coker Creek

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Found inside the Cherokee National Forest, Coker Creek is best known as the site of the first gold rush in America.

Gold panning is still permitted in certain areas along the creek, and although most of the gold in the area consists of small flakes that need to be picked up with tweezers, it's still an interesting way to spend the afternoon.

If you're more interested in simply enjoying the area's natural beauty on your anniversary vacation, you can hike along the peaceful Coker Creek Falls trail, which winds its way through the forest and past countless beautiful swimming holes. More things to do in Tennessee


Ellijay, GA

Ellijay, GA

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Known as the "Apple Capital" of Georgia, the charming town of Ellijay is surrounded by heritage apple orchards and picturesque vineyards.

The town is especially popular with visitors during the autumn, when local orchards offer apple picking and hayrides, but there are plenty of things to do no matter what the time of year.

Visit one of the family-owned wineries for a tasting, tee off at one of the area's challenging golf courses, or simply wander through the downtown streets and browse the town's many antique stores.

If you're visiting in April, you might be lucky enough to catch the town's apple blossom festival, perfect for a romantic weekend getaway.


Fort Mountain State Park

Fort Mountain State Park

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Established in 1938, Fort Mountain State Park is home to a 2,850-foot peak that gives the park its name.

Approximately 60 miles of multi-use trails meander through the park, leading past blueberry bushes, across cascading creeks, and around a beautiful lake.

There's a small swimming beach that's popular with visitors in the summer months, and there are plenty of beautiful picnic spots and day-use areas where you can relax on your birthday vacation.

Hikers who have the energy to make it to the top of the mountain will also have the opportunity to see an ancient stone wall, which stretches for 855 feet along the peak. More state parks to visit in Georgia

181 Fort Mountain State Park Rd, Chatsworth, GA 30705, Phone: 706-422-1932


Foster Falls

Foster Falls

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Only an hour away from Chattanooga, Foster Falls is an impressive 60-foot waterfall that plunges over a cliff and into a deep pool below.

A short hiking trail leads from the parking lot to a lookout point at the top of the falls, and from here, visitors have the option to continue on to the base of the falls.

The pool here is a popular swimming spot during the hot summer months, but caution is advised due to the strong current.

If you're an avid hiker, you can also consider hiking the 13-mile Fiery Gizzard Trail, which leads right past the falls. More waterfalls near Nashville, TN

498 Foster Rd., Sequatchie, TN 37374, Phone: 931-924-2980


Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country, and Gatlinburg is the perfect place to kick off a day of hiking and wildlife watching in this incredible mountain paradise.

If you'd prefer to stay in town, it's easy to spend an entire day here as well; sample the treats at one of the famous downtown fudge shops, browse the boutiques in The Village, and stop by one of the moonshine distilleries to enjoy a drink.

During the summer, the town offers a complimentary open-air shuttle service to bring visitors up and down the downtown Parkway. More day trips from Nashville


Hiwassee River

Hiwassee River

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Stretching from the Appalachia Dam to the Tennessee River at Blythe’s Ferry, Hiwassee River is a 55-mile waterway that flows through the Cherokee National Forest and past historic towns like Charleston and Reliance.

The upper section of the river features gentle whitewater rapids and is popular with tubers and rafters, while the middle and lower sections are much calmer and offer excellent fishing, boating, and stand-up paddleboarding opportunities.

Visitors can bring their own equipment to float down the river, but plenty of companies renting tubes and inflatable kayaks can be found in the area during the summer.

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Lookout Mountain Incline

Lookout Mountain Incline

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The Lookout Mountain Incline holds the honor of being one of the world's steepest passenger railways, and it has been bringing visitors up and down Lookout Mountain since it was built in 1895.

One of the best things to do in Tennessee with kids, the ride to the top of the mountain is approximately one mile in length.

Once there, visitors will have the opportunity to admire the incredible views from the observation deck before returning to the bottom.

If you have time to spare, you can also visit the Civil War sites a few blocks away from the top station and the eclectic shopping center at the bottom station. (website link)

3917 St Elmo Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37409, Phone: 423-821-4224


McMinnville, Tennessee

McMinnville, Tennessee

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Situated almost exactly halfway between Chattanooga and Nashville, McMinnville, Tennessee is an exciting but little-known day trip destination from Nashville and Chattanooga.

The city is the county seat of Warren County, best known for being home to hundreds of plant nurseries filled with beautiful shrubs and trees, but there's more to do here than shop for landscaping supplies.

Children and adults alike will love visiting the Cumberland Caverns, a 32-mile cave system that can be explored by guided tour.

Both walking tours and spelunking tours are available. Other attractions include a historic house built in 1825, a beautiful Victorian mansion, and the nearby Rock Island State Park.


Mentone, AL

Mentone, AL

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Perched on top of Lookout Mountain, Mentone is a sleepy town that boasts the highest elevation in Alabama.

Many of the town's buildings have looked the same since they were built in the 19th century, and while you won't find any big-name stores or restaurants here, you can find everything you need at the quaint Menton Market.

Pick up supplies for a picnic lunch and head out to the breathtaking Desoto Falls for the afternoon, then make your way back into town to tour the historic St. Joseph's on the Mountain Church. Mentone is a perfect romantic day trip for couples in Alabama.


Nashville

Nashville

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Nashville is a must-see city for most visitors to Tennessee, and fortunately, it's entirely possible to make a day trip here from Chattanooga.

Nashville offers a seemingly endless array of things to see and do, but if your time is limited, be sure to stop by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, listen to a bit of live music at one of Lower Broadway's honky tonks, and stroll through the charming streets of Hillsboro Village or East Nashville.

If you're visiting on a Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday, try to get tickets to one of the famous shows at the Grand Ole Opry.

More ideas: Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains


Nickajack Lake

Nickajack Lake

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Created by Nickajack Dam on the Tennessee River, Nickajack Lake is a 46-mile-long reservoir that passes right through Chattanooga.

Boats and fishermen are welcome on the water, and boat launches are conveniently located on both sides of the lake.

There is also a concrete fishing pier for visitors who would rather fish from the comfort of the shore.

Another notable feature of the area is the nearby Nickajack Cave, which is home to an endangered species of bat that can be seen emerging from the cave in impressive droves at dusk between the end of April and the beginning of October.

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Ocoee Whitewater Center

Ocoee Whitewater Center

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Constructed to host the canoe slalom event during the 1996 Summer Olympics, the Ocoee Whitewater Center is a stretch of the Upper Ocoee River that was carefully modified to have the drops and rapids needed for a slalom event.

The river is now dry for most of the year, but the area still offers plenty of excellent hiking and biking trails, wheelchair-accessible picnic areas, and walkways through native gardens.

When the river has water, typically between June and September, visitors can also canoe or kayak down the course or take a commercial whitewater rafting tour.

4400 US-64, Copperhill, TN 37317, Phone: 423-496-0100

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Prentice Cooper State Forest

Prentice Cooper State Forest

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Conveniently located only 10 miles outside of Chattanooga, the Prentice Cooper State Forest is a beautiful destination for outdoor recreation.

The park encompasses the picturesque Tennessee River Gorge, and it offers approximately 35 miles of beautiful hiking trails. Other popular activities include rock climbing, mountain biking, bird watching, and camping in the park's two primitive campgrounds.

The forest has also long been known as a hunting destination, particularly for deer and turkey. Visitors who have the correct permits can also visit the shooting range, which is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays when there are no managed hunts.

3998 Game Reserve Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37405, Phone: 423-658-5551, (website link)

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Red Clay State Park

Red Clay State Park

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Consisting of just over 260 acres of land that served as the seat of the Cherokee national government until 1838, Red Clay State Park is an uncrowded park rich in both history and natural beauty, a perfect place to visit in Tennessee.

The park's interpretive facility contains a number of informative exhibits about the culture and history of the Native Americans that formerly inhabited the area, and there is a 500-person amphitheater that regularly hosts theatrical performances.

There are also two relatively easy hiking trails for visitors to enjoy, one that leads past the stunning Blue Hole Spring and another that loops over a hill and through the forest.

1140 Red Clay Park Rd SW, Cleveland, TN 37311, Phone: 423-478-0339


Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls

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Hidden away inside Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls is an extraordinary underground waterfall that wasn't discovered until 1928.

At an impressive 145 feet high, the cascade is the country's tallest underground waterfall open to the public, and it also happens to be the deepest.

Visitors have several tour options to choose from; the classic tour lasts approximately an hour and fifteen minutes, but there is also an extended tour for people who want more time at the waterfall.

If you're feeling daring, you can also take an evening tour with nothing but hand-held lanterns to light the way.


Russell Cave National Monument

Russell Cave National Monument

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Russell Cave National Monument is one of the best Alabama state parks. The attraction is much more than a simple cave; it's a noteworthy archaeological site that contains a more complete record of prehistoric cultures than almost any other site in the Southeast.

There's evidence that the cave provided shelter for prehistoric people as long ago as 10,000 B.C., and visitors can learn about the history of the people who lived here by taking a guided tour along the boardwalk to the mouth of the cave.

Rangers offer prehistoric tool demonstrations by request, and there are also several picnic tables and a short hiking trail for visitors to enjoy.

3729 County Road 98, Bridgeport, AL 35740, Phone: 256-495-2672

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Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Savage Gulf State Natural Area

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Known for its dramatic sandstone cliffs, plunging waterfalls, and rugged canyons, the Savage Gulf State Natural Area is one of the state's most scenic pieces of wilderness.

There are approximately 50 miles of hiking trails for visitors to explore, and although most of the area's biggest attractions require at least half a mile of walking, there are trails suitable for almost every ability level.

All visitors should make time for the short, paved trail that leads to a massive 10-by-100-foot crack known as Stone Door, but if you're looking for something more challenging, try the four-mile walk out to the 50-foot Greeter Falls.

3177 TN-399, Palmer, TN, Phone: 931-779-3532, (website link)

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Sewanee

Sewanee

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Home to The University of the South, Sewanee is a charming college town with only a few thousand residents.

The community is well-known for their interest in the arts, and there are plenty of shops selling artisan products like handmade jewelry and blown glass.

Live music is often held in the park on Friday nights, and the street is closed to traffic to create an inviting, festival-like atmosphere.

No matter when you visit, be sure to take an hour or two to simply stroll through the manicured grounds and pay a visit to the beautiful All Saints' Chapel. Stay at the elegant Sewanee Inn which has a golf course and a grand ballroom.


Sweetwater

Sweetwater

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As you might guess from the name, Sweetwater is a quaint, nostalgic town overflowing with antique shops and sweet Southern charm.

The historic shopping district is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll on your romantic Tennessee day trip.

It's worth making time to explore the surrounding area as well; stop by the state's largest muscadine vineyard for a tour, take a drive along the scenic Cherohala Skyway, and pay a visit to the Lost Sea, where you'll find a massive underground lake and a historic 18th century village.


Tennessee Aquarium

Tennessee Aquarium

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If you're looking for a day trip that doesn't require much driving, the Tennessee Aquarium is the perfect choice.

Located right in downtown Chattanooga, the aquarium is home to more than 12,000 animals displayed in two separate facilities: a freshwater aquarium known as the River Journey and the Ocean Journey building, which houses everything from sharks to penguins to jellyfish.

In addition to marveling at the incredible aquariums, visitors can watch otters scamper around Cove Forest, get up close and personal with stingrays and sharks at Stingray Bay, and watch lemurs being fed in the rainforest-like Lemur Forest.

1 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402, Phone: 423-265-0695


Lynchburg, Tennessee

Lynchburg, Tennessee

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Don’t let the 5,500-population fool you, the town of Lynchburg may be small but this community, nestled within the peaceful hills of Moore County, is the headquarters of one of the world’s biggest names in the distillery industry – The Jack Daniels Distillery.

Visitors to Lynchburg can take a tour of this iconic distillery, which is the oldest registered one in the country, and learn all about the magic that goes into a bottle of Jack Daniels.

The distillery isn’t the only unique thing to see in Lynchburg though! Travelers taking a weekend or day trip to this hillside town can explore historic attractions like the town’s century-old courthouse, vintage homes, and several antique stores located nearby Lynchburg’s downtown square.


25 Best Day Trips from Chattanooga, TN :