This is a guest post by Dan Sifuentes, an avid hiker, adventurer, entrepreneur, and owner of Digital Camera Central, a hub for all things digital photography related. Anyone unsure of what camera to buy, where to find great photo hot spots, or anything else related to digital photography, should check out www.DigitalCamCentral.com.
Chattanooga, Tennessee is a well-known destination for enjoying the great outdoors. From hiking to white-water rafting, the area is an adventurer’s paradise. Located only 2 hours from Nashville, Knoxville, Atlanta, and Birmingham, this city is close to many major metropolitan areas. There are many overlooks in Tennessee, but most require you to drive quite aways to visit them. Signal Point Trail offers 3 amazing overlooks only 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.
My Hiking Experience
I recently hiked the Signal Point Trail from Signal Point to Edwards Point and back. While the trail itself is very technical because rocky terrain, the elevation change is not bad. The hike takes you down around 300 feet to a creek crossing and up around 300 feet to the overlook at Edwards Point. Then you’ll take the same path back to the beginning.
The overlook at Signal Point is the first photo opportunity. Make sure to take your photos here before you’ve started the hike as you’ll be too tired once you’ve finished. At the start of the trail is a map where you can get details of the hike ahead. From here it’s a steep descent down a wooden staircase, dubbed “the mousetrap”, and then a level, yet rocky walk through the woods with the gorge on your left. Most of the trail is canopied so you won’t have to worry about getting too much sun.
After about a half mile on the trail, you’ll reach Julia Falls Overlook. From here you can snap some fantastic photos of the river in the gorge. Many non-hikers will take the trail to this point and then travel back to the beginning. If you don’t think you or your kids can make it to Edwards Point, this is a good place to take some photos and turn back.
At the 1.4 mile marker, you’ll reach the Middle Creek Bridge crossing over Middle Creek. The bridge is a 100-foot wooden suspension bridge. We had our dog with us on the hike and he didn’t want to cross the bridge because he was afraid. We ended up carrying him across. Luckily he only weighed 15 pounds.
After crossing the bridge, you’ll take the trail to your left. The trail continues to be rocky as you climb around 300 feet in elevation. As you make your way to Edwards Point, you’ll pass cliff walls and Lockhart’s Arch. The arch is simply a rock formation with a small gap. It looks like a rock bridge, although it’s less exciting than it sounds.
Eventually the terrain becomes less rocky as you get close to Edwards Point. On the final stretch to the last overlook, you’ll see glimpses of the gorge on your left.
When you reach the overlook at Edwards Point, you’ll want to take a break, eat a snack, snap photos, and take in the gorgeous views. This is a popular stopping point for many people and the overlook can be a bit crowded.
On our way back, we noticed that our dog was limping. He’s a 15 pound yorkie mix so while he’s not tiny, he’s not big either. We surmised that he injured himself while traversing the rocky terrain. He had to jump quite a bit in the areas with large rocks. He fell a few times so this probably contributed heavily to his injury. For us, it meant we had to carry him back for the full 2.9 miles of rough terrain.
We carried him in our arms, did dead-man’s carry, and even tried carrying him in our our backpack. In the end, arm carrying worked the best and we simply traded who carried him every so often. When we reached the starting point, we set him down and he started running around the area. Either he merely sprained something and not walking for that time healed him, or he was faking the whole time in order to be carried back. We definitely don’t put it past him to fake the injury in order to be carried back.
It was nice to be back at the beginning after this hike. We had on hiking boots so the rough terrain didn’t completely destroy our ankles, but it was still one of the more difficult hikes in the area. This has been one of my favorite hikes in Tennessee. It’s challenging but offers unbeatable views. If you’re ever in the Chattanooga area, this hike is definitely worth checking out.
Signal Point Trail Tips
- Wear hiking boots that cover your ankles. The rough terrain will destroy them otherwise.
- Signal Point is part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. The park is only open during daylight hours so make sure you’re out before the gates are locked at night.
- There are restrooms at the beginning of the trail. They are open while the gates are open.
- Any GPS mapping device will take you directly to Signal Point, NPS, so no need to worry about getting detailed directions.
Distance: 5.8 miles
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation Change: ~1300 feet
Route Type: Out and Back
Trailhead Address: Signal Point, NPS, Cumberland Trail, Signal Mountain, TN 37377