Where to see fall colors in and around Chattanooga

Golden fall leaves | Photo by Kadri Vosumae via Pexels

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As fall has just begun in the Scenic City, peak fall foliage is soon to follow. They call Chattanooga the Scenic City for many reasons, one being the several vantage points to enjoy the colors of fall. With so many trails only minutes from downtown, Chattanooga has a lot of places to see the changing leaves, but with many spending most of their time at home, some may be craving a short road trip, too. We have you covered for both local and out-of-town getaways.

The locals

The following are the closest viewing areas from downtown Chattanooga — perfect for a quick trip to the mountains with only a short trip in the car.

  • Enterprise South Nature Park | 190 Still Hollow Loop | This 1,300-acre park right off Interstate 75 is a great stop for travelers seeking scenic views and walking trails. A popular spot for mountain biking, there is a wide variety of ways to view the colors of fall.
A walk at Enterprise South Nature Park | NOOGAtoday
  • Lookout Tower at Ruby Falls | 1720 S Scenic Hwy. | Ruby Falls is known for its historic castle built in 1929, which the lookout tower sits atop. This vantage point provides sweeping views of the Cumberland Plateau and the Tennessee River, guaranteeing one of the highest views on the list. 

DYK: Ruby Falls is also home to the deepest cave in America, paired with the 145 ft waterfall located 1,120 ft below the surface of Lookout Mountain.

  • Prentice Cooper State Forest | 3998 Game Reserve Rd. | Just 10 miles west of Chattanooga, Prentice Cooper provides 24,686 acres of various hiking trails, mountain views, and off-road driving trails — several different ways to appreciate the fall colors.

#ProTip: Snoopers Rock, a popular overlook area, is in Prentice Cooper State Park

  • Southern Belle Riverboat | 151 Riverfront Pkwy. | This Chattanooga cruise tours the scenic Tennessee River and features different dining options. This combination provides dinner with a view of the fall foliage along the Tennessee River.
  • Stringer’s Ridge | Spears Ave. | This 92-acre park in North Shore provides overlooking views of the Tennessee River with the convenience of being close to downtown. With trails for running and bike riding as well, this is the perfect spot to see fall colors on your morning run. 

Road trip

The following are further from town, and perfect for a quick road trip. Both Red Top Mountain State Park and Fall Creek Falls are less than an hour and fifteen minutes from downtown, with Ober Gatlinburg being just under three hours.

  • Fall Creek Falls | 66 miles from Chattanooga | 2009 Village Camp Rd., Spencer, TN 38585 | Fall Creek Falls provides 26,000 acres of pristine wilderness. Enjoy scenic views throughout the 35 miles of trails. Fall Creek Falls is home to the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies, at 256 feet tall. The park also hosts many events throughout the month of October such as Kayak and Pontoon tours, providing visitors with an immersive experience throughout the park.
  • Ober Gatlinburg |153 miles from Chattanooga |1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 | Located in downtown Gatlinburg, the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway provides a unique vantage point over 2.1 miles on one of America’s largest aerial tramways. The views of the Smoky Mountains and downtown Gatlinburg lead to Ober’s amusement park and ski area. 

DYK: Ober Gatlinburg is home to multiple attractions varying from waterslides and scenic chair lifts to mini-golf and kids rides as well. The variety of things to do paired with being so close to downtown Gatlinburg provides the perfect weekend getaway.

  • Radnor Lake State Park | 134 miles from Chattanooga | 1110 Otter Creek Rd. Nashville, TN 37220 | This popular spot in Nashville is viewed as a “must-see” by Nashvillians. With walking trails and bike paths covered with red, yellow, and orange leaves, it is easy to see why this is a highly visited park. 
  • Red Top Mountain State Park | 80 miles from Chattanooga | 50 Lodge Rd SE, Acworth, GA 30102 | This Georgia state park located in the northwestern region is the perfect location to hike, swim, bike, or even canoe through 12,000-acre Lake Allatoona. Being located on the lake, visitors can rent or bring their own boats providing a unique vantage point of the fall colors, as visitors can explore the park via water.

As we enter into mid-October, expect the following color trends:

  • Oct. 12 – Minimal foliage
  • Oct. 19 – Patchy foliage
  • Oct. 26 – Partial foliage
  • Nov. 2 – Near peak foliage
  • Nov. 9 – Peak foliage
  • Nov. 16-30 – Past peak