Why Chattanooga, TN?
Touristy spots – The Rock City, famous for the 7-states lookout point, Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain (known for the epic Civil War battle), Incline Railway (one of the steepest funicular railway incline in the world, big hit with the kids).
You can also visit Parthenon in Nashville on the way to Chattanooga.
For Nature Lovers – Chattanooga has an elaborate network of nature trails. We did the Cherokee Falls trail in Cloudland Canyon State Park. List of all trails is here.
Scenic Overlooks – Sunset Rock Viewpoint, Incline Railway Top Station.
For Adventurists – Ziplines at Ruby Falls.
Visit Ocee river for Kayaking and White-Water Rafting
‘Lover’s Leap’ – scenic overlook at Lookout Mountain
How to Plan your visit?
• Plan your itinerary using the list shared before.
• Run through this indispensable emergency checklist.
• Run though the tech essentials to turbo-charge your road trips.
Our Trip from Naperville
March 26-29, 2022 (Spring Break)
Naperville to Trenton, GA.
Distance: 630 miles.
Travel Time: 11 hours, with 6:30 AM start and a couple of leisurely breaks.
Here’s how it looked when we fled Chicago
A few hours of drive and the Weather Gods relented.
The grass was greener on the other side, literally!
Chattanooga’s iconic roller coaster roadways
We reserved this cottage via Evolve. If you are wondering why not Airbnb/Vrbo, Evolve was much cheaper and had the same seamless experience. And couldn’t have been more satisfied with our decision.
The covered driveway greeted us after the long drive
The cabin decors were meticulous (Evolve)
The backyard was massive. We enjoyed the hot tub at the lower deck too.
The pool table was a hit with both kids and the adults community.
A well-equipped kitchen is indispensable for any vacation home. And this cabin did not give us picky travelers any reasons to complain!
The swanky kitchen (Evolve)
We had a friendly neighbor giving us company
Day 1 – Rock City Gardens and the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
The Rock City Gardens
Rock City Gardens is no doubt one of the marquee tourist spots at Chattanooga.
Built on the Georgia side of Lookout Mountain, this is located about 25 miles from three different states – TN, GA and AL. You have to walk about a mile to reach the scenic overlooks – Lovers Point and 7-states stone.
The walking path is full of intriguing props making it a very unique experience. It took us an hour to cover up the mile.
We loved the *many* tight spaces.
They were named aptly too!
The swing-a-long bridge was a fun experience as well.
Here’s how the shaky bridge looks from the bottom.
The 100-ft High Waterfall and Lovers Leap scenic overlook are right by each other.
Another view of the waterfall.
And finally, THE 7-states stone. For the fact-checkers out there who would question how many states can you really view, you can check below discussion at Reddit –
After scenic overlooks, the walking path leads to another gem – Enchanted Gardens.
The Enchanted Gardens
None of these pictures do true justice to the ambience. The soft noir lighting, the fantasy music, the props – it was mystical all the way through, the kids adored it!
Lookout Mountain Scenic Drive
About 15-minutes drive from the Rock City, there is another overlook on the Tennessee side of Lookout Mountain – you can either use the Incline Railway or drive your way up. Both are unique experiences and highly recommended.
Tip: The homes near the top are absolutely blissful, if you are driving, do it when you have daylight to get the full view.
This is a must-have experience, considering you get to ride on one of the steepest funicular railway incline in the world!
How to reach?
Point your GPS here to reach the Top station directly and take advantage of the scenic drive.
Point your GPS here to reach the Bottom station and take the incline railway.
We did both.
As seen from the Bottom station
The trains go at a very slow and steady pace, and most commuters will not mind the lack of thrill at all.
Here’s how the incline looks from the top.
Another series of panoramic views from the top.
We headed for the vacation house post the train ride and got the bodies rejuvenated via the hot tub to be ready for the next action-filled day.
Day 2 – The Ruby Falls, Point Park Battlefield and Cloudland Canyon State Park
Ruby Falls is on the GA side of Lookout Mountain.
As you walk in towards the falls, one is awe-stuck by a plethora of cave formations – Stalactites, Stalagmites, Capillary Tubes, Columns; it has got it all!
And the grand finale, the Ruby Falls, is quite the spectacle indeed!
Point Park Battlefield (Lookout Mountain)
Chattanooga has a prominent place in the American Civil War history, given some fierce battles fought here which eventually changed the course of the war.
Before heading for the Point Park, we went for the 30-minute video show at Battles for Chattanooga, which narrates the Lookout Mountain battle in vivid detail. The small museum/theater is really close to the Park Point entrance and is highly recommended for kids.
Sprawling in 10 acres, Point Park is a war memorial that overlooks the Lookout Mountain Battlefield and the city of Chattanooga.
There are several exhibits on the walking path which encircles the park.
Actual cannon used in the civil war
The most noteworthy feature is the sweeping views of Chattanooga River and the city.
It is awe-inspiring how the Union Army defeated the Confederate Army even when the later laid a siege at the mountain top and were at a vantage point.
One of the points from which the Union Army climbed up.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Nestled at the western edge of the Lookout Mountain on Georgia side, Cloudland Canyon State Park boasts of sublime trails, overlooks, gorge and waterfalls – Cherokee and Hemlock!
We did the trek to the Cherokee falls. The directions were a little confusing since they mostly refer to Hemlock Falls which is further out. Here is my patchy recording using AllTrails, thanks to difficult directions.
The hike had multiple awe-inspiring rock formations.
And the overlooks did not disappoint either.
I would call the hike moderate. It was a combination of hilly terrain ..
and some stairs.
The final destination, the Cherokee Falls, did impress upon us.
Day 3 – The Road Trip Back
A mundane chilly Chicago evening greeted us, when we reached back after an 11-hour drive from Chattanooga. Looks like we didn’t miss a beat!
So Long, Chattanooga!
2 thoughts on “Road Trip from Chicago to Chattanooga”
What a fantastic road trip! The house you rented looks great too! Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you Mike and Kellye. Yes – the road-trip, the house and Chattanooga, all were truly memorable!