With a nickname like the Scenic City and accolades from Outside Magazine for its adventure-ready terrain, you might expect Chattanooga's outdoor offerings to be on point, and you wouldn't be wrong. The city is full of places to play outdoors, from kid-friendly fountains to rugged mountain biking trails, and from historic Civil War battlefields to former industrial-waste sites packed with contemporary art.

Whether you're looking to sweat it out on a mountain hiking trail or cool off in an old rock quarry, play disc golf with the family or take a relaxing walk by the river after dinner, there's a park for everyone in Chattanooga. These are sixteen of the best.

Chattanooga Family Fun
Chattanooga's public parks are perfect for cooling off in the summer ©Shutterstitch/Getty Images

Coolidge Park & Renaissance Park

Coolidge Park and Renaissance Park are both built on waterfront land reclaimed from Chattanooga's industrial past. Coolidge Park used to be a shipping yard, while Renaissance Park's artificial hills safely cap old brownfield residue left over from when the Northshore was lined with factories and foundries. Today they're an ideal spot for family outings. With a massive play fountain, an antique carousel, and a rock-climbing wall in Coolidge, it's easy to see why it's been a favorite for about twenty years. Newer Renaissance Park is most famous for the year-round sledding it provides anyone with a piece of cardboard big enough to slide under their derriere, but the green space's real heavy lifting comes from the wetland reclamation and environmental filtering baked into its design.

The parks sit on either side of the Market Street Bridge and are easily accessible from the commercial strip along Frazier Avenue and Manufacturer's Road as well as the Walnut Street Bridge. Grab some picnic supplies from Whole Foods or some sandwiches from River Street Deli, a good book from Winder Binder, and a new sundress from All Things Groovy, and you have all the ingredients you need for a day in this pair of parks.

Signal Point

This park tucked behind Alexian Retirement Village earned its name during the Civil War, when troops stationed atop Signal Mountain were able to communicate with battalions atop Lookout Mountain on the far south side of the Tennessee River. These days it affords photographers and nature enthusiasts great views of the river gorge up towards Raccoon Mountain and Prentice Cooper State Forest and downriver towards downtown. There's a picnic pavilion and a well-sized parking lot if you want to stick around after taking in the scenery, but the real draws to Signal Point are the hiking trails that take off from this trailhead. One of the easiest and most accessible trails for visitors is the Rainbow Lake Trail behind the Signal Mountain golf course, but plenty of others connect to longer treks like the Cumberland Trails

The historic homes of Chattanooga's original trolly suburbs are visible from the crest of Orchard Knob, the site of a Civil War battle and now a national military park © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Orchard Knob

Another park with Civil War history, Orchard Knob was the site of a major battle as Union Troops pushed towards Missionary Ridge from what is now the Fort Wood neighborhood a mile or so away. The Knob itself seems to rise up out of nowhere in the middle of the neighborhood that took its name from the strategic hill, and it's easy to see why it was of such military importance. Orchard Knob is topped with a number of Civil War monuments built in the early 1900s when a wave of nationalism and nostalgia was sweeping the country. Even if you don't care much for cannons, however, it's well worth climbing to the top if only to take in the views of Chattanooga's downtown, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge to the south.

Surrounding the Knob is one of the city's traditionally Black neighborhoods. In the Jim Crow era when the city was seriously segregated, the Ku Klux Klan went so far as to firebomb homes here and drive through pelting residents with rocks. Today, however, things are quite quiet. Take a stroll after visiting the Knob, and you'll find a variety of lovely Victorian and Arts and Crafts homes running up to the edge of some of Chattanooga's most prominent hospitals. 

Enterprise Nature Park

Enterprise South Nature Park used to be a munitions manufacturing campus that prepped ammo for troops during World War II, but today it has more peaceful aims. Laced with miles of mountain biking trails, places to walk your dog, go for a jog or explore the old concrete bunkers that are still on-site, Enterprise South is a welcome city park in Chattanooga's northern suburbs, close to the Volkswagen and Amazon plants that have brought a lot of jobs to the region in recent years.

The Passage is a memorial to the Indigenous Cherokee nation, which was forcibly removed from Chattanooga on the Trail of Tears @ Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Ross's Landing

Ross's Landing was a trading post and ferry launch founded by half-Cherokee businessman John Ross, who went on to serve as a Cherokee Nation's Chief from 1828 to 1866. The trading post was influential in the eventual development of Chattanooga as a city, although Ross and his people were forcibly removed from the region in 1838 when the Indian Removal Act required the Cherokee to relocate to what is now Oklahoma. Today, Ross's Landing is part of the Tennessee Aquarium campus, and a memorial called the Passage commemorates the Cherokee and their terrible experience on the Trail of Tears.  

Point Park

In the fall of 1863, Lookout Mountain was traversed not by hikers or cyclists kitted out in spandex but exhausted soldiers in homespun uniforms fighting what is now known as the Battle Above the Clouds. After their disastrous defeat at Chickamauga Battlefield to the south, Union soldiers successfully routed the Confederate troops who were entrenched near the Craven's House. The sharp front face of Lookout Mountain became a tourist destination for veterans and their families, and in 1904 the crenelated, castle-like towers of Point Park were built along with several monuments to give curious visitors a place to learn more about the Civil War and Chattanooga's role in the conflict. Point Park still affords excellent views of downtown, Moccasin Bend (a grassy elbow of land jutting out in the Tennessee River) and Signal Mountain. You can drive up Lookout and park right at Point Park or hike up from the bottom of the mountain via several different trails. Admission to Point Park is $7 for adults over sixteen.

Tennessee River Park

Every kid who grew up in Chattanooga from the late 1980s on knows that the 150 acres of Tennessee River Park are home to one of the best playgrounds in the city. But there's more here than just slides and swings. Connected to the Tennessee Riverwalk greenway, you can get here by bike, foot or car. The Hubert Fry Fishing Center includes a bike rental station, boat ramps and docks, five fishing piers, and a rentable picnic pavilion. There are additional piers and picnic shelters at the section of the park abutting Chickamauga Dam. There is also a large memorial sculpted by Shane Albritton and Norman Lee to honor the five servicemen who were killed in a 2015 shooting at Chattanooga's Naval and Marine Reserve Center. 

Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga Battlefield is just across the Georgia border from Chattanooga, and it offers a lot more than just Civil War history. Amidst all the monuments and cast-iron cannons are wide-open fields and meandering walking paths that weave through stands of trees. Cleared over a century ago by family farmers, the battlefield became a national military park after a bloody 1863 victory by the Confederacy. Indeed, local ghost hunters swear the park is haunted by a cryptid named Old Green Eyes, who can be seen at night watching over Chickamauga. During the day, however, the park is full of families on bicycles, history buffs perusing the plaques that note old military maneuvers, and locals out for a stroll. Stop at The Big Biscuit Barn on your way in from Chattanooga to get a sky-high southern biscuit to snack on while you're at the park.

Lookout Mountain sits behind one of the sculptures on view at Montague Park, a former industrial landfill turned into public greenspace close to Chattanooga's trendy Southside neighborhood © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Sculpture Fields at Montague Park

The Sculpture Fields at Montague Park opened to the public in 2016, just over a hundred years after the land was first donated for use as a park. In that long century, Montague Park was used not to house contemporary sculptures but as a landfill and later for such varied purposes as kite flying, motocross racing and softball. Today the gentle hills are topped by large-format works by artists from around the world and are free and open to the public seven days a week. Close to both Highland Park and Chattanooga's Southside neighborhoods, it also has nice views of Lookout Mountain.

Maclellan Island

In the middle of the Tennessee River, visible from the Hunter museum and Coolidge Park, is the bushy green inkblot of Maclellan Island. Over a century ago, when the mansions of the Bluff View Arts District were still private homes, Chattanooga's wealthy were disturbed to gaze down at Maclellan and see a tent city where ne'er-do-wells were drinking, cavorting and causing a ruckus. They purchased the land and attempted to use it as a cattle pasture, though it was ultimately too small to farm. The island was allowed to rewild and has since become a bird sanctuary and camping spot for anyone willing to paddle over. Recently it was announced that a local foundation will pay to construct bathrooms, benches, picnic tables and a proper dock to help facilitate outdoor recreation at Maclellan. In the meantime, however, you can rent a kayak or paddleboard from L2 Outside and check it out for yourself.

Chester Frost Park is just one of several state and city parks dotting the artificial lakes behind the Chickamauga Dam at Chattanooga's northern end, which are popular with boaters, kayakers and paddleboarders © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Chester Frost Park

On the shores of Chickamauga Lake, Chester Frost is a popular spot for hiking, camping and paddling less than thirty minutes from downtown. A variety of family-friendly activities are hosted here, too, from tie-dye workshops to movie nights by the water, as well as geocaching and fishing tournaments. There are 200 campsites that can be reserved throughout the year. If you want fuel for ghost stories around the campfire, head to Jackson Chapel Cemetery first. It's part of the park and is the oldest cemetery in Hamilton County.

DuPont Park

Located in Hixson, one of Chattanooga's northern suburbs, DuPont Park is a fun spot for families with four soccer fields, picnic pavilions and a well-regarded wooded disc golf course called the Sinks. The park was originally part of a parcel of land set aside by the DuPont corporation for public use after their large manufacturing plant was constructed in the 1940s, during Chattanooga's industrial heyday. It sits directly across Chickamauga Lake from Tennessee River Park, right behind the Chickamauga Dam. 

Jefferson Heights Park

Tucked away in Chattanooga Southside neighborhood, Jefferson Heights has a mix of historic homes and new construction centered around a generous green space, complete with a playground, community gardens, a beach volleyball court and a big picnic shelter. You'll often see kids playing with their dogs, neighbors tending their vegetables or a pickup game of volleyball. It's a fun place to stroll or play a game after grabbing a to-go coffee at Velo a couple of blocks away or a beer at the nearby Exile Off Main Street.

The quarry at Greenway Farms is a perennially popular swimming spot for locals who don't have a membership at a public pool © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Greenway Farm

This 180-acre park in Hixson is full of nature trails, canoe-put ins on North Chickamauga Creek, an off-leash dog park and a reconstructed historic cabin where the Smiteman family once lived. One of the park's best features is a popular dog-friendly swimming hole in an old rock quarry, where limestone for the Chickamauga Dam was originally cut. It's since flooded, and during the summer there's usually a handful of folks who hike down to the sandy beach on the quarry's edge to cool off or test their mettle by cliff jumping.

Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center

For decades the Chattanooga Nature Center has been a popular place for adults and families, blending nature trails, horseback riding, ecological preservation and animal conservation amidst 317 acres of beautiful land on the west flank of Lookout Mountain. There are boardwalks, a tree house and even a forest kindergarten as part of the center's educational mission.

Paddlers can put their kayaks or canoes in here to float Lookout Creek, while a network of hiking trails connects to other attractions on Lookout Mountain, including the Craven's House and Point Park. One of the most exciting features of the park are the animal ambassadors in residence – endangered species and injured animals who can't be released into the wild but can be viewed at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. The red wolves exhibit is well worth a visit in particular.

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