Getting to know the nation’s first national military park in Chattanooga, TN

: Garrity's Battery’s two cannons overlooking the city of Chattanooga is the park's iconic view. | Photo provided by the National Park Service

The month of April marks the 160-year anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and we have a wealth of local historic lands and resources here through the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. 

The park has 9,000 acres of land filled with battlefields, monuments, forests, and urban landscapes that are ripe for exploring, even if Civil War history isn’t your thing.

The park — which has 6 different units throughout the area — also preserves 12,000 years of Native American presence on the Moccasin Bend Peninsula. There’s World War II history preserved on the park’s land, too. And there is no shortage of educational programs + volunteer activities.

🏞️ Fast facts 

  • It was the nation’s first national military park, established in 1895. 
  • The park includes the Chickamauga Battlefield, which is just across the Georgia state line — about an 18-minute drive from downtown. 
  • The Lookout Mountain Battlefield, which includes Point Park + is where the famed Battle Above the Clouds took place, is also part of the park.  
  • Missionary Ridge, Moccasin Bend, Signal Point, and Orchard Knob are also units of the park. 

🏞️ Events 

Each part of the park provides a chance to brush up on history and/or just enjoy the preserved outdoor resources + park leaders host a ton of events throughout the year.

Check out these upcoming events — if you go, let us know how you liked it.

🏞️  Chickamauga Battlefield

  • The Battle of Chickamauga on this land left 35,000 men killed, wounded, missing, or captured. 
  • The visitor’s center is located at the north end of the battlefield and has a museum inside. There’s also a bookstore and orientation film that shows every half hour. 
  • There’s a self-guided cell phone tour to 8 locations in the battlefield. 
  • There are roads and trails to explore, and at dusk, it’s nearly impossible not to see deer nearby. 
  • There are 45 miles of trails for hiking. 
  • The park is also a prime spot for bicycling + horseback riding, picnicking, and kayaking
  • Current hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. + check this for seasonable closures. 
  • It’s free to enter.

🏞️ Lookout Mountain Battlefield

  • Soon after the Civil War, Lookout Mountain became a tourist destination. 
  • There are several areas of Lookout Mountain that are part of the battlefield — Point Park, Cravens House, The Lookout Mountain Trail System + Sunset Rock and Wauhatchie. 
  • You can volunteer to help maintain the trails

🏞️ Missionary Ridge

  • In November 1863, more than 50,000 Union soldiers stormed Missionary Ridge and the Confederate soldiers there. It was later described as “The death knell of the Confederacy.”
  • The ridge has a series of 8 reservations and monuments, some of which are on private property.

🏞️ Moccasin Bend

  • Last year, Editor Trista wrote this article about Moccasin Bend, and leaders are still working on opening the gateway to this property to give visitors easier access to all the outdoor amenities. 
  • Moccasin Bend is perhaps the most unique unit in the park system because it’s where 12,000 years of continuous human habitation took place. 
  • The first human inhabitants moved to the area for its rich resources
  • They would have been on this land when they developed their first stone tools
  • Experts have found that there were about 20 village sites on the bend.
  • It’s also home to a portion of the Trail of Tears, slave routes, and Civil War battles.

🏞️ Signal Point

  • Union soldiers used this spot to communicate with the outside world by creating a “complex signal system” on the high ground. 
  • Now the area is a popular hiking spot + serves as an access point to the Cumberland trail. 
  • The Signal Point Reservation is the end of Signal Point Road, where there is parking and restrooms open seasonally in spring, summer + fall.  

🏞️ Orchard Knob 

  • The Battles for Chattanooga took place here.
  • Preserving the area for its historic significance has created an oasis of wildflower populations.